Gourmet foods are an entire class of items from basic ingredients to fully prepared dishes in a restaurant that have some elevated or uncommon aspect. Some ingredients are considered gourmet because they are exceedingly rare, expensive, or raised in a very specific way. Certain restaurant meals are considered gourmet because of the skill of the chef and the elaborate presentation of the food. Consumers in grocery stores are seeing an increasing selection of gourmet items for sale on the shelves. These items are called gourmet for a number of different reasons including the quality and freshness of the ingredients that were used.
Some foods are considered gourmet because of the origin of the product. Truffles are one example of a gourmet ingredient. Truffles cannot be cultivated in a controlled environment and must be painstakingly tracked and harvested from wild areas in France and Italy. Truffles are very expensive. Saffron is another gourmet ingredient. Saffron is made from the stigmas of the crocus flower and is very difficult to harvest and process. It is one of the most expensive spices in the world.
Some foods are considered gourmet because of the way the item is raised. Kobe beef is one example. This type of beef comes from a specific area of Japan where the cows are regularly massaged and fed a special diet that includes beer. Many gourmet produce are grown through aeroponics or hydroponics in order to decrease contaminants, increase nutrient content, and create a cleaner product.
Foods that are prepared through exotic or very detailed cooking processes are frequently considered gourmet. This could mean using only gourmet ingredients during preparation or it could mean using special cooking methods. One example is fish or food that is prepared through sous vide. This involves wrapping uncooked food in an airtight bag that is vacuum-sealed. The food is submerged in a bath of water that is kept at a consistent temperature. The temperature is usually very low but still hot enough to cook the food slowly. This technique creates gourmet food that is purported to have exquisite properties, taste, and moisture. The process can take more than 72 hours for some items.
There are not necessarily any direct health benefits from most forms of gourmet food. Some gourmet foods actually use heavy ingredients like butter, cream, and oil in excess. Many types of gourmet pâté or confit have incredibly high fat content. The key to living healthy while consuming gourmet food is to follow the same dietary guidelines that are used when eating standard meals. Portion size, fat content, and nutritional balance should all be observed when eating gourmet food.