"A word — and food — lover’s guide to a very tasty year

If I ever hear back from readers, it’s usually that I don’t always define the culinary terminology I use from week to week to evoke the meals I’ve devoured in area restaurants. While I do try to elucidate the most obscure gastronomic nomenclature, I feel that part of my responsibility as a writer is to challenge readers to better themselves by finding some things out on their own. The way I figure it, if you don’t know the controversies surrounding foie gras, the enlarged liver of an overfed goose or duck, the Internet will provide you with dozens of articles to help you understand it. If you do know all about how Chicago and California have tried to ban this gustatory guilty pleasure, then you don’t need me to tell you again. Being the nice guy I am, here’s a little holiday gift: a list of selected definitions from my year of dining and reviewing, along with some reminders of where to let these delectable expressions roll off your tongue.

Agedashi tofu (Benihana, Nov. 1): tofu lightly dusted with starch and fried.

Alambre (Taqueria el Maguey, July 12): tacos of shredded beef with bacon and cheese — deliciosa!

Andouille sausage (Loon Lake Lodge, Nov. 22; Hal’s Fabulous Vegas, June 21): spicy Cajun smoked sausage that uses a pig’s whole gastrointestinal system; served in Loon Lake’s jambalaya and crusted on Hal’s scallops.

Baked Alaska (Chancellor’s, March 15): famous ’50s dish of cake and ice cream enrobed in meringue and baked and torched, though Chancellor’s skipped the baking and went straight to the torch.

Caramel corn pie (Indiana State Fair, Aug. 16): big bowl of popcorn slathered with caramel and chocolate sauce — a fairgoer’s (and dentist’s) dream!

Carioca cake (Carnegie’s, Feb. 15): a rich cake with a crunchy crust and overtones of chocolate and espresso.

Chevapi (Adriatic Pizza, Dec. 13): spicy little lamb and beef sausages served on flatbread, particular to the Balkans, and a gas station in Brownsburg.

Chislec (Shiggs’ Diggs, Oct. 18): deep-fried beef sirloin tips served with toothpicks (and a side of karaoke).

Coq au vin (Café Olivia, April 26): Literally an old rooster drowned in wine, this classic French dish, usually made with fresh chicken today, isn’t in season half of the year here.

Crème fraîche (Elements, March 1): “fresh cream” in French but more a lightly soured heavy cream, served on a surprisingly delicious crumb cake with rosemary. Elements is no longer open for lunch.

Dim sum (Great Garden, March 29): Translated as “to touch the heart” or “to the heart’s content.” Also try the excellent dim sum at Shanghai Lil.

Dolsot bibimbop (Saraga, Feb. 1): sizzling dish of beef, rice and vegetables mixed with a raw egg that cooks in the dish.

Dosa (Masala Kitchen, Jan. 25): light lentil and rice crêpe filled with potatoes, onions and spices.

Edamame “succotash,” (Zest, July 5): familiar Southern dish made “fusion” with Japanese steamed soybeans.

Foam (Restaurant du Soleil, Nov. 29; L’Explorateur, Sept. 6): a product of molecular gastronomy popularized by Spanish chef Ferran Adrià. Parmesan foam at du Soleil was sublime, as was the pomegranate foam at L’Explorateur.

Foie gras (Restaurant du Soleil, Nov. 29): defined above; delectable with rhubarb gelée and gingerbread.

Framboise lambic (Buffalo Wild Wings, July 19, Downtown Restaurant Week): sweet raspberry-flavored Belgian beer made by spontaneous fermentation (ask Mike DeWeese if you’re confused).

Galaktabouriko (Santorini Greek Kitchen, Aug. 9): otherworldly custard wrapped in delicate sheets of phyllo dough.

Guarache (Taqueria el Maguey, July 12): flat tortilla shaped like a “sandal” and topped with beans and veggies.

Huachinango (Huachinango, April 19): one of several preparations of “red snapper,” which is also the name of the restaurant.

Huitlacoche (Adobo Grill, July 26): fungus that grows on corn and is called the truffle of Latin America; served on the best vegetarian combo in town.

Injera (Abyssinia, Nov. 15): spongy sourdough crêpes used as a “utensil” for scooping up food.

Koshary (Cairo Café, March 8): a carb-lover’s dream of rice with lentils, macaroni and caramelized onions.

Lamb saag (Ruchi, Sept. 20): rich Indian dish made with lamb and greens, typically spinach.

Melanzane alla grillia (Amalfi, Dec. 6): eggplant grilled the way it should be — the perfect antipasto!

Mettwurst (Inge’s German Market, July 14): spreadable German sausage; great on rye bread with pickles.

Mitraillette (Ruth’s Keystone Café, April 12): fancy French word for sandwich; get your hands on one of these.

Pandan leaves (Saraga, Feb. 1): also known as screwpine leaves; popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine that lends a nutty flavor to dishes it’s steeped in.

Papillote (Usual Suspects, May 24): cooked “in paper”; typically seafood or vegetables are lightly baked in a parchment pouch.

Poutine (The Village Kitchen, July 23): gut-busting Québeçois staple of fries with gravy and cheese. Rhymes with Vladimir “Putin.” Sadly, Village Kitchen has closed, but Pomegranate Café has taken its place.

Spanish burger (Mike’s Speedway Lounge, May 3): knife-and-fork burger with a spicy broth, perhaps the most original raceway concoction.

Sukiyaki (Ichiban, June 7): Japanese cold-weather dish of beef, noodles, onions, cabbage and mushrooms simmered in broth.

Sumac (Iraqi Shish Kebab, Sept 27; L’Explorateur, Sept. 7): deep red, slightly sour spice popular in the Middle East.

Om Ali (Cairo Café, March 8): sweet bread pudding given to cranky babies in Egypt and the Middle East; delicious for adults, too.

Osso buco (Danielli, Nov. 8): slow-braised veal shank with a rich wine sauce.

Tamoles (The Tamale Place, Jan. 25): tamales flavored with a spicy chocolaty mole sauce.

Torta (Guajanuato II, Oct. 4): a high-piled sandwich with beans, meat, avocado and veggies, not to be missed at this grocery store taqueria.

Tostaditas (El Torito Grill, Dec. 20): what a California-based Mexican franchise calls a tortilla chip.

Ziti Raphael (Ziti’s Gourmet Bistro, April 5): mysteriously absent any ziti, this is a big plate of cheese ravioli with a tomato cream sauce.