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The first thing many people notice when they venture to an establishment that offers European cooking, it is often referred to as "Continental Cuisine." The reason for the continental moniker has a number of different explanations. Many argue that during the time of the Roman Empire, the term "Continental Cuisine" came to symbolize dishes that were familiar to those European countries geographically connected to one another, as opposed to say the British Isles, or island countries like Greece, and the then city-state of Sicily. However, times have changed, and now European cooking is called "continental" and can include popular dishes from England and Ireland, as well as Spain, Portugal, and modern-day Italy.
Often the ingredients employed in European cooking mirror the region where the dish originates. For example, in countries with large coasts on the Mediterranean Sea, including Italy, France, and Spain, a number of entrees use seafood ranging from varieties of large salt-water fish, as well as seafood found in more shallow waters like lobster, shrimp, mussels, and clams. In mountain towns and villages, European cooking will often include more beef, poultry, and pork, as well as vegetables suited for growing at high altitudes like beans and tomatoes.
Another key aspect of European cooking is the unique combinations that many chefs and household cooks employ. In the U.S. an egg dish is usually reserved for breakfast time, but in Europe, many recipes combine eggs with bacon, asparagus, and fresh cheeses to make what the Italians call a frittata. Another popular combination in European cooking involves the use of fruits such as plums and raisins to accent meat dishes and sauces.
As you can see, going out for a night of European cooking can lead to a sense of wonder for your taste buds, so bring your appetite and spirit of adventure.
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