The art of ordering well


Lately I’ve been saying this too much: “I ordered the wrong thing,” as I watch my fellow diners enjoying their meals.

Does this ever happen to you?

“Let’s go out!” Those magical words elicit sparkly expectations of delight and deliciousness.  Dining well when you eat in a restaurant is quite tricky; it’s an art actually. Two diners at the same table can have entirely different experiences.

In dining as in life, it all begins with choosing well. I decided to give this a little think, because if it’s one thing I hate it’s paying good money for unpleasant meal.

First, don’t just walk into the dining room unfocused. Don’t follow the hostess, eyes on her back, to your table. Take your time and really look at the food on the tables around you. Study the dishes on the waiters’ trays as they pass by.

Ask the waiter, what is the restaurant’s specialty dish?  Or, what is their most popular dish? You have to the parse the answer. Listen to how the waiter describes it.  If a waiter “speaks your food language” or clearly enjoys describing a dish in foodie terms, you have a 50-50 chance of getting a good dish. If the waiter is just rattling off info, beware.

I know this next one is obvious but it happens to me all the time. Really think about what you feel like eating. Be in touch with your desires of the moment.  “I should have ordered gnocchi,” when you’re eating fish, is an unsatisfying scenario.

And then there’s this. You’re thinking of ordering a certain dish when someone at your table says they’re ordering the same dish. My mistake has been to think, “Oh, I should order something else then.”  Wrong. If you’re dining with people who like to share plates amongst each other then yes, it’s good to have different dishes at the table. But if you’re dining with a crowd who sticks to their own meals, then order exactly what you feel like eating even if it’s repeated.  If not, you’ll end up with, “Darn, that Cobb salad looks good!”

When eating in a casual restaurant, pub, bar, bistro for the first time, you have a better chance of a good meal if you KISS. (Keep it simple stupid) Order a burger, a sandwich, a salad. This is not the time to order a beef stroganoff.

Here’s another scenario that I’m embarrassed to share. Last week I was dining out with friends and my stuffed eggplant dish was truly terrible — cold and tasteless.  And I kept on eating it! Afterwards I was filled with annoyance and regret.

British chef and TV star Gordon Ramsey taught me a valuable lesson that seems obvious, but we don’t follow through because we don’t feel we are entitled to. And that is: Don’t eat a dish just because it is set in front of you.

Have a taste. Evaluate it. If it’s bad or lacking, ask the waiter to remove the plate. Be nice; it’s not the waiter’s fault. Usually the manager will stop by your table to ask what was the matter. And usually the restaurant will not charge you when a full plate is returned to the kitchen for a good cause. We don’t have to eat bad food just because it was served to us. Why waste your appetite, calories and money on something that isn’t pleasurable.

Eating out is no guarantee that you’re going to eat a great meal. It does mean you won’t have to shop, cook or clean up. I definitely can say this: the best food in Tropica is found at my dining table.

So what do you think? Do you have some dining experiences to share? Enlighten us.

xo Liza

Hello my lovelies.  August slides on magnificently. Entering into the poignant last weeks of official summer vacation. Tell us about your dining out experiences and any tips or tricks you can share for higher chances of getting a good meal. The comments box begs for your chatter below.  And if you enjoy being part of our wise, witty community of stylish, life loving women, enter your email in the box above so you won’t miss a thing.

6 thoughts on “The art of ordering well

  1. We met at a coffee shop, and since I don’t drink coffee; I ordered an Italian ice. I was served what tasted like a lukewarm glass of kook-ade–no ice. And I drank it, paid $4 for it and didn’t say anything! Time to rethink, next time water!!

  2. My sister and I usually end up ordering the same dish when we dine out. It’s not exactly sibling rivalry, but more a fear of one out-ordering the other! 🙂

  3. Hi Liza – great post, as usual, but I had to smile at Gordon Ramsey’s advice to you (which I totally agree with by the way) and am left wondering what the reaction would be if you sent back a plate of food in one of his restaurants !

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