The Laws of Dining By Ted Allen

by - 9/21/2007 06:58:00 PM

1. How to get a great table at a restaurant: Become a regular, learn the hosts' names, greet those hosts every time you visit, and tip well. Then ask for those hosts by name when making reservations.

2. The quality of the food in a restaurant is inversely proportional to the beauty of the view out its windows-and the excellence of its margaritas.

3. Real men most certainly do eat quiche, albeit rarely. They do not, however, drink "appletinis," or anything else to which the suffix "-tini" has been inappropriately appended.

4. Consider leaving the kiddies at home - and the cell phone.

5. When the bill comes: Except for truly exceptional situations-say, when everybody else at the table ordered truffled lobster with foie gras while you subsisted on lettuce-everybody should pay the same.

6. Advice to those who order steak well-done: Stop ordering steak, because you don't actually like it.

7. Sure, truffles, foie gras, and caviar are great, if overly fetishized and overpriced, but a real food lover knows there is nothing so precious as a truly ripe, sweet tomato. When to eat tomatoes: late summer, because that's when they're truly ripe and sweet.

8. When to eat oysters: only in months containing an r, not for any safety or freshness reasons, but because most oysters spawn during the summer months, leaving them tired, mushy, and subprime for eating purposes.

9. When to eat corn dogs: If you're in the sort of place that serves corn dogs, it's probably fine to have one.

10. The answer to the question "How would you like that cooked?" is "However the chef thinks it should be cooked." Because a) the chef knows his ingredients and the best way to prepare them, and b) flattering him might enhance your dining experience in unpredictable ways.

11. Despite what you've heard, specials in upscale restaurants are not the chef's way of getting rid of overstocked ingredients. That's called brunch.

12. Organic food is not about hippies, vegetarians, or animal-rights extremists. (Well, it is about hippies, but not only hippies.) It's about plants and animals being raised naturally and kindly, without weird growth hormones, chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides, or anything else likely to give you a horrible disease someday. In short, it's better, and you should eat it.

13. The manliest steak is the porterhouse, which consists of a flavorful strip steak on one side of the bone and a silky filet mignon on the other. A bone-in rib eye ain't so bad, either.

14. The riskiest sushi: the spicy tuna roll, because if there's one roll that a chef is going to stuff with lower-quality seafood, it's the one in which those spicy seasonings will mask the funkiness.

15. Almost nobody knows anything about wine.

16. All you need to know about wine: Memorize five or ten readily available varieties that you know you like. How to pick out a bottle: bold wines with bold foods (cabernet with steak), lighter wines with delicate foods (sauvignon blanc with fish and chicken), slightly sweet wines (Alsatian whites, say) with Asian food.

17. If you want to telegraph your price range without announcing it to the table, gesture toward an appropriate bottle on the wine list and discreetly tell the waiter, "Something like this."

18. Wine Service 101: You inspect the cork for damage and the correct labeling. You do not smell it, which would be pointless.

19. In the event that you are a person who possesses a great deal of knowledge about wine: Keep quiet about that. Just take charge with the wine list.

20. Never, ever-are you kidding me?-ever discourage a woman from eating anything. No matter how big the dessert, no matter how expensive the entrée. Never. Ever.

21. It is better never to eat another piece of cheese as long as you live than to eat anything called "fat-free" cheese. Also, it is better not to live than never to eat another piece of cheese.

22. If you've seen him on TV, he's probably not in the kitchen. Exception: Bobby Flay.

23. You know that hundred-dollar bottle of Napa cabernet you've been saving? It's just wine. Drink it. Tonight. With pizza.

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