Sunday, 22 January 2012

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5 Food Questions

It's date night for us tonight. I'm taking Lori out to dinner and a stand-up comedian...not an A-level date, but time out of the house without any children. As much as I enjoy getting to go out with my wife these days, I do kind of miss the excitement of the early dates in our relationship when you wondered how the evening was going to end. There was a certain thrill to wondering whether you were going to end up with a handshake or...ummm...a kiss on the cheek (because that's as far as it should go on a date kids). Nowadays I know exactly how it's going to end. We're both hoping to have a good time, but what we're really praying for is that the night ends early enough that we can get home and get enough sleep to get through the next day. That's a successful date for us these days.

We are trying out a new restaurant tonight, and that's got me thinking about some food experiences from the past. By now, I'm sure you know what happens when I think...I have questions.

Have you ever ordered something you don't know how to eat?
I'm not what you'd call a high end culinary guy, and I certainly wouldn't be considered adventurous when it comes to ordering food at a restaurant. Once in a while though, we find ourselves in one of the fancier eateries, and inevitably our lack of experience comes back to bite us. We once had an anniversary dinner at Emeril's restaurant in Las Vegas, and to help us celebrate the chef sent over an appetizer. Lori and I both sat there staring blankly at it, as it looked like something you would pick up with your fingers, but that seemed pretty unlikely in such a sophisticated restaurant. Eventually we had to ask one of the waiters how we were supposed to eat the treat they had sent over, thus earning us the title of least cultured customers of the night. I'd say of the year, but I think we earned that title trying to get into a lobster at the Rio. Did you know there's a special tool for that? I didn't.

Would you ask if you didn't know how to eat something? Or just guess?

What do you drink with fancy meals if you don't like wine?
I'm a Diet Coke guy. I don't really drink anything else, but Diet Coke isn't a great drink when you're eating fancy food. It kind of overpowers every other taste in your mouth and replaces it with Aspartame, which is fantastic if you're eating at McDonalds, but not so great if you're paying $75 a plate. The problem is, I've never really found another drink that I like enough to order with fancier meals. I know we can stick with water, and that's usually what we do, but at some point I'd like the experience of saying something like "I'll have a glass of Chateau La Pierremont '67 please." and not "Do you guys have milkshakes?"

Do you know of a wine that would appeal to a non-wine drinker? Preferably one that tastes like Diet Coke.

Have you ever mixed up ingredients or toppings on your food?
I've heard of people mixing up salt and sugar plenty, but that seems to involve cooking, and I think we can all agree that's not an area I should be messing around in. My biggest mix-up was at a breakfast buffet in Las Vegas. I love buffets because not only do I get to change my mind half way through about what I want to eat (Who am I kidding, it's waffles. It's always waffles.) but I get to apply my own toppings. If you're going to have waffles, or pancakes, or crepes, or cereal even, then you've got to have whipped cream, and when you order off the menu they give you these cute little dabs of the stuff. That's not going to cut it. As a general rule, however high your stack of pancakes is, the whipped cream should be twice that height. This is easily accomplished when you're serving yourself, so I went up and got my plate of waffles then piled it sky high with whipped cream. Now here's my question...who puts a bowl of horseradish right beside the bowl of whipped cream on a breakfast buffet? Why would you even need horseradish at a breakfast buffet? Needless to say, that wasn't my best meal of the trip, although I think the rest of the family would rate it highly on the "funniest moment" scale.

Why would you have horseradish at a breakfast buffet?

Is there such a thing as healthy fast food?
I don't mean according to the scale in my mind, where leaving the cheese off my Whopper puts it on par with a bowl full of celery. Lately though, I've been reading about a bunch of people bashing McDonalds for not being real food, yet in my experience (and I have plenty of experience with McDonalds) they have lots of healthy options. I would assume that if you order a salad at McDonalds, it's the same as ordering a salad anywhere else, but perhaps I'm wrong? Is there some deep dark secret about McDonalds salads that maybe I don't know? Or are people just generically bashing McDonalds based on reputation. Really it's just a matter of curiosity for me, as we're Jack in the Box people, and everybody knows that's where the real health nuts go for take out.

Is there something you can order at fast food places that isn't insanely bad for you?

Have you ever ordered off the kid's menu?
Occaisionally I have a hard time finding something that appeals to me on a restaurant's menu. It's not necessarily that there's nothing good on the menu, but sometimes I'm just in a finicky mood and nothing really appeals to me. I never have that problem when I look at the kid's menu. They have wonderful stuff on there, and the best part is that kid's meals almost always come with dessert! Or a toy! McDonalds hooked me once with their Happy Meal toys. They were doing a "100 years of Disney" promotion where each Happy Meal came with a figurine of a Disney character, and there was a set of 100 to collect. At the same time as they launched this promotion, they had a sale on Happy Meals for $1.99 each. Guess what we ate for approximately the next month. In a stroke of marketing genius, the characters came in opaque bags, so you couldn't just ask the counter people to look for the ones you were missing. I managed to get 93 of the set myself, then I turned to E-bay because I just couldn't bring myself to order another Happy Meal. Besides, the drive-through people were starting to look at me weird since I was a grown man coming through and ordering six or seven Happy Meals at a time, and after a while my kids refused to come with me anymore so it looked even worse. On the other hand, I completely cured my kids of their McDonalds addiction.

Has the meal you really wanted ever only been available on the kid's menu?