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Dining out, do you order what you can cook?

Owning an Entertainment Book, a Diner's Deck, and the local 2-for-1 magazine as well as looking forward to the San Diego Restaurant Week coming up, I realized that we don't go out to eat as often as we used to. Every now and then we pop in somewhere for a burrito or a bowl of noodles or Thai food, but we talk about the nicer "high-end" restaurants more than we actually visit them. At first I thought it was because we're usually running around in "weekend" clothes and are rarely dressed for classier dining, but I think it's because I've gotten to the point where I'm hesitant to eat somewhere when I know I can cook it just as well for much less money.

We don't go to Ruth's Chris (or any other steakhouses) because we're just as happy getting filets from the butcher (or Costco) and grilling asparagus at home. We don't go out for rack of lamb because I can buy a rack for half as much and get more than 4 pieces on my plate. Last week we had ribeye and scallops surf 'n turf and opened up a bottle of wine and it was delicious!

However, we went to SF over Christmas and splurged on a nice dinner of sauteed crab and coq au vin. But, if I ever try to cook coq au vin, you can bet that's getting crossed off the restaurant list, too. We still go out for dim sum, Thai food, and osso bucco because they aren't dishes I'm willing to spend the time on in the kitchen. I look forward to ordering all sorts of soups because I just don't make them at home (except for tomato and french onion).

So, I was wondering, when you go out to eat do you look at the menu and try to find things you wouldn't cook for yourself? Do you order dishes like filets and ribeyes and shrimp scampi because you know you like it and you'll enjoy it anyway? Conversely, if you have a tasty sauce over salmon or something, do you try to recreate it at home?

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  1. Absolutely. We usually only go out to eat at places that cook food I can't create at home - either high end restaurants or restaurants that cook a type of ethnic food I don't know how to prepare well. And yes, with the bistro-style food especially, if I have something I really enjoy, I will try to duplicate it myself. If I'm successful, I order something different the next time.

    1. I came to the same realization recently--we don't go out all that often because I'm hardly ever satisfied with the food, particularly stuff I can (and do) cook at home. Which pretty much means just the two of us go out it's for Mexican (because I want fish tacos and my husband wants anything but), Chinese, pizza and bbq (though that's usually because I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the need for some ribs or pulled pork--never as happy with the restaurant version as I am with home-made).
      When we go out with friends, I always order fish because himself doesn't like it, so I tend not to cook it at home.

      1. I guess it depends on the restaurant, but yes, I do usually seek out items that I would not normally have at home. I almost never order chicken out because I cook so much of it, period. I mostly enjoy trying new items I've never had before. One son won't eat eggplant so I don't include it in our line-up at home but I love having it done in creative, spicy ways out at restaurants. Pho is another item that I would only order out because of the intricacies of preparing it at home, I doubt I would try making my own. I hardly ever order steak out because I can cook that at home any day of the year, filet mignon is a different story, though. I used to have a friend & co-worker who would only ever order chicken salad wherever she went, it didn't matter, and I felt so bad for her that she never ventured out of that "jail."

        1. i TRY to eat at places that make things i can't cook, however i am usually at the mercy of my DH and his friends and family, and end up at Red Lobster, or Poverino's, or (shudder) Bonanza!!!!

          no unique and interesting dining for me, and no fine dining or ethnic, unless i'm alone. Thus i usually have to try to make the dishes i can't really make, if i want them at all (does that make sense?) sometimes they turn out good, sometimes not.

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          1. re: RiJaAr

            I guess I can't complain too loudly b/c when we can't agree on where to eat, we usually order takeout and i get something great from a cheap ethnic place and i'm happy, and DH gets a burger or a pizza from somewhere else, so we both win!

          2. At first, I was going to say that I do order things I can make, but the truth is that often I do not. Things like steak, I normally do not order, because no one can marinate steak like my mom. However, if it is prepared in an "unique" way, then I would try it out--95% of the time, my mom's steak is way better and cheaper to make for a better cut of meat. One good thing about dining out is it will give you ideas on what you can make.