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May 19, 2007 04:08 PM

Dining Secrets

Does anyone have any secrets they use when dining like bringing your own seasonings or salad dressings,ordering multiple items to create your own meal,asking for extra toppings, ordering sides,tipping.ect.What do you do to add flare to your meals?

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  1. What a cool topic! :) Most of the time, the restaurants I'm at don't have Splenda (which I HAVE to have for my coffee and iced tea), so I bring some packets with me. Sometimes, when Señor Swanky & I order out for Chinese food, I order extra rice to make a rice dish or add to homemade soup for later on in the week. When I order Moo Shoo chicken, I get extra plum sauce too - it's a yummy ingredient to add when you're making meatloaf.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sra. Swanky

      Most Mu Shu dishes are served with Hoisin sauce which is dark and rich. Do you ask for plum sauce instead?

      1. re: Candy

        Thanks, Candy - that must be what they give me -I always mix up hoisin sauce with plum sauce. It really makes any meat dish taste great!

        1. re: Sra. Swanky

          You can buy it in almost any grocery store in the Asian section. Keeps forever in the fridge. But the Hoisin is traditional and is rich and dark. The Duck/Plum sauce is light in color and rather apricot in flavor. Use that extra rice for some really good homemade fried rice. To be a good fried rice you need cold rice cooked a day or so ahead. If you were plannng ahead you could cook the rice in the AM and refrigerate it all day but to turn out quality fried rice it needs to be cold.

    2. For unavoidable buffet meals such as hotel breakfasts and/or lunches in workshops or conferences: I carefully plate a selected item and appropriate accompanyments rather than putting multiple items on my plate (even a bit foui fou with the food centered and sauced, and with lots of white plate surrounding the food). If/when I want something else, I'll get another plate and again carefully plate accordingly. In the end I usually eat a bit less than I would had I eaten the mixed heap; I've eaten slower due to the possibly different courses; and I've eaten more elegantly, if I may say so.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I do this too. I hate buffets (so many foods not meant to be eaten together surely result in gastric upset!), so if a la carte isn't available I just pick a main and a couple of sides. And dessert, of course!

        1. re: hrhboo

          So, your rh, have people sat down and also asked you, "Where did you get that?"

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Hah! Unfortunately my plating skills leave a lot to be desired.

      2. I don't really care for pasta, but often times am interested in the accompanying toppings and/or sauces (I'm also not a cream sauce favorer, but that's another thing...), so in order to save room and calories and carbs, I'll ask that steamed vegetables be substituted for the pasta. I personally prefer them to pasta.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Emme

          That's a great idea. I've been using green beans instead of pasta for spaghetti sauce at home. I like the idea of asking for veggies in restaurants. Do you ever get refused?

          1. re: rworange

            Never refused, just sometimes a surcharge of a buck or two, which is fine by me. Also, be sure to ask the selection of veggies, if you're picky or want to be sure not to get potatoes subbed for pasta ;)

          2. re: Emme

            Oooh! We have similar tastes--I HATE pasta, which no one can understand! I'm not carbophobic, I love freshly baked bread, but veggies taste so much more interesting than white glop.

            I have white glop issues, which includes whipped cream, pasta, and yes cream sauces.

            Of course, I have asked for sauces on the side, and meat toppings to be left off of veggie entrees, requests that are often not fulfilled!

          3. I have been known to order two or three appetizers instead of an entree, in order to get a unique combination of items for my plate. Otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to get (for instance) a combination of Garlic Shrimp, Grilled Mushrooms, and Fettucini Alfredo. However, when I tried adding a flare, the restaurant summoned the Fire Marshal, so I don't suggest trying that tactic.

            1. I do a lot of weird stuff when dining out. :)

              At Chinese restaurants, I sometimes ask them to steam things instead of frying them (or to stir-fry instead of deep-fry).

              A lot of times, I'll order 3-4 side dishes to make a meal, especially in restaurants that are less veggie friendly (sides are usually veg, though I always ask just to be sure).

              I'll sometimes ask for a half-portion of an entrée (if it's something like pasta or a casserole) or a larger portion of an appetizer (like a salad).

              At buffets, particularly Indian ones, I use salad greens as a base and the actual dishes as a topping. Condiments like raita go on as dressing. I usually grab a bowl of fruit to go with the meal because the cool/sweet combo helps fight the spicy.

              1 Reply
              1. re: piccola

                My favorite restaurant is a little pricey for regular eats, so I'll go in and sit at the bar. I'll have a couple of drinks and a couple of sides (one veg, one carb) and leave satiated and happy.