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Are there things you don't get at restaurants any more because you cook them better?

Morganna Feb 24, 2009 03:32 AM

Over the years I've become a really great cook. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm no chef and I'm no artist. But I am a great cook for certain foods. Good for others, barely adequate for still others. Still, the things I'm great at turn out really fantastic. I've run into a sort of a situation where I don't like going out to spend a lot of money on certain kinds of meals because I could do so much better on them at home, and I resent spending a chunk of money on something I know is actually pretty easy to do, only to find that the restaurant is sorta "calling it in" and it's just not worth the cost.

Steaks are something like that for me. I don't know if it's just because there are NO good steakhouses here in Central VT (well, ok, to be honest, there's nothing here I'd call a "good steakhouse". ). I just find that I like how I cook an expensive steak way better than I can ever get in a restaurant. Also, smoked ribs and brisket. I smoke my own meats and I just like mine so much better than anything I've had locally.

I still find it worth going out for foods that I wouldn't have the kill or inclination to make at home, or the economies of scale that mean I could get really fresh foods at a bargain price. Like, seafood. Seafood is something I don' t mind paying for in a restaurant if it's good and fresh. I just don't have the availability or facilities or money to invest in really good seafood for myself (my husband doesn't like seafood at all, and I don't always like cooking two meals). So that's something I'll get when I'm out.

Are there foods that you just won't order when you're out because you know it's just going to tick you off how much you're spending on it and it won't be anywhere near as good as you can make at home?

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  1. Soop RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 03:36 AM

    Yeah, I get what you're saying. It's a double edged sword, if there's something I can make, I'm either pissed off because I could have done it better, or jealous that I couldn't.

    1. bayoucook RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 04:52 AM

      Steaks for me, too. I've got it down to an art - husband won't eat any other. And fresh lobster - why pay 40plus dollars when I can get it for a fraction of that and steam it perfectly myself?!

      4 Replies
      1. re: bayoucook
        CindyJ RE: bayoucook Feb 27, 2009 01:18 PM

        Lobster is my first answer, too. There's nothing better than having it whole, out of the pot and onto the plate, so why pay restaurant prices when I can often get them live in the local market for $5.99/pound.

        1. re: CindyJ
          kchurchill5 RE: CindyJ Feb 27, 2009 01:33 PM

          That is true, not 5.99, FL but I have lobster tails and yes, I cook them steamed and then on the grill for just a minute with some great butter, lemon and garlic, perfection. I hate paying the price getting it out. There is a restaurant down here that makes great lobster and for locals they offer a special 9.99 which includes, great hashbrowns (the good kind), a unbelievable slaw, great fresh bread from a local baker, and a cold beer. Just a local hole in the wall, but what a bargain! It is just a local thing but it's pretty fun. The only place I get lobster out.

          1. re: kchurchill5
            Mollybud RE: kchurchill5 Mar 2, 2009 09:55 AM

            KChurchill, I live in SW FL. Where is this lobster place? I want to go.

        2. re: bayoucook
          TAGcaves4me RE: bayoucook Mar 3, 2009 02:10 PM

          Definitely steaks for me, too. I did, however, order one at a Santa Fe chain when dining out with friends we were travelling with (I am not a fan of chain restaurants....sorry I digress....), anyway, the steak was perfectly cooked (a true rare steak!!) and seasoned....and the broccoli side was quite good as well! But normally, I would not order a steak at a restaurant.

        3. grampart RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 05:04 AM

          Pizza, for sure.

          1 Reply
          1. re: grampart
            thinks too much RE: grampart Feb 24, 2009 05:44 AM

            95% of the time I make my own pizza, and love it more than buying it. Blue cheese, carmelized onions, and walnuts... or potato bacon. Some days, however, I want your classic red sauce plain pizza from the local place, and I just can't make it like the pizza joint does.

            My problem is that I avoid ordering a simple dish as part of a meal since I can make it at home, but it would be a healthier and better balance to the meal. An example would be the sliced heirloom tomatoes to go with an entree. Instead I opt for the heftier creamed spinach.

          2. Sam Fujisaka RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 05:21 AM

            I rarely eat out when I'm at home or when I have access to a kitchen when I travel. I work in DC quite a bit and try to stay in a particular great suite hotel. Last time I went out to eat once in 10 days, and then just to try the restaurant (and support the local economy). I've stayed in a B&B in a suite with kitchen in Waterbury, Vermont, while working with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. There I went out once to Hen of the Wood (I think) for the great food, wines, and service. When I'm out in the field I have to eat out - and there look for street and market foods. In stop-overs in the US, I'd rather eat gas station corn dogs than hotel restaurant food. Overall, I really try to avoid thinking either, "I could have made that way better for way less" or "Gee, that sucks. What's in it, some kind of mud?"

            7 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka
              grant.cook RE: Sam Fujisaka Feb 24, 2009 06:42 AM

              Steak.. not that steakhouses don't do a good job, but I consider them massively overpriced these days - maybe too trendy, trying to be too high end, and the al a carte just adds to the agony. And buying a nice piece of meat and cooking it up at home is quite satisfactory..

              1. re: grant.cook
                Soop RE: grant.cook Feb 24, 2009 06:47 AM

                You know, I've always thought the same thing. I find ribeye is done better in restaurants, but cooking a steak is not hard, you can do it to your exact liking, and you save 66-75% of the price!

                1. re: Soop
                  KTinNYC RE: Soop Feb 24, 2009 11:06 AM

                  I don't know about you but I can not source a dry aged steak similar to those found at the the top steak houses in my area.

                  1. re: KTinNYC
                    phantomdoc RE: KTinNYC Feb 24, 2009 12:27 PM

                    If your area is NYC then check out Lobels.

                    1. re: phantomdoc
                      KTinNYC RE: phantomdoc Feb 24, 2009 12:28 PM

                      Lobel's is excellent but at the price you pay per pound there you may as well head over to Luger.

                      1. re: KTinNYC
                        phantomdoc RE: KTinNYC Aug 5, 2009 08:45 AM

                        How about Fairway?

                        The one in Plainview Long Island has a large selection of dry aged prime.

                    2. re: KTinNYC
                      pikawicca RE: KTinNYC Nov 3, 2009 04:41 PM

                      Try Lobel's.

              2. alkapal RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 06:53 AM

                the first thing that came to mind was pasta!

                24 Replies
                1. re: alkapal
                  cheesecake17 RE: alkapal Feb 24, 2009 11:52 AM

                  I agree with you. Why pay $16 for a plate of pasta when it's probably going to be too salty, too bland, too mushy, or just blah. I can do it better at home, for much cheaper and without all the added grease.

                  1. re: cheesecake17
                    brendastarlet RE: cheesecake17 Feb 24, 2009 12:43 PM

                    also, at home, I can control the amount of sauce, rather than receive a plate of pasta drowning in sauce. I'm almost to the point where I'm ready to order pasta and sauce separately in restaurants, which then seems like it's defeating the point of getting it at all.

                    1. re: cheesecake17
                      flourgirl RE: cheesecake17 Feb 28, 2009 06:59 AM

                      Pasta was the first thing I thought of too! I almost never order it out anymore. Same goes for stuff like eggplant parmigian, etc. I hate paying so much for something I can easily make at home and make it great.

                      1. re: flourgirl
                        phantomdoc RE: flourgirl Aug 5, 2009 08:48 AM

                        I will stoop to frozen eggplant parm made by celentano, every once in a while.

                    2. re: alkapal
                      c oliver RE: alkapal Feb 24, 2009 12:48 PM

                      Hey, ap, get thee over to my thread on Pillsbury crust :)

                      1. re: alkapal
                        poptart RE: alkapal Feb 24, 2009 01:35 PM

                        Amen! Pasta for sure, I simply cannot stand overocooked pasta (which is what you get most of the time). It has to be a pretty special plate of pasta for me to want to order it out.

                        On the other hand, I rarely cook red meat at home because I am not good at it, so when I go out I am more likely to get a steak or burger or something like that. Buying an expensive cut of mean intimidates me, I am afraid I will ruin it because of my inexperience cooking good meat!

                        1. re: poptart
                          cheesecake17 RE: poptart Feb 24, 2009 04:04 PM

                          Exactly how I feel. I don't want my pasta overcooked and mushy drowning in sauce!

                          poptart- definitely cook some red meat! I have a great butcher who gives me advice on how to cook each item. If you can get to a full service butcher (as opposed to a supermarket where it's prepacked) definitely take advantage and ask questions. It's truly not as hard as it seems- last night I cooked a roast!

                          1. re: cheesecake17
                            poptart RE: cheesecake17 Feb 24, 2009 06:06 PM

                            Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I will get brave this weekend and try cooking steak. I actually do cook red meat, only it's the slow-cooked stuff I feel confident with (meatballs, beef stew, curries, etc). I get nervous when there's a beautiful steak in front of me and I am afraid of not doing it justice !

                            1. re: poptart
                              c oliver RE: poptart Feb 24, 2009 06:08 PM

                              If you like your meat rare, we do an almost arbitrary 4 minutes a side. You can push that out for doner.

                              1. re: poptart
                                cheesecake17 RE: poptart Feb 25, 2009 04:37 AM

                                Defintiely try it. The worst you can do is overcook it a bit, but count it as a learning experience. It may help to get a meat thermometer.

                              2. re: cheesecake17
                                Sal Vanilla RE: cheesecake17 Apr 29, 2009 11:47 AM

                                My supermarket butcher is a goldmine of info. He also special orders me the most lovely things and makes suggestions on what to order (like stuff I did not know I could get). He also turned me on to a man that sells sides of his own beef and to another who was getting ready to slaughter some lambs.

                                For poptart - get a really good grill and start with steaks. You could get "choice" quality steaks - v "select" and they can be grilled to the same standards as eating out (or better). Also, meat does not have to be expensive to be good. chuck roasts, shanks... totally cheap and cooked slow - holy heaven.

                                1. re: Sal Vanilla
                                  coll RE: Sal Vanilla Apr 29, 2009 02:10 PM

                                  Did you guys see the article in the Times today about butchers and new, inexpensive cuts of meat that are appearing in supermarkets? Lots of interesting info.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/29/din...

                              3. re: poptart
                                poptart RE: poptart Feb 25, 2009 04:55 PM

                                thanks, will try..I do have a meat thermometer (used on Thanksgiving primarily! :-))

                              4. re: alkapal
                                Full tummy RE: alkapal Feb 25, 2009 09:06 AM

                                Absolutely! These days I'm always disappointed by restaurant pasta, unless it's gnocchi (a good gnocchi). Store bought gnocchi doesn't measure up, and I don't have the time to make them from scratch...

                                1. re: alkapal
                                  kchurchill5 RE: alkapal Feb 27, 2009 11:29 AM

                                  Ditto on pasta, unless it is a 4 or 5 star restaurant that pasta is a sig dish. I went to one in Kohler WI, Very classic Italian cooking. There were 12 of us and we all got something different and shared a few bites. I got the pasta and it was mouth watering.

                                  But agreed normally I would not order pasta.

                                  Also, I tend to order what the restaurant is known for or a sig dish. I don't go to a seafood restaurant and order steak or vice versa.

                                  But I don't like to eat out that much anyways.

                                  1. re: kchurchill5
                                    mordacity RE: kchurchill5 Feb 27, 2009 06:04 PM

                                    If they named the restaurant after a dish, I always order it. I have yet to be disappointed.

                                    1. re: mordacity
                                      kchurchill5 RE: mordacity Feb 27, 2009 06:10 PM

                                      Sig dish is my first pick agreed! A restaurant in GA, St Louis Fish Shack, St. Louis Fish is well worth the 18.99. :)

                                    2. re: kchurchill5
                                      coll RE: kchurchill5 Feb 28, 2009 02:17 AM

                                      No problem with pasta itself, but I never get red sauce or any traditional meat like meatballs, sausage or braciole. Then again I don't go to "neighborhood" Italian places, only upscale ones with the exotic dishes, because when I have a craving for home style I go into the kitchen and cook up a pot myself. Correction: I do go to neighborhood places, but just for pizza. I've made it myself, but the pizzerias around here have me beat on that one.

                                      1. re: coll
                                        kchurchill5 RE: coll Feb 28, 2009 05:43 AM

                                        Ditto, most of the places I go are some, hidden away places and their sauce is amazing. Only great unique places. If I am paying to eat out I want something unqiue.

                                    3. re: alkapal
                                      hudson3900 RE: alkapal Apr 5, 2009 09:18 AM

                                      a bowl of macaroni I can boil up at home is just not worth the $$. Unless I'm really craving it & then I can't be bothered doing the cooking. I'll pay.

                                      1. re: alkapal
                                        cookieluvntasha RE: alkapal Jul 31, 2009 08:28 AM

                                        I feel the same way! Especially seafood pasta and pasta with meatballs. I have no reason to order those items when I am out, becuase I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can make most pasta dishes as good or better than a restaurant. I am not a chef, but I do believe that when you have good ingredients and good intuition about food and its properties, you can make magic in a home kitchen. I have a wonderful recipe for alfredo and when I add my seafood of choice along with some fresh from the oven bread!!! Woowee! Its so excellent. And my meatballs are really good, no need to waste my dinner choice on something I can whip up quickly.

                                        1. re: cookieluvntasha
                                          Mawrter RE: cookieluvntasha Jul 31, 2009 09:52 AM

                                          Hmmm, interesting - I always feel as though meatballs take forever. Well, I'm pretty inefficient in the kitchen, so maybe they just take a long time for ME. But I still prefer them at home. :-)

                                          1. re: Mawrter
                                            cookieluvntasha RE: Mawrter Jul 31, 2009 12:43 PM

                                            Excuse me, the cooking process does take a little time, especially the sauce, but the prep time is pretty quick if you are efficient. The only way to be efficient in the kitchen is to constantly be thinking ahead and preparing for the next step in what your cooking. This way there is limited mistakes. I think they reason I learned efficiency because I had to cook for a family of 7 before I left home ( I am the oldest of five children) and got married.

                                          2. re: cookieluvntasha
                                            kattyeyes RE: cookieluvntasha Aug 1, 2009 09:16 AM

                                            << I am not a chef, but I do believe that when you have good ingredients and good intuition about food and its properties, you can make magic in a home kitchen.>>

                                            Yesssssssss, nicely stated! :)

                                            <<And my meatballs are really good, no need to waste my dinner choice on something I can whip up quickly.>>

                                            I'll second that sentiment, too.

                                        2. monavano RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 06:57 AM

                                          Put me down for steaks, too. I'm happy to say that I feel comfortable cooking steak to a perfect med. rare. We generally do flank/skirt steak because they are quite affordable and can be stretched into leftovers such as entree salads, or fajitas, or even soups. Heaven knows my dogs love to nibble on the leftover slices?
                                          Lamb--I can buy excellent lamb chops and still pay far less for DH and I to eat at home vs. a restaurant.
                                          I also feel that a little goes a long way. Several thinly sliced pieces satisfies, when otherwise, heck--I could put down a porterhouse. I love porterhouse.
                                          Meatballs ...I generally find that mine are better with regard to the texture *(not too bready) and flavor (lots of parm cheese).
                                          Lasagna--been making it for years. I can make it with my eyes closed and I love having leftovers to freeze for a quick and delicious meal later on.
                                          I have lots and lots to learn, and my cooking is not refined, but I do recognize when I can make something at home, make it well, and make it for a lot less.

                                          1. scubadoo97 RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 07:13 AM

                                            I rarely go to restaurants and have a good handle on making most things generally found on the restaurant menu. On a whole I enjoy my food better at home than at restaurants

                                            I must add that a well stocked pantry will give you the ability to make most things at home.

                                            Even though I make sushi at home often, a good sushi restaurant does it better than me. Same with stir fry. There is a certain taste that I just can't capture. Could be the super high heat of the wok burner.

                                            I would also add Indian food since I don't have all the ingredients to make it as well at home.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: scubadoo97
                                              Soop RE: scubadoo97 Feb 24, 2009 07:36 AM

                                              Good point; there are some things you just can't replicate without a state-of-the-art kitchen.

                                              1. re: scubadoo97
                                                Morganna RE: scubadoo97 Feb 24, 2009 08:44 AM

                                                Yeah, sushi is one of those things I've tried doing at home, but I'm much happier with the sushi place in Waterbury (VT, the town where my office is).

                                                I have a wonderfully well stocked pantry, and Indian food is something I've done myself and liked better than in some places. Though Shahi Palace in the Montreal area is just WAY better than I can make. ;D I made my own rogan josh, though, and loved it! I have some lamb in the freezer I'm gonna turn into rogan josh one of these days. :)

                                              2. tracylee RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 09:48 AM

                                                Years ago I gave up wasting good money on restaurant lobster - it never seemed as good as mine, and was always way more expensive.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: tracylee
                                                  KevinB RE: tracylee Feb 24, 2009 11:59 AM

                                                  Here in Toronto, many Asian restaurants recently had 2-for-1 lobster specials for around $20 Cdn. Only you don't just get a steamed lobster or broiled lobster tail - you get the whole thing, stir fried with green onions and ginger, or with Maggi sauce, or any number of other ways. Hardly more expensive than buying at the fish market, and excellent preparation.

                                                  But to return to topic - home fries. There's hardly one in a hundred breakfast spots that serve honest to goodness home fries here; either it's frozen industrial hash browns, or frozen tater tots, or worse, real potatoes that are just deep fried cubes. Real home fries are leftover boiled spuds, cubed and fried on a griddle (or cast iron pan) with onions (and possible additions like green peppers, etc.) I find it so much more satisfying to throw some bacon on the griddle while I prepare the spuds, fry them up with the onions in the bacon grease, and serve with poached eggs and toast than to get some industrial breakfast with bacon so crisp it crumbles into powder (I like mine limp), burnt toast, rubbery eggs, ersatz home fries, and worst of all - no HP sauce!!

                                                  1. re: KevinB
                                                    coll RE: KevinB Feb 28, 2009 02:13 AM

                                                    Definitely homefries, for all the reasons you mention. Nobody seems to cook them into a crispy mass anymore, just a pile of browned potato cubes. And fried eggs, they always have a crust on them or something. So easy to make perfect fried eggs but nobody seems to. If I have to get eggs out I'll get an omelette, they're much more forgiving. I do like (almost) burnt toast though.

                                                2. Miss Needle RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 11:03 AM

                                                  It's funny because steak is one of the few things that I won't eat at home but will have it at a restaurant. Perhaps geography is a factor because there are lots of great steakhouses in NYC (where I live). It's hard to get the same quality of meat as these steakhouses can. There is one butcher here known for super high quality meat. But the cost is equivalent as going out for steak. And I don't have a super high heat broiler, and prefer that method to pan roasting.

                                                  And in response to grampart and thinkstoomuch, I don't make pizza at home, probably for similar reasons as the steak thing. Great pizza in NYC and I don't have ovens that get hot enough to properly cook a pizza.

                                                  Food at a diner is generally something I won't get out. I can definitely do better versions of the food at home and am a bit perplexed as to why so many people dig diners.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Miss Needle
                                                    Morganna RE: Miss Needle Feb 24, 2009 12:07 PM

                                                    Yeah, where you live makes a big difference. :) I can get really great local beef here if I want it. I also know how to dry age my steak if I want to do that, too. (it's not that hard, really) I have only had a meal at what most folks would consider a really great steakhouse about twice in my life. Those meals stick with me, but they were long ago and far away. I just don't have access to that sort of thing around here at all.

                                                    I agree with KevinB when it comes to homefries! I make hash browns and home fries better than I can get anywhere locally, as well.

                                                    1. re: Morganna
                                                      Miss Needle RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:11 PM

                                                      Can I ask how you dry-aged your steak? I tried once in my fridge but it was sooooo not worth the trouble. I followed Alton Brown's method. In order to get the temperature cold enough in my fridge, I had to empty it. So for several days I suffered with no food in my fridge just so I could age my meat.

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle
                                                        Morganna RE: Miss Needle Feb 25, 2009 03:00 AM

                                                        Oh I don't have that problem with my fridge. When I bother to do it, I use Alton's method. :) Most of the time I don't bother. If I didn't work full time, I'd probably take more time to do things like this. :)

                                                      2. re: Morganna
                                                        KevinB RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 09:16 AM

                                                        And to prove my point, Denny's has just started an ad campaign centred around - you guessed it - home fries. Except, as the close up shots show, these are clearly deep-fried potato cubes, which, knowing Denny's, are almost sure to be frozen. Feh.

                                                    2. l
                                                      laliz RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:08 PM

                                                      Me too. I order steak out because I can't purchase the quality of meat the restaurant can and I really enjoy a luxurious steak once in a while. The same with good ribs, I really enjoy them and can't make them like the restaurant with the smokers.

                                                      What I won't order (if I'm paying) is a stuffed artichoke. My homemade ones are far superior and its outrageous what they charge for an appetizer.
                                                      the same with eggplant parmesan; I much prefer my own.

                                                      I'm not at all interested in making pizza, but I seldom eat pizza either.

                                                      1. d
                                                        duck833 RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:10 PM

                                                        1. Steaks - have a great Costco that has wonderful ribeyes and fillets
                                                        2. Ribs, brisket and pulled pork - mine is best in town
                                                        3. Salmon - most restaurants screw it up, ours is great.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: duck833
                                                          ideabaker RE: duck833 Feb 24, 2009 04:29 PM

                                                          Duck833, I concur on the salmon. I never order it out anymore, it is almost always too dry, and when it is at a good level of moisture it lacks flavor (outside of the first twentieth of a mm of the fish). I can go to my local fishmonger and pick up a piece, season it conservatively and end up with something much better at home- and like the OP, I'm no professional "chef". I think the fish is dry because many of the restaurants are often rushing and don't have time to monitor the fish.

                                                          As Azizeh noted, chicken is difficult for me to order in a resto as I can make it a thousand ways at home. It is much too difficult to justify paying those prices for such an inexpensive and easy to prepare piece of flesh. However, I've only had chicken that was so tasty (and perhaps not as wonderful as those described in Azizeh's post) is whenever I "hit" a Jamaican/Caribbean place for brown stew chicken. I feel lucky to be so close to Queens/NYC, the most ethnically diverse area in America, according to some statistic I read. Brown Stew Chicken (done right) is a delight, and I have no idea how they make it taste so good. (The fresh sprigs of thyme are definitely a must, but there is some magical ingredient or method added, and I will find it.)

                                                          Also quite like the way a local Greek restaurant marinates its chicken for souvlaki, gyros and etc. . But besides places like that, I "skim" over the chicken section on a restaurant menu, and then, just in case there is an interesting idea to try at home.

                                                          p.s. Outside of "Ropa Vieja" I have not eaten excellent (oven, or grilled--whole) brisket in years. I only get it from the Kosher Delis around here, and it is very expensive yet tender and tasty. I don't know how big your town is, but the stomach is rumbling...thanks :-).

                                                        2. k
                                                          Kelli2006 RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:25 PM

                                                          The only things I go out for a traditional BBQ, Thai, or Indian food because I can do everything else at home better and w/o the hassle of going out.

                                                          1. l
                                                            laliz RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:25 PM

                                                            Well there you go. I don't order salmon in restaurants and I don't cook it at home (so I didn't even think of it) ~~ but you are so right. My sister, who loves salmon, is always complaining that it is overcooked in restaurants.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: laliz
                                                              brendastarlet RE: laliz Feb 24, 2009 12:42 PM

                                                              One of the reasons is that salmon keeps cooking until it cools, and restaurants can't get it from the grill to the plate to the table fast enough. Even a minute can make salmon overdone.

                                                              1. re: brendastarlet
                                                                jenhen2 RE: brendastarlet Apr 29, 2009 10:04 PM

                                                                I think pretty much everything keeps cooking until it cools.

                                                            2. p
                                                              phantomdoc RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:32 PM

                                                              Eggs, omelets cant beat my own.
                                                              I can do pretty well with steaks, but, I hit Lugers once a year.
                                                              Chinese style marinated pork loin.
                                                              Pastrami is at Katz's. I don't have a smoker.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: phantomdoc
                                                                Morganna RE: phantomdoc Feb 25, 2009 03:02 AM

                                                                Ok, NYC would just kill me. There are -so- many options there that are so much better than I could make at home. Like pastrami, or some really great steakhouses where it would totally be better than what I make at home. And a wide variety of ethnic foods I don't take the time to do well at home. and Gyros. I miss real, honest to dog Gyros. :)

                                                              2. Azizeh RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 12:49 PM

                                                                Chicken, in general. Roasted chicken and chicken breasts are something I often whip up at home when I want something quick and easy, so I don't feel like it's exciting enough to pay someone else to make me. The one exception was at Bouchon, where the chicken was calling out to me and it was wonderful. Also, Gormeh Sabzi, a Persian stew that is mostly ruined by restaurants.

                                                                1. m
                                                                  mordacity RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 04:13 PM

                                                                  Ditto to chicken and pasta, unless it's fresh. That's one task I've yet to try myself. I'll add chocolate cake - the ones in restaurants are ALWAYS too sweet for my tastes, and it's a cinch to whip up at home.

                                                                  1. j
                                                                    Jacey RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 04:20 PM

                                                                    Omletes: Mine are better than most places (except one little diner in the Midwest who does a very fluffy version). Most places don't season them to my liking and are overly greasy, even when you order them "dry."

                                                                    Chicken Breasts: I'll order a grilled chicken salad but rarely will I order chicken as my entree at a restaurant. I would probably only do it if they don't have a good fish entree or I'm at a Middle Eastern restaurant (love the spices they use).

                                                                    Scallops: I used to order this pricey dish all the time, but once I learned how easy it was to make them, I rarely order them anymore. I save SO much money doing this, we're talking maybe $4 (for about 3 very large ones) vs $30+ entree at some of the nicer places.

                                                                    When I'm out I usually order fish. I don't like cooking it at home, as well as sushi. I hardly ever eat red meat but I would rather order a filet at a steakhouse than cook one by myself.

                                                                    1. j
                                                                      James Cristinian RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 04:20 PM

                                                                      I just fried 20 Gulf of Mexico shrimp for nine bucks plus. Also, spare ribs, grilled for three hours at about a sawbuck, fajitas, beef, no such thing as a chicken fajita. Our local HEB has what they call prime one strips and ribeyes at around 8 dollars a pound. I am under no illusion that this is real USDA pime, but for that price I can get a one pound steak for 8 dollars that is terrific.

                                                                      1. purple goddess RE: Morganna Feb 24, 2009 04:39 PM


                                                                        Furry and I have given up on going out for breakky. So over jarred/canned "Hollandaise", eggs not cooked to order (He likes his all solid.. no jiggly bits and I like mine with a solid white and a runny yolk), bacon that's not crispy.

                                                                        Hell, our last foray into eating out at breakfast, the Bacon and eggs on sourdough TOAST came out sans bacon and eggs served on bread... as in uncooked toast.


                                                                        Hell... for $20 AUD, we can buy/make our own, cook it just the way we like (usually on the BBQ), add some 'shrooms and spinach straight from the garden and some home made relish, AND eat it in bed with the newspaper.

                                                                        1. c
                                                                          CocoaNut RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 04:43 AM

                                                                          Something as simple as a baked potato, for Pete's Sake! Don't know what the problem is, but restaurant's seem to not get the dang things done anymore!

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: CocoaNut
                                                                            Morganna RE: CocoaNut Feb 25, 2009 04:46 AM

                                                                            Ooh you know you're right! I haven't had a decent baked potato in a restaurant in YEARS! :)

                                                                            1. re: Morganna
                                                                              c oliver RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 07:07 AM

                                                                              I think it's because they steam them in foil rather than baking. We poke with fork, rub with oliver oil and kosher salt. Then bake at 425 for over an hour. We call them Cameron Potatoes cause that's my husband's last name.

                                                                          2. c
                                                                            Cebca RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 10:10 AM

                                                                            I disagree with OP and a lot of people here, but that might just be because I don't often attempt home-cooked steak (and I don't have a grill). A good steak would be one of the few things I think would be worth going out for.

                                                                            Seafood would be it for me - any restaurant fish dish I feel like I can make better at home. I don't have the $$ to go out to super-fancy restaurants, so actually pretty much any standard protein-vegetable-carb plate I think I can make much better at home, cheaper, and healthier I always used to order fish when I was out at restaurants because I love it but I've stopped because I am consistently disappointed and know I could do better on my own. Don't even get me started on restaurants that claim "wild salmon" and then serve you up a filet of pale pink, clearly farmed, weak-tasting fish.

                                                                            Basically the only meals that I feel like are worth getting in restaurants these days are ethnic foods that I just don't have the knowledge to make at home or take a million ingredients. And of course, sushi, which sort of falls into that category. Hence when I go out 99% of the time I find myself going for thai or vietnamese, which happily also ends up being some of the cheapest quality food you can find.

                                                                            1. sbp RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 10:42 AM

                                                                              Pasta, Lobster, and Hamburgers.

                                                                              Pasta (unless I'm at a really good restaurant that makes its own), because I would feel like a sap paying north of $12 for something that sells for $1/lb at the supermarket. And it's invariably overcooked anyway.

                                                                              Lobster: Can get it for $8/lb most of the time around here. I don't need to pay a 3X premium just to have someone serve it to me.

                                                                              Hamburger: Well, I USED to like a well made one in a restaurant. Until they all stopped letting you have it less than well done. I can cook a pretty mean rare burger; why would I PAY someone to ruin it?

                                                                              1. Veggo RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 11:09 AM

                                                                                Tuna sashimi and stone crabs are no-brainers. My seasoned rack of spring lamb over smoky mesquite is better'n anybody else's.

                                                                                1. b
                                                                                  bnemes3343 RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 11:17 AM

                                                                                  Morganna, you and I must be related (and maybe we are because I was born in Burlington). When I saw the title of this post, my first reaction was steak. Why is it I can cook a steak to perfection, with great seasoning the the correct level of doneness and it is pretty much impossible to find a steakhouse that comes close on a consistent basis? Maybe because I'm just cooking one, and they are unable to keep track of multiple steaks?

                                                                                  There are many other things I make better than most of the restaurants I go to, so I tend to order dishes that are complicated or time consuming to make (e.g. short ribs), or things I love but can't cook at home becuase my wife hates it (e.g. veal osso bucco or risotto).

                                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: bnemes3343
                                                                                    Morganna RE: bnemes3343 Feb 26, 2009 03:01 AM

                                                                                    hee! 'Cept that I'm a flatlander. :) I was born in Ohio, and lived there, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, and Alaska before moving to Vermont. ;D Man do I miss the wonderful roast pork my mom used to make in Iowa. So greasy and delicious. Nothing at all like the lean, flavourless stuff you find nowadays. :)

                                                                                    It's a shame your wife doesn't like risotto, it's so easy to make! I made some for arancini this holiday season and I was delighted with how it came out, and how easy it was. Just a whole lot of stirring. :)

                                                                                    1. re: Morganna
                                                                                      bnemes3343 RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 04:09 AM

                                                                                      Well, my mom was raised in Ohio, so you never know... Wierd that my wife doesn't like risotto, because she loves the regular rice I make. It's not really a great dish to get out though, because it really needs to be made and served fresh, and I suspect most places don't do that.

                                                                                      1. re: Morganna
                                                                                        kattyeyes RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 08:51 AM

                                                                                        Morganna, please go to the head of the class for making arancini! I love them, but they would seem to be a major PITA to make. I do love them, though. In fact, my mom and I grabbed some for lunch just this week. Maybe someday I'll get ambitious and give 'em a try at home.

                                                                                        Back to your original question--generally, I give up on ordering meatballs or meatloaf out. Why something so simple often fails in restaurants is beyond me. Burgers almost never taste as good anywhere else but home with few exceptions. I am spoiled--I like mine rare and that's so hard to find many places these days. I do enjoy filet mignon out, but am just as happy to eat it at home. I also think many places don't cook scallops as nicely or simply deliciously as we do right here in our own kitchen. Sometimes we roll them in polenta, then pan-fry with butter, lemon peel and limoncello. So much tastier than many places I've eaten them in restaurants!

                                                                                        1. re: kattyeyes
                                                                                          Morganna RE: kattyeyes Feb 27, 2009 11:19 AM

                                                                                          Arancini are surprisingly easy to make. Fiddly, but easy. :) Well worth the effort for a special meal, though. :)

                                                                                          1. re: kattyeyes
                                                                                            c oliver RE: kattyeyes Feb 27, 2009 12:53 PM

                                                                                            >>>Sometimes we roll them in polenta, then pan-fry with butter, lemon peel and limoncello. So much tastier than many places I've eaten them in restaurants!<<<

                                                                                            Can I vote for that when we come up your way?!? Puleeeeeeeeeze?
                                                                                            That sounds SO fabulous. I'd fix it tonight if I had some scallops.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver
                                                                                              kattyeyes RE: c oliver Feb 27, 2009 01:02 PM

                                                                                              LOL! Absolutely! ;)

                                                                                      2. m
                                                                                        MartinDC RE: Morganna Feb 25, 2009 11:26 AM

                                                                                        Thai food. Even though DC has a few very good Thai restaurants in the burbs, I still find my own Thai cooking is better. We have some good Thai grocers here, and I can order some fresh produce (eg kaffir limes) from California in season.

                                                                                        I make my own curry pastes now, and it really kicks up the flavor.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: MartinDC
                                                                                          Veggo RE: MartinDC Feb 25, 2009 11:45 AM

                                                                                          I'm salivating. I enjoy even bad Thai food, yours must be awesome!

                                                                                        2. t
                                                                                          TampaAurora RE: Morganna Feb 26, 2009 01:14 PM

                                                                                          Chicken Parmigiana. Yeah, it's Italian American and much aligned by Chowhounds, but I love a good chicken parm!

                                                                                          1. k
                                                                                            Kathleen M RE: Morganna Feb 26, 2009 02:50 PM

                                                                                            My first thought was that a better question would be what would you order in a restaurant because you can't cook it as well at home. It seems like the answer would be shorter! I'm like Morganna, I'm a very good home cook, not a chef (but sometimes I must admit that I do consider myself an artist). So, I'll go out for Asian or Indian cuisine (I could probably learn, but there's so much out there that's so good and so inexpensive that I've never tried). I'll go out for Mexican sometimes, even though I make a great enchilada, because I just can't seem to get the refried beans as good at home. I never deep fry at home, so I'll go out for fried chicken or fish and chips. Otherwise, I try to order something that would be too labor intensive or something that is so original that I just wouldn't ever have thought of that (and then I'll go home and try to copy it)! If duck is on the menu, I'll almost always get it because that's another thing that I just can't seem to get right at home.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Kathleen M
                                                                                              MakingSense RE: Kathleen M Feb 26, 2009 03:53 PM

                                                                                              Kathleen's on to something. Like her, I'm a very good home cook and could turn out just about anything, but I stopped trying to be the jack of all cuisines a good while ago. Why try to be the master of everything?

                                                                                              There were terrific ethic restaurants either in my hometown or in cities that I visit. Why clutter my cupboards with exotic ingredients that became stale?
                                                                                              I outsourced.

                                                                                              We eat Indian or Indonesian, Ethiopian, Hungarian, Russian, Korean, Peruvian, whatever we love at ethnic restaurants.
                                                                                              They do it well, they need my support, and I learn from them.
                                                                                              Sure, I keep a few "exotic" ingredients to spice up some ordinary American stuff, but when I want the real thing, I go to the experts.

                                                                                              1. re: Kathleen M
                                                                                                Cebca RE: Kathleen M Feb 27, 2009 09:17 AM

                                                                                                I agree with all of this.

                                                                                              2. dinaofdoom RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 09:03 AM

                                                                                                i almost never order pasta in a restaurant, because i feel like such a dolt paying for the ridiculous mark-up.
                                                                                                the exception is if it's hand-made or gnocchi, as someone else mentioned, because i have yet to find a good store-bought gnocchi.

                                                                                                1. g
                                                                                                  gfr1111 RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 11:51 AM

                                                                                                  Scrambled eggs. Every restaurant I know makes an omelette on the grill and then the cook chops it up with his metal spatula, and presents you with dry, tasteless "scrambled" eggs. I want big, soft, wet, fluffy curds of egg, that taste incredibly "eggy." I can't get those anywhere but at home.

                                                                                                  1. chicaraleigh RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                                                                    Like many posters, I concur on a wide range of things like steaks, hamburgers, baked potatoes, salmon, chicken, pasta which extends to a lot of italian foods, especially meatballs, braciole, risotto. Entree salads are another thing that I generally don't order out.

                                                                                                    Breakfast - especially hash browns can really only be cooked at home....

                                                                                                    Oh, and I absolutely refuse to order a turkey sandwich out - any where - ever!

                                                                                                    When I go out to eat I tend to seek out "junk food" like hot dogs, pizza, cheese steaks or ethnic food.

                                                                                                    1. Demented RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 02:46 PM


                                                                                                      These days the wife and/or I, are often disappointed with either the quality or the preparation of food in many of the restaurants we can afford to dine at.

                                                                                                      1. r
                                                                                                        racer x RE: Morganna Feb 27, 2009 03:16 PM

                                                                                                        steak, baked chicken
                                                                                                        ordinary salads

                                                                                                        1. EWSflash RE: Morganna Feb 28, 2009 09:54 AM

                                                                                                          meatloaf (and most other "home cooking" style foods)
                                                                                                          seafood (too pricey, portions are too small and generally overdone)
                                                                                                          steak tacos

                                                                                                          1. Lewes17266 RE: Morganna Mar 1, 2009 06:21 AM

                                                                                                            Just this morning I made the most amazing pecan waffles. No restaurant could ever match these! I think the toasting of the pecans before mixing them into the batter made the difference. A waffle iron is a really nice appliance to have at home.

                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Lewes17266
                                                                                                              kchurchill5 RE: Lewes17266 Mar 1, 2009 06:37 AM

                                                                                                              I love my waffel iron

                                                                                                              1. re: kchurchill5
                                                                                                                malvern girl RE: kchurchill5 Mar 2, 2009 10:14 AM

                                                                                                                I almost never order dessert out. I find it to be an afterthought by the chef at too many restaurants, which I don't understand, since a great dessert caps off the meal and is the last impression you are left with.

                                                                                                                1. re: malvern girl
                                                                                                                  MakingSense RE: malvern girl Mar 3, 2009 10:13 AM

                                                                                                                  Desserts have almost become "afterthoughts" to the point of boring to the edge of predictable, regardless of what they're called.
                                                                                                                  Something intensely chocolate since chocolate-lovers will go for the chocolate, a variation on creme brulée, if it's Italian it must be tiramisu although panna cottas are elbowing their way in at the high end, house-made sorbet/ice cream in upscale places, cheesecake to death, more chocolate, breadpudding, yeah yeah yeah...

                                                                                                                  1. re: MakingSense
                                                                                                                    racer x RE: MakingSense Mar 3, 2009 12:27 PM

                                                                                                                    So true. If I don't order dessert at the end of a meal in a restaurant, it's usually because the choices are so unappealing/boring, rather than because I think I could prepare better versions of the dishes myself. I'd rather go somewhere else for dessert than make do with the obligatory molten chocolate cake or tiramisu at the restaurant.

                                                                                                            2. c oliver RE: Morganna Mar 3, 2009 10:32 AM

                                                                                                              I rarely have creme brulee in restaurants any more and, when I do, am usually disappointed. Some years ago I started fixing CI's creme brulee and it's better than what I get out. I acknowledge that some of that is the timing. A restaurant is having to prepare hours ahead and maybe even hold over to the next evening.

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                DishDelish RE: c oliver Jul 30, 2009 09:33 PM

                                                                                                                I agree with you about the creme brulee, but I did have an award winning creme brulee once in Maui that could not be beat. It was served in a pineapple and tasted heavenly. I still dream about it all the time.


                                                                                                              2. keith2000 RE: Morganna Apr 5, 2009 11:15 PM

                                                                                                                I have trouble finding a really good sandwich. Why do so many restaurants have so much trouble making something as simple as a sandwich well. I know that if I want to have a truely satisfying sandwich I have got to make it myself.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: keith2000
                                                                                                                  cookieluvntasha RE: keith2000 Jul 31, 2009 09:03 AM

                                                                                                                  You know that is so true! There was a thread about BLTs and it made me ponder where I had ordered the best sandwich.. I;ve had so okay sandwiches, but even good restaurants that have a few sandwiches on thier lunch menus don't always deliver.

                                                                                                                  1. re: keith2000
                                                                                                                    scoutmom1973 RE: keith2000 Nov 3, 2009 06:40 PM

                                                                                                                    I 90% agree about sandwiches. I am inexplicably addicted to the Big Boy patty melt, in all its greasy glory. Any other sandwich, I'll make at home.

                                                                                                                  2. h
                                                                                                                    Henry Carroll RE: Morganna Apr 6, 2009 08:16 AM

                                                                                                                    Isn't it nice to reach the milestone in your cooking life when you can say "I can do this so much better at home?" As with many others, for me it's steak. We have a $79 gas grill from Wal-Mart and I can do a perfect steak, every time. Grilling at home seems to be one of those secrets that men have, like mowing the lawn with a riding mower. The results are great but the effort is minimal and really enjoyable. When I see a $50 steak on a menu I think ripoff, no matter what the hand-cut, dry-aged, 2000 degree broiler hype. Best Wishes

                                                                                                                    1. furryabdul RE: Morganna Apr 6, 2009 01:42 PM

                                                                                                                      oh sure: pasta. i cannot bring myself to order pasta in a restaurant when its so much better and so cheap to make at home. (I like to pig out on spagetti with meat sauce) peace :)

                                                                                                                      1. Mawrter RE: Morganna Apr 29, 2009 11:23 AM


                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Mawrter
                                                                                                                          Lewes17266 RE: Mawrter Apr 29, 2009 02:54 PM

                                                                                                                          Did you see this? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6150...

                                                                                                                          1. re: Lewes17266
                                                                                                                            Mawrter RE: Lewes17266 Apr 30, 2009 02:12 PM

                                                                                                                            I hadn't seen that, so thanks! It's an interesting idea, but I make stock all the time anyhow, so I'm not really looking for a shortcut like that.

                                                                                                                        2. s
                                                                                                                          Sal Vanilla RE: Morganna Apr 29, 2009 11:55 AM

                                                                                                                          Dim sum and pho always taste better to me out. Fussy little plates of prettiness and perfectly paired wines to course - hard for me to duplicate without having a dinner party. Plus I do not do fussy well. But I eat it well. There are some pastries/desserts I only get out. Maybe deep fried food... I do not have a fryer and get cranky with the mess.

                                                                                                                          All else I feel I can do just as well if not better at home. We eat in mostly and always have lots of company esp. in the Summer. Better not to drink and drive too. We mostly go out to give me a break. Unless we go to Seattle - where we make absolute pigs of ourselves. Not many great restaurants in my area.

                                                                                                                          I will also add I have a little elf that cleans up after dinner. I clean while I go, but my husband, bless his soul, dutifully cleans up afterwards. Lucky lucky luuuuckyyy!

                                                                                                                          1. p
                                                                                                                            paulispumonti RE: Morganna Apr 29, 2009 12:36 PM

                                                                                                                            I never order specialty salads in a restaurant.... I can make my own Greek Salad, Chef, Nicoise, Asian Salad, etc.... for about a buck at home if that.....
                                                                                                                            Why shell out $9.95 for a bowl of greens!!!!!!! That's not why we go out to eat!!!
                                                                                                                            They may taste good the first few bites, but then I always regret not ordering the Burger Special

                                                                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: paulispumonti
                                                                                                                              c oliver RE: paulispumonti Apr 29, 2009 02:27 PM

                                                                                                                              And I no longer order burgers out because I grind my own beef and it's so much better. I'm an unimaginative salad maker although I'm resolving to do better.

                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                Sam Fujisaka RE: c oliver Apr 29, 2009 05:17 PM

                                                                                                                                We should get together. My salads and your burgers. You won't regret it: my salads are like good chamber music.

                                                                                                                                [insert sideways smiley moron icon here so co doesn't think I'm an egotistical maniac]

                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                  c oliver RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 29, 2009 06:03 PM

                                                                                                                                  Maniac? Of course! Egotistical? Doesn't work for me. Where's halfway between Cali and Lake Tahoe? Oh, and we might be in DC in late June. Guess I'll have to bring my KA mixer and grinder. Travelling light as usual :) ---- HA!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                    Sam Fujisaka RE: c oliver Apr 29, 2009 06:26 PM

                                                                                                                                    June it could be. Lots of deadlines in the WB about that time. My usual place if I can get it.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka
                                                                                                                                      c oliver RE: Sam Fujisaka Apr 29, 2009 06:43 PM

                                                                                                                                      Working on an exchange. Will keep you posted. What's a WB? Not Whataburger!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                        c oliver RE: c oliver Apr 29, 2009 07:47 PM

                                                                                                                                        World Bank?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                          Sam Fujisaka RE: c oliver Apr 29, 2009 08:49 PM


                                                                                                                                2. re: c oliver
                                                                                                                                  Fritter RE: c oliver Apr 30, 2009 03:07 AM

                                                                                                                                  Once you start grinding your own burger it's not very tempting to order burgers again. Every one here knows it's burger night when I buy a tenderloin and grind the chain.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Fritter
                                                                                                                                    c oliver RE: Fritter Apr 30, 2009 08:05 AM

                                                                                                                                    We had them last night. Just sauteed onion, Cheddar cheese, mayo and a little horseradish. Yum is right.

                                                                                                                              2. Caroline1 RE: Morganna Apr 29, 2009 06:25 PM

                                                                                                                                I enjoy going to a restaurant that sets a good table, has fresh flowers, great wait staff, but... I cannot remember the last time I had what I consider great food in a restaurant. There were a couple of exceptional steak houses in El Paso, when I lived there, and a couple of fantastic Mexican restaurants. It has probably been about fifteen or twenty years since I last had a truly great lobster in a restaurant. For truly fantastic over-the-top classic French cuisine, I haven't been able to get that since I lived in Las Vegas in the '60s at the height of the Rat Pack days. Decades since I've had exceptional Italian in a restaurant -- everything tastes like basil these days,. I have NEVER had baby back ribs in a restaurant that weren't as dry as the Sahara. And if I want good Chinese or Japanese, I usually have to cook it at home.

                                                                                                                                So what I'm looking for is a really great restaurant with lovely ambiance, a great wait staff, beautiful place settings and.... You take your own food, they plate it and serve you. And then I'll have good food in a restaurant again!

                                                                                                                                1. d
                                                                                                                                  DishDelish RE: Morganna Jul 30, 2009 09:25 PM

                                                                                                                                  Jambalaya, my Mom got the recipe from an award winning chef back in the 80's. I haven't ever tasted one I like better.

                                                                                                                                  Fish sandwiches, mainly because I like my tarter sauce better than any other

                                                                                                                                  Spaghetti, I really like my sauce, and I love the whole wheat noodles now

                                                                                                                                  Chili, i like the way I serve mine, with Tortilla ships, sour cream, cilantro, avocados, cheese, and fresh lime.

                                                                                                                                  omelets, I like my method the best.

                                                                                                                                  Greek Salad, my sis and I have perfected this, it is amazing

                                                                                                                                  Manicotti with homeade noodles and gravy. I have never liked manicotti from a restaurant.

                                                                                                                                  39 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                    James Cristinian RE: DishDelish Jul 31, 2009 07:40 AM

                                                                                                                                    I bet your Greek salad doesn't cost anywhere near the eight dollars restaurants routinely charge. Greek salads at restaurants are such ripoffs.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian
                                                                                                                                      alkapal RE: James Cristinian Jul 31, 2009 08:10 AM

                                                                                                                                      cukes, feta, olives, good tomatoes, good olive oil... none is cheap.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: James Cristinian
                                                                                                                                        DishDelish RE: James Cristinian Jul 31, 2009 05:06 PM

                                                                                                                                        Actually I wanted to wow my hubby's family last time we were in Hawaii so I bought all the stuff for a dinner Greek salad and it was about $90. Very expensive!! Most restaurants here in AK charge about 10 or more dollars for a good salad and I never think it is a bad deal because they are very large. I just prefer my own. It tastes better.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                          Full tummy RE: DishDelish Jul 31, 2009 05:29 PM

                                                                                                                                          Hope you had leftovers!!!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Full tummy
                                                                                                                                            DishDelish RE: Full tummy Jul 31, 2009 05:33 PM

                                                                                                                                            I think there were about 3 servings left. All gone by lunch the next day. =)

                                                                                                                                          2. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                            coll RE: DishDelish Aug 1, 2009 02:50 AM

                                                                                                                                            I think food in Hawaii and Alaska is two or three times more expensive than the rest of the US? But here in NY they definitely charge around $10 for a Greek salad, and also try to add on shrimp or grilled chicken for another $5.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                              DishDelish RE: coll Aug 1, 2009 06:02 PM

                                                                                                                                              Well prices were similar to AK last time I was in Minnesota too and they used to be very cheap there. Yes, Hawaii is more expensive then AK though. I did part of my cooking at a commissary though since my hubby's Grandpa is a vet so I think it was pretty close to what I would have paid any many other states. I did have to buy olive oil and many other ingredients that they didn't carry at their home though.
                                                                                                                                              A restaurant has to make some profit, and you don't have to take the time to make it yourself either, so if you don't know how to make a dish by all means go to a good restaurant.

                                                                                                                                          3. re: James Cristinian
                                                                                                                                            Kelli2006 RE: James Cristinian Aug 2, 2009 09:12 AM

                                                                                                                                            The ingredient costs in a restaurant are almost always under 20% of the price of a dish, except on specialty items where the restaurant will make up the difference on sides, apps and drinks.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Kelli2006
                                                                                                                                              DishDelish RE: Kelli2006 Aug 2, 2009 11:08 AM

                                                                                                                                              So they are making a good profit. =) Anyways, my point is that Greek salad can be very expensive for a home cook if they have to buy all the ingredients. A sacrifice I am definitely willing to make though since I love my recipe so very much. =)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                                alkapal RE: DishDelish Aug 2, 2009 01:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                dish delish, tell us about your secret dressing, since that is the only thing that would distinguish greek salads, other than fresh ingredients?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                  DishDelish RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 06:01 AM

                                                                                                                                                  I like to add a lot of feta to the salad (the brand makes a difference, I am including a link to a blog that talks about the brand I buy from Costco). My dressing is a basic greek dressing, but I also add a bit of the kalamata olive juice (which is basically olive oil but a more olivey taste), and juice from the pepperoccini jar. I think most recipes call for red wine vinegar, but I also add fresh lemon juice to mine. I add 1 minced fresh garlic clove as well. Fresh oregano is good, but is not a must if you can't get fresh. For the red onion and cucumber I marinate thin slices of both in my dressing for about 20 minutes before combining with other salad ingredients. I used to only do this with my cucumber, but after reading the Cooks Illustrated recipe for Greek salad I started doing both. It really helps make a strong onion mild and easy on the palate. Anyways, it really is very good. If you want a more exact recipe let me know. =)


                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                                    coll RE: DishDelish Aug 3, 2009 06:06 AM

                                                                                                                                                    I think I might just try making this at home. I used to make 10 or 20 a day at the deli I worked, but obviously none of these special touches occurred. Very nice! And I have fresh oregano growing like wild.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                      DishDelish RE: coll Aug 3, 2009 02:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                      It was the group effort of my sister and myself. One of those obsessions that we had to get right. =)

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                                      alkapal RE: DishDelish Aug 3, 2009 07:05 AM

                                                                                                                                                      thanks for the tips, dish delish. i have some beautiful yellow cherry tomatoes from the farmer's market, and a great locally made feta cheese. i am ready to make my salad, as i just purchased all the ingredients saturday.....

                                                                                                                                                      i also have fresh oregano (boy it has been slow growing, for some reason).

                                                                                                                                                      and thanks for the link to the blog talking about their favorite feta; it's one more reason we have to join costco.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                        coll RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 07:10 AM

                                                                                                                                                        I heard with this weird weather, everything in pots is growing like crazy and everything in the ground is lacksadaisical. The opposite of usual. I have a potted tomato plant that is touching the porch roof!

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                          alkapal RE: coll Aug 3, 2009 07:12 AM

                                                                                                                                                          maybe i put too many things in one big long pot, but my rosemary, basil and oregano are slow this year; june was wet and overcast; july very dry...... the mints, of course, are going nuts!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                            coll RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 07:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                            The Sicilian oregano is viney and skimpy, but the Greek oregano is like a little bush. My basil never grows big enough for me, but maybe I pick at it too much!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                              cookieluvntasha RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 10:23 AM

                                                                                                                                                              My mints and other herbs in the ground are growing well, and so are my cukes and zucchini, but my tomatos and peppers are doing little. Even my celery and lettuces thrived! I live in Jersey and normally I have tomatos coming out of my ears by now! My moms plants in PA are still green too. So weird...

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cookieluvntasha
                                                                                                                                                                coll RE: cookieluvntasha Aug 3, 2009 10:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                Everything is 2 or 3 weeks behind, even the flowers. Just a wacky year.
                                                                                                                                                                At least I didn't get the potato blight on my potted tomatoes, my mother upstate got it bad and had to burn everything.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                            DishDelish RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 01:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                            It is my pleasure. =) Your very welcome!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                              DishDelish RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 06:25 PM

                                                                                                                                                              By the way, if you're adding meat I think Salami is the best option. Costco also sells this for a great price.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                                                alkapal RE: DishDelish Aug 4, 2009 07:04 PM

                                                                                                                                                                i've not seen meat on greek salads. obviously my universe has been limited. do you cut cubes of the salami, or do it in thin slices, rolled up?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                  DishDelish RE: alkapal Aug 5, 2009 12:55 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  I either leave it whole or I cut in strips. It's flavor really compliments the salad. =)

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                                          Kelli2006 RE: DishDelish Aug 2, 2009 04:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                          Indy restaurants don't make as big of a profit as you assume. They also have to pay rent, wages/benefits, utilities, insurance and advertising. Chain restaurants cost's tend to be lower.

                                                                                                                                                          I assume that I'm among a large group of Chowhounds who also love to cook and only go out for business and special occasions and for ethnic foods that I haven't been mastered.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Kelli2006
                                                                                                                                                            DishDelish RE: Kelli2006 Aug 3, 2009 06:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                            Which is why a Greek salad is not so cheap at the restaurant. I am familiar with these costs as my hubby is a restaurant manager. I'm sure that they are also aware that it costs quite a lot for the home cook to create their own Greek salad with these pricey ingredients. =)

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DishDelish
                                                                                                                                                              coll RE: DishDelish Aug 3, 2009 07:05 AM

                                                                                                                                                              Well, then you know that the 20% food cost is 1/3 of the cost, you also have labor and overhead for another 40% at least, then after the owners pay themselves, if possible, barely enough profit left to purchase new supplies.

                                                                                                                                                              I also should mention I'm partial to Bulgarian feta, similar to French but a little tangier. Never use Greek feta myself. Usually $3.99/lb here. The olives probably cost the most!

                                                                                                                                                              Let's cost it out: 1/2 # feta (since you like a lot) $2.00
                                                                                                                                                              olives, if you get from bulk bin $1.00 (1/4 #)
                                                                                                                                                              lettuce 1/4 head $ .25
                                                                                                                                                              cucumber (I like English) $ .375 (1/4 cuc @ $1.50)
                                                                                                                                                              evoo olive oil 2 Tbsp =1.5z $ .25 (generic)
                                                                                                                                                              1 lemon $.20
                                                                                                                                                              1 clove garlic $ .05
                                                                                                                                                              juice from olives/pepperocini free
                                                                                                                                                              Greek dressing if purchased $.20 (2 z of Kens)
                                                                                                                                                              fresh oregano $ .50 if purchased
                                                                                                                                                              (free if you have garden)
                                                                                                                                                              red onion 1/4 # $ .18 @ $.69/lb

                                                                                                                                                              TOTAL $5.005

                                                                                                                                                              So $10 is cheap, they may even be loosing money in the long run.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                sbp RE: coll Aug 3, 2009 07:36 AM

                                                                                                                                                                I'm a big Bulgarian Feta fan as well. Not just for the tang, but sometimes it has a very pronounced "meadow/grassy" flavor that really sets it apart.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                  Full tummy RE: coll Aug 3, 2009 08:11 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  Keep in mind that this may be the cost of home preparation, but no restaurant is going to provide that quantity of feta or olives with a Greek salad. The few crumbles and three olives i have on most Greek salads I've eaten in restos definitely couldn't have cost more than .40. Also, it is usually dried oregano... that could cost them maybe 5 cents.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Full tummy
                                                                                                                                                                    coll RE: Full tummy Aug 3, 2009 10:02 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    I should have clarified, most of those prices are wholesale restaurant prices, delivered. Although I was specifying store bought Bulgarian, and they'd usually get domestic feta at about $2.50#.

                                                                                                                                                                    Sometimes I get a very generous portion of feta and/or olives without asking, but if it's the same places you go all the time and they're chintzing on you why not offer to pay more for bigger portions of each? How much are they charging you for the basic salad, I wonder. Around here, it wouldn't be unheard of to have Greek salad with artisinal goat cheese, fresh herbs, flavored vinegars, home brined olives (just kidding on that one) at the cost of $25 or more. There better be some noticable cheese and olives then!

                                                                                                                                                                    And DishDelish specified fresh oregano so that's how I had to cost it out.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                      Full tummy RE: coll Aug 3, 2009 02:24 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      I don't know what you mean by #. Could you please clarify?

                                                                                                                                                                      I was only addressing the fact that restaurants' food costs are generally lower than 50% if they're going to make ends meet, typically 30% or so. So that, if they are spending $5.00 on ingredients, they will likely charge around $15.00 for the dish. Which is why, unless the restaurant is charging that much for a salad, they simply cannot be spending that much to make it.

                                                                                                                                                                      In Toronto, where I live, the Greek restaurants will typically charge $6.00 for a regular-sized "Greek salad", which has a fair bit of lettuce, and a little more for a "village salad", which has no lettuce. There are often large, meal-sized salads, too, for more, but I am talking about appetizer or side dish sizes.

                                                                                                                                                                      If they are charging $6.00, then the food cost would be about $2.00, and if they're charging $10.00, as per your example, then they shouldn't be spending more than $3.00 on ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Full tummy
                                                                                                                                                                        alkapal RE: Full tummy Aug 3, 2009 06:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        >>>""I don't know what you mean by #. Could you please clarify?""<<<<

                                                                                                                                                                        full tummy, # means "pound" -- as in $2.50 per pound.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                          Full tummy RE: alkapal Aug 3, 2009 07:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, thanks!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                          Wow, that's a lot of feta and olives for one person... Lotsa salt, haha...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Full tummy
                                                                                                                                                                            alkapal RE: Full tummy Aug 4, 2009 07:08 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            yes full tum, 1/2 pound feta on top of 1/4 pound of olives is generous, to say the least. i guess i *could* brave my way through ;-), and then i'd need to drink 4 gallons of water.

                                                                                                                                                                            have you ever tried feta sliced or crumbled on to a frying egg, so it melts a bit into the yolk? that's a tasty trick taught to me while i was in college, and the cheesemonger told me about it.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                              Full tummy RE: alkapal Aug 4, 2009 07:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              Haven't done that, but I do sometimes make a spinach and feta omelet. More spinach than feta; tasty and healthy!! Hubby has to watch his sodium intake, so that version of Greek salad could be deadly!!

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                                cheesecake17 RE: alkapal Aug 5, 2009 11:35 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                I do that every so often, and it's delicious. But the feta usually makes it into my mouth before I can get it into the pan with the egg.

                                                                                                                                                                                Speaking of feta.. I had the most amazing pressed sandwich- slices of feta, za'atar, cucumber, red onion, and a squeeze of lemon on an Israeli sesame 'bagel.' I recreated it at home.. and it was better at home than at the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cheesecake17
                                                                                                                                                                                  alkapal RE: cheesecake17 Aug 6, 2009 02:58 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                  cheesecake, how can you press a bagel? i've never heard of that, but sesame bagels are my favorite. i'd like to try that combo of ingredients, for sure! i have them all, and just got another cuke yesterday for greek salad.

                                                                                                                                                                                  i am really liking the arnold multigrain sandwich thins these days. they are fine plain and also get crispy when toasted. mr. alka likes them, too. they would press up fine, but can be toasted to make a crispy open-faced base for toppings like cream cheese, cukes, tomatoes, roast beef...etc. http://arnold.gwbakeries.com/product....
                                                                                                                                                                                  i highly recommend them. i get them at the pepperidge farm outlet, but haven't seen them at my local grocery stores.

                                                                                                                                                                                  come to think of it, they'd make neat little mini pizza crusts....

                                                                                                                                                                                  speaking of arnold breads, i do not recommend the arnold "grain lovers" bread -- even though i love grains. the bread is very coarse and tastes like i'm eating green, toasted chopped hay.

                                                                                                                                                                                  and i know exactly what you mean about feta getting sidetracked to the mouth while prepping the egg dish! ;-).

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal
                                                                                                                                                                                    cheesecake17 RE: alkapal Nov 3, 2009 05:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                                                    The sandwich was on an Israeli bagel, not an American bagel. It's kind of larger and thinner and flatter. It's not really bagel at all- not as doughy or heavy. Here's a picture I found online- http://www.flickr.com/photos/barak4u/...

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cheesecake17
                                                                                                                                                                                      alkapal RE: cheesecake17 Nov 3, 2009 01:39 PM

                                                                                                                                                                                      oooh, good stuff! an israeli calzone!!! ;-).
                                                                                                                                                                                      sounds delicious, btw.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: coll
                                                                                                                                                                      DishDelish RE: coll Aug 3, 2009 12:47 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      I buy some wonderful, already pitted kalamata olives from Costco for about 8.99. It is a huge Costco size too and usually lasts a while. This is great for the home cook. =)
                                                                                                                                                                      You are probably right on about the salad costs, which is why I would never say a huge 10.00 salad is to expensive.
                                                                                                                                                                      Personally this in the best feta I have ever tasted but that is me. My mother tends to get stomach aches whenever she eats most feta cheeses and this is the only one that has never made her sick.

                                                                                                                                                        3. m
                                                                                                                                                          Mag454 RE: Morganna Aug 1, 2009 04:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                          Well I can't make them at all, but my mom makes the BEST pancakes. When I was living close to home, I would never order pancakes b/c they were never as good as mom's. Now that I live far away, I find myself ordering pancakes more frequently (and still wishing they were mom's, but glad that they weren't my attempt!).

                                                                                                                                                          1. a
                                                                                                                                                            AngelSanctuary RE: Morganna Aug 1, 2009 11:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Desserts in general, I find that most places don't make their own desserts anyways and meh, really generic, too sweet, and plastic.

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: AngelSanctuary
                                                                                                                                                              PadmeSkywalker RE: AngelSanctuary Aug 2, 2009 05:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                              I agree, most places have very meh desserts. The presentation is pretty but they taste like they've been kept in the fridge for days.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PadmeSkywalker
                                                                                                                                                                cookieluvntasha RE: PadmeSkywalker Aug 3, 2009 10:28 AM

                                                                                                                                                                <<PadmeSkywalker: they taste like they've been kept in the fridge for days>>

                                                                                                                                                                Ditto! Sometimes I'll be bold and ask the server if they prepare thier own desserts or order them and if they are prepard fresh daily. If I am at a mediocre place I normally don't get dessert anyway, but at a nicer place I will be pissed to receive a dessert that taste like a fridge.

                                                                                                                                                            2. cassoulady RE: Morganna Aug 3, 2009 10:39 AM

                                                                                                                                                              caesar salad- i love a good one, with anchovies of course ( lots) and egg yolk in the dressing. Most I have had in restaurants are bland

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cassoulady
                                                                                                                                                                anakalia RE: cassoulady Aug 3, 2009 01:18 PM

                                                                                                                                                                While I love going out to brunch - in theory - I agree that most restaurant breakfasts/brunch dishes are so simple and overpriced --- I'd rather make them at home.

                                                                                                                                                                Ditto with the pasta that everyone mentions, unless it's ravioli, which can sometimes be interesting, depending on what it's made with (I've never made my own ravioli).

                                                                                                                                                                I can go either way with the salads, though - sometimes I think "Wow, it's so simple I could make it at home." Other times, though, it's just nice to have someone make it for me - making salads is so messy and time-consuming and repetitive and, since I'm a vegetarian, I feel like half my life is spent cutting tomatoes and washing spinach - it's nice to skip it for a change!

                                                                                                                                                              2. s
                                                                                                                                                                stalkingwine.com RE: Morganna Nov 2, 2009 10:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Sheesh. Where do I start? I have at least 40 items in rotation I would never order at most restaurants. On the never-never list is gnocchi, most Mexican dishes, roasted chicken, barbeque.

                                                                                                                                                                So that's how we roll at dinner parties. My wife and I make all these things that aren't very good in restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                1. bermudagourmetgoddess RE: Morganna Nov 3, 2009 10:27 AM

                                                                                                                                                                  So instead of putting items I do not order while dining out I will make this easy, here in Bermuda the only item I do order out is ....SUSHI

                                                                                                                                                                  While on vacation is a different story.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. c
                                                                                                                                                                    cycloneillini RE: Morganna Nov 3, 2009 06:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    My list is pretty long as well. Most of these items I will order at only a very few select restaurants if any.
                                                                                                                                                                    Meatballs and Sauce
                                                                                                                                                                    Pie, any kind. Mine are always way better.
                                                                                                                                                                    BBQ Ribs. I like mine moist with lots of sauce and falling off the bone. Make them in the crock pot. Nobody else does them to my liking.
                                                                                                                                                                    Hamburgers. Like mine med rare.
                                                                                                                                                                    Chicken or Tuna Salad. I use very limited ingredients. Never had a restaurant version I could stomach.
                                                                                                                                                                    Potato Salad. Louisiana style is the only kind I like, and I've never found a restaurant that serves it except in Louisiana. Mine is awesome.

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