Why do we eat out? We all have our reasons – for convenience, for a treat, or for rare ingredients that we would struggle to source and cook at home. But there are some menu items that may not be what they seem, and others that are simply not good value. Take a look at the items you should avoid when you eat out so that you can be sure to treat your taste buds to something they deserve.
Kobe is a very rare, and hence, expensive form of beef. From specially bred Japanese cattle or Wagyu, Kobe is so finely marbled that it looks almost white before it is cooked.
Real Kobe can cost up to $50 for just 3 ounces – meaning that a genuine Kobe quarter-pounder would come in at around $70. There is no way you would get a genuine Kobe Burger for $15. No self-respecting restaurant is going to grind this stuff up – and if they do, you will pay a hefty price for it.
So, if you see Kobe Burgers on the menu at your local fast food place or family eatery, you are being duped – don’t fall for it. If you want to try it, Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco is the place to go. Just don’t forget your credit card.
Your Own Thing
If you are allergic to something, then, by all means, ask a chef to use a substitute. Otherwise, you shouldn’t interfere. Chefs work hard to provide a delicate balance between flavors and textures, and they know what they are doing.
Asking a chef to substitute an ingredient is essentially like paying a lot of money for an experiment, with no guarantee that it will taste particularly well. Do the chef and your taste buds a favor and order the dish that has been created with so much time and care.
Specials That Sound Special
While some specials have been prepared by chefs who are eager to showcase their skills and talent, others are just a way of using up all the leftover ingredients.
You could just be getting a load of bits that are past their best, thrown into a pan with whatever sauce is lying around. Not particularly appetizing, and certainly not the culinary experience you probably were hoping for when you grabbed your cash and headed out the door.
Seafood When You’re Way Inland
Seafood is best fresh from the sea, and in a good coastal restaurant, it will most likely have been caught that very morning.
Restaurants that are further inland, however, will have to source their seafood elsewhere. There is a high chance that it has traveled for a long time, and may even have been frozen to last the journey.
Seafood that is not super fresh does not taste as it should and could make diners very ill. Steer clear if you’re not sure.
Good Old Chicken
Go to the website of any fancy restaurant, and the chances are that chicken doesn’t feature heavily on the menu. Take Harold’s Meat and Three in New York, for example, only 2 out of the 18 mains on offer are chicken dishes.
This is because chicken is a cheaper meat, and is hard to make flavorsome and moist. Most chefs prefer to show their skills through playing with much more tempting meats and fish. So, chicken isn’t exactly bad – you would just get more meal for your money if you chose something else.
Iceberg Lettuce – the Salad Bar Bandit
Did you know that iceberg lettuce is made up of about 98 percent water? The profit restaurants make on it is huge, but this isn’t the real reason why you should avoid it.
The nooks and crannies in the average piece of lettuce are a breeding ground for bacteria, and the high water content adds to the problem. Mix in the fact that iceberg lettuce often sits in the salad bar where lots of people can handle the food means that there is some food poisoning just waiting to happen.
Top Selling Fast Food Items
You need a quick bite to eat and decide to head to the nearest fast food restaurant and choose their best seller – after all, it must be good, in order to have made it to the top, right? Right – but think again anyway.
Often the best selling items are made in advance in anticipation of busy periods. If the restaurant is not as busy as it had hoped the food would sit under on the warming plate for longer, raising the chances that bacteria will grow and make you ill. Maybe order the veggie burger instead. They always seem to be freshly cooked, but you will have to wait a while.
Ice-cream, while undeniably delicious, is a very simple dish. It is made from a mixture of cream (and maybe some milk), sometimes eggs, and sugar. Whether you buy it in a restaurant, the supermarket or at an ice-cream stand, it will be more or less the same.
The main difference will be the cost. A bowl of ice-cream at a well-known family restaurant is $5.50 in 2017. In Walmart, you can pick up a gallon of ice-cream for $2.24. With a gallon serving approximately 32 people, or one greedy person 32 times, the costs look like this –
‘Cake Factory’ Price, per bowl – $5.50
Walmart price, per bowl – $0.07
Even taking overheads into account, that’s a big difference!
If you are tempted to order a dish that is made with truffle oil, thinking that the high price is deserved for such a rare ingredient, think again.
Most commercially available ‘truffle oils’ on the market are made by blending a cheap olive oil with a chemical synthetic, made in a lab, not a kitchen. All of a sudden that price is looking less reasonable and more of a joke.
What foods do you avoid when you eat out? And what foods are your absolute must-orders?