Dining Dilemma

Your experience eating in restaurants is forever changed once you enter culinary school.

"Is the dish well-seasoned? How's the plating? Is there a good balance in the menu selection? Wow, where did the chef get the idea to pickle that vegetable?"

These are they type of questions that regularly run through my head when I eat at restaurants. Sometimes it makes the dining experience better and other times, especially around friends, it makes you seem like a snob. But trust me, I eat about anything you put in front of me. I don't care if it's a hole-in-the-wall establishment or a four-star restaurant. If the food is good, I'll want to be there sooner or later.

I feel eating at restaurants, which I do at least four times a week in New York, is a good way to learn. The other evening I joined some friends at an Italian restaurant tucked deep in the Lower East Side near Chinatown. I wasn't expecting too much at Bacaro as I descended the dark stairs into a noisy dining room.

But when my duck ragu arrived, I was blown away. It wasn't about the food. A smile as wide as my glass of wine must have popped up once I touched the plate. I always touch the plate before eating. Our chefs always made it a point to tell us "serve hot food hot and cold food cold." It's simple as that but so few restaurants actually get it done right. More times than not, a restaurants fail to do this, even the good ones. So before I even tasted the perfectly al dente tagliatelle that soaked up the aromatic duck ragu, my meal was a success.

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