There’s an old Italian phrase “buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici” which roughly translates as ‘good food, good wine, good friends,’ and it’s a motto I’ve strived to live by (hard times). If I was a tattoo person, I’d get it inked on me (maybe). Apart from being stupidly simple, I think it captures the essence of what eating out is all about; enjoying the company of people you care about, and celebrating with food and drink.
Although we can’t always have our meals in the warm Mediterranean sunset, bathed in a twinkling glow from fairy lights in mason jars (as much as my Alfresco Pinterest board suggests I want to), eating out in the UK is something I can do pretty well too. Seven times ‘pretty well’, apparently, as that’s how many times I had the pleasure of eating out last week. Oops.
It wasn't a 'normal' week; those particular seven days were a whirlwind of visiting friends in London, date nights, restaurant launches and catching up with friends…including brunch at Jackson &Rye (smoked salmon, avo & eggs & a white peach bellini), dinner at Double ‘00’ Zero – a really, really good new artisan pizza place in Chorlton, more dinner / different day at Busaba Eatthai, a hotel buffet breakfast (croissants for the win), tasty ramen and red wine at The Alchemist, and a tasting menu (copious amounts of flatbreads, pizza, pasta and a gorgeous hazelnut cheesecake) at the launch of the new Prezzo restaurant on Deansgate.
|Delish selection of flatbreads at the Prezzo launch on Deansgate|
|Red wine & Ramen @ The Alchemist, Spinningfields|
Although that’s not a normal week, I do eat out quite a bit, so I thought I’d share with you the four little things I usually do in restaurants to achieve that ‘balanced’ approach…
Which stands for Sauce On the Side. I don’t know why restaurants insist on smothering eggs and bacon in hollandaise sauce. Yes, it’s quite nice, but Christ I can’t think of anything worse than my precious golden yolk being overshadowed by that buttery sauce.
I’m the same with buttered spinach, or anything else (like salad dressing) that sounds like it’s going to drown what's on my plate. You’re more likely to eat less of the stuff if you’re dipping in to it every now and then, and heck if you do eat it all at least you can choose which parts of your meal are covered in it!
Tap water –
Guzzle it. Drink a few glasses before the bread and olives arrive, and have another one for luck before you clink your wine glasses and cheers. Every time your wine glass is topped up, fill up your water glass. Keep hydrated.
Swap it –
If you’ve eaten out a fair few times over a short space of time and want to rein it in a little, I always find swapping stuff goes down well. Try a naked burger, where the bun is swapped for a green salad, change your chips for couscous, or swap out sweet chilli mayo and just ask for a tomato sauce. It’s the little things in life!
Have what you WANT –
Seriously, there is nothing, nothing worse than wanting the pulled pork burger with thrice fried spicy battered fries and ordering the basa fillet with swiss chard and bulgur wheat. Even if that basa is the tenderest little fish you’ve ever had, it just won’t compare.
I almost always make a rule to go with my initial pick, my ‘gut’ instinct, as it’s usually what I want. You’re out to enjoy yourself, so don’t regret your choice. There is nothing unhealthy about balance and a Diavolo pizza won’t ruin your gym plan or make you pile on the pounds. Just don’t do it every night.
Anyway, I’m off – I need to get ready for a brunch date with friends at Foundation Coffee; buon cibo, buon vino, buoni amici indeed!
image creds: http://emmadime.com/2013/11/lovely-lady-sarah-samuel/