Photo Credit: Ecco, Harper Collins
When ordering dinner at the local Thai place, chances are that most of us stick with familiar standards like Pad Thai and spring rolls. And if you're struck with a sudden craving for Mexican it's usually nothing a burrito or a few tacos can't fix. How about Chinese? Do you go for General Tso's and pork fried rice?
While all of these dishes have the potential to be great, ordering the same food over and over again when dining at restaurants of varied International cuisines negates that fact that dining can be both adventurous and romantic -- you just have to approach it the right way.
Danyelle Freeman, a former restaurant critic for the New York Daily News, host of Top Chef Masters and founder of the blog Restaurant Girl, has recently penned a new guide to dining that's all about romance, adventure and confidence at the table. Try This: Traveling the Globe Without Leaving the Table (Ecco, 2011) is Freeman's first-person look at the global world of restaurants, in which she wittily walks readers through all manners of exotic cuisine from Middle Eastern to Cuban, Regional Chinese and everything in between.
In each chapter Freeman invites you to dinner, carefully detailing menu items, explaining their preparation and ingredients, and sharing stories about her favorite versions of these regional specialties. A chapter on Indian cuisine explains the differences between rice dishes such as pilau and biryani, explains that masala means gravy, and breaks down the differences between northern and southern Indian spicing. Freeman's engaging style will leave you feeling almost as if you've tasted these dishes for yourself, and you'll be armed with enough background information to order confidently next time you're out—even if the cuisine is new to you.
Try This also helps readers brush up on manners and etiquette—the sort of subtle but very important knowledge that makes you look like a pro, whether it's proper chopstick handling in Japan or universal tips, such as the right way to score a table at a new hotspot.
This sort of practical advice extends to one's romantic life too, according to Freeman. In Try This, she posits that how a person orders a steak is like a window into their soul: bloody is a sure sign of a bad boy and well-done is a recipe for bland and boring things to come. So pay attention to more than just the conversation on first dinner dates!
Regardless of whether you're an experienced eater or an aspiring gourmand, Try This (available tomorrow, June 7) is a fun and functional guide that will surely open you up to a world of new dining experiences. And at the very least, it's a fantastic tool for making sure that your definition of Chinese cuisine doesn't end with Orange Chicken.