Personal experiences with food seem to generate a lot of books and blogs lately. One food-lover making a name for himself is Adam Roberts, whose book "The Amateur Gourmet" is a spin-off of his Web site amateurgourmet.com.
It's how to shop, chop and table hop the perfect primer for a wannabe foodie. Although his own musings, such as how to pick out the perfect apricot or how to wow a date with your cooking, are interesting, I think this book really shines when he's sharing tidbits about other well-known foodies.
He managed to snag a lunch date with Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and former New York Times food critic. From observing Reichl, he came up with a "Ten Commandments of Fine Dining."
Here's a briefed-up version of them, with my own thoughts added in some places.
1. It pays to be a regular. Pick a few restaurants and go there often, so you can be treated like family. You get better tables, and the waiter remembers how you like your salad or drinks.
My thought: This could backfire if you're a stingy tipper or hard to please.
2. Ask the waiter for help. Reichl asked if there was anything special on the menu. "It's a myth that if you ask questions they'll give you what the chef wants to get rid of," she told Roberts.
My thought: I don't always ask the wait staff for recommendations because I don't want to feel obligated to order that sauerkraut special or something out of my price range. But don't be afraid to ask questions, such as what is the "seasonal vegetable" or if the chicken is grilled or deep-fried.
3. Know what you're hungry for, what you need to enjoy your meal. Don't order a dish just because it was praised by the food critic or because it will impress the others with you. Order what will satisfy you.
4. Wear what you want. If a restaurant isn't hospitable to what you want to wear, don't eat there.
My thought: Although dining should feel relaxed, there are some places that call for more than cut-off shorts and flip-flops.
5. Share your food. When Roberts' seafood dish came out, Reichl asked him for a bite. And she gave Roberts a taste of her king crab. Sharing makes the experience more communal.
My thought: I like to share food, but I'm not happy with people who dig into my plate without asking.
6. Be intelligently critical. Reichl was specific in her assessments the corn is "starchy, and it doesn't have much flavor," she told Roberts. Take the time to notice how a dish is composed, what flavors it contains, the freshness of the ingredients, the level of seasoning and the overall balance.
7. Eat until you're full. Many meals are ruined by overeating, Roberts said.
My thought: If you hate to "waste" part of a -meal, ask for a take-home box. It will keep you from getting that uncomfortable, stuffed feeling.
8. Know something about the restaurant before you go. Nowadays it's easier than ever to check Web sites or newspaper reviews.
9. Don't order an item from every column unless you want to. It's too much food, says Reichl.10. There are really no commandments, only suggestions. "There is no 'should' when it comes to dining out!" wrote Roberts. "This isn't about right or wrong, this isn't a test. This is about pleasure. This is a service industry. Nobody should be intimidated in a restaurant, ever."