Page 2 of 9

Dining Etiquette Around the World

Fine Dining Bjorn Koch

Eating out at a restaurant in the United States is a fairly straightforward affair. Assuming you’ve been to a restaurant before, you likely know the etiquette that surrounds an evening of being waited on at a nice restaurant. And while the rules do change slightly when you’re dining at an upscale establishment rather than your local Ruby Tuesday, the fact of the matter remains that, in America, dining out has a set of rules that you’re expected to follow.

The problem is, those rules aren’t the same when you leave the United States. In fact, they differ pretty strongly country to country. Here are a few different areas of the world that don’t abide by the USA dining laws, and some suggestions on how you should act should you find yourself dining out there.

Japan

Dining Etiquette:

You’ve likely heard this before, but forget the rules that your parents taught you about slurping your food should you find yourself in Japan. Slurping your noodles into your mouth shows your appreciation for the meal.

When you’ve eaten all the noodles or solid foods from a bowl with your chopsticks (which you should never leave crossed or lick during the meal), drink the broth straight from the bowl.

Paying and Tipping:

Do not feel compelled to split the bill–the one who organized the meal often pays, and doesn’t leave a tip.

China

Dining Etiquette:

The same general rules for chopsticks in Japan as seen above also hold true for China. In addition, do not waive the chopsticks around or move them erratically. Control and poise are keys, particularly in business settings, which are a common task to hold over meals.

Additionally, don’t refill your own glass, instead refill your neighbor’s and don’t hold back on your belches (unless in a business setting)

Paying and Tipping:

As in Japan, tips should not be left, and many restaurants have no tipping policies and will reject any offers.

Germany

Dining Etiquette:

If you want the glass of water that Americans have become accustomed to receiving at every meal, you’ll have to ask and it more than likely won’t be free. And if you show up at an even marginally crowded restaurant, don’t expect to get a table by yourself. Sitting with strangers and sharing a table is considered the norm in Germany.

Paying and Tipping:

You should be expected to tip your server somewhere in the realm of 5-15%. Five is on the low end of what’s acceptable. However, very much unlike what is often done in America, don’t leave your money on the table–give it directly to your server.

Nine Foods To Try Once in your Life

Mouthwatering food exists all over the world, but there are also certain foods that you have to try at least once in your life. While many of them can be found in various locations, some are specific to the area of the world they originated in, because that place just does them the best. So get ready to plan your next trip around the fantastic food you’ll be able to find somewhere!

Escargot in France

Many people might be grossed out by the thought of eating snails, but these are truly a delicacy. The snails are killed, removed from their shells, and then prepared with butter, garlic, and other seasonings, before being placed back into the shell and served. The texture and flavor is incredible and the snail is incredibly tender.

Macarons in France

Macarons can be found all over the world now, but nothing beats real French macarons. These sweet treats come in various flavors and are the perfect size for a quick snack. They’re light and delicious, with an amazing ganache or buttercream filling.

Lobster Roll

Lobster rolls are truly masterpieces, which few people realize. The sandwich is filled with lobster meat and usually soaked in butter. Find a place that uses lots of lobster and great bread and you’ll be sure to enjoy this dish.

Shrimp and Grits

People in the North may turn their nose up at grits, but those in the South know what they’re doing when it comes to this food. This dish is normally had at breakfast time and can be sweet or savory. It’s rich in butter, but worth it.

Gelato in Italy

No place can do gelato like Italy (France comes a close second). Gelato is an amazing combination of milk, sugar, and cream, often flavored with various fruits or nuts. Italian gelato shops are known for serving their gelato in fancy shapes, such as a flower, and it immediately melts in your mouth.

Steak Tartare

Even though this dish is raw meat, which might not appeal to some people, it’s definitely worth overcoming your squeamishness. The meat is prepared with onions and seasonings for a delicious flavor. When stored and prepared properly, it’s unlikely that any bacteria is present, so you can enjoy this dish with peace of mind.

Sushi in Japan

It’s possible to find great sushi in lots of places, but none of it can compare to the sushi of Japan. If raw fish is completely repulsive to you, try some cooked sushi. Sashimi is also a great type of sushi to try, where the fish is laid over a serving of rice and can easily be eaten in one or two bites.

Real Ramen

Ramen is frequently associated with college students who need to make food quickly and on a budget, but ramen cuisine is much more impressive than this image. Real ramen is fresh noodles with either chicken or beef in a warm broth. It’s very much like a kind of soup and is a great dish to warm you up.

Tamales

Tamales are a Mesoamerican dish that originated sometime between 8000 and 5000 BC, which is incredible. This delicious food is masa dough mixed with various foods and then wrapped in a cornhusk. You unwrap the dough before eating and then can dig into this scrumptious delight.

Best Countries for Upscale Dining

Bjorn Koch upscale dining

On this website you’ve seen me write time and time again about foods you need to try from various countries, eatiers that you should visit in your city, state or country, and the authentic dishes you should try around the world.

This might be the end all and be all of cultural fine dining blog posts on BjornKoch.net. It won’t, of course, be the end of the blog posts on here, you can expect me to write about dining whenever I can moving forward–but this might be the most all-encompassing piece I write on international cuisine.

Here are the five countries with the best food around the world.

India

1.2 billion people cannot possibly be wrong. India’s food is unique in its composition and overall makeup, combining a wide variety of flavors to appease all audiences. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and curries are some of the most popular dishes from India, which is also famous for its fantastic vegetarian dishes given the fact that many Indians do not eat meat.

USA

It’s hard to name a top ten foods list without mentioning the USA. Notable, the USA is the only country on this list that isn’t necessarily widely regarded for its original food, but for its spins on other countries’ cuisines.

The USA is famous for its multicultural makeup, which has allowed it to blend a wide range of international foods into one cultural epicenter. Perhaps more interestingly, the USA has put its own spin on international foods (think pizza, tacos, hamburgers), taking hugely famous international food and Americanizing it.

France

Dining upscale has a few almost mandatory aspects to it; when we think of an upscale dinner party we often think about wine and cheese. It just so happens, then, that wine and cheese are two of the edibles that France is most famous for. On top of them, the croissants, macarons, fine breads and a widely ranging spread of chicken and beef dishes make French cuisine one of the best in the world.

Mexico

Often lambasted for being the same ingredients (tortilla, meat, cheese) spread out across a number of dishes, eating authentic Mexican is incredibly hard to beat. Despite that notion, there is quite a bit of variety found in real Mexican food, from the sauces that go into each dish to the preparation and presentation, each of which intensely modifies the dishes’ overall flavors.

You might bump Mexican to number one if you’re a fan of spicy foods, as most of the world’s chilis come from Mexico, particularly the very spicy ones. Worked into a number of dishes, sometimes the pain of stuffing a few jalapenos or habaneros into your mouth is worth it for the flavor compliments.

Italy

When you think of Italian food you probably think of freshness. Italian food is often not overly complicated or difficult to prepare, but one taste of an authentic Italian dish will show you how little that matters in the grand scheme of things, Fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and breads are staples of Italian cuisine. The food is so wide ranging–from marinara to alfredo, from pizza to gelato–that it’s difficult to cover it all and not drool on my keyboard.

Five States and Their Defining Foods

Traveling and food are an intertwined, intersecting pair of interests of mine that I often find myself experiencing at the same time. When I travel, I sample the local cuisine regardless of how exotic it is or is not. There’s nothing like visiting the heart and birthplace of a dish and tasting an authentic version yourself. It always–always–blows imitations out of the water.

Regardless of where I’m headed–across the ocean, across the state or across the country, food will continue to be a huge part of traveling for me. And it should be the same way for you.

Within the United States are, of course, 50 states. Most everyone knows that, but what not everyone knows is that within each state is a signature dish, sandwich or local delicacy that you’re best off trying on your next visit. Here are five states with the most recognizable and most delicious foods that you should indulge in on your next visit.

Louisiana–Gumbo

If you’ve been to Louisianna before, you know that the state is known for its cajun creole inspired seafood dishes. In New Orleans you’ll likely find a good bit of jambalaya, but statewide, gumbo is a must-try. The base vegetables of celery, onions and peppers with stock, a meat or seafood and a variety of seasonings, spices and other ingredients combine to form a fantastic southern dish.

Maryland–Crabs/Crab cakes

The popularity of Maryland crabs comes from the method in which they’re cooked. Instead of simply boiling blue crabs with little to no spice, Maryland has made famous the method of utilizing Old Bay and a variety of spices to bring out the flavor of the crabs. If cracking is too much work for you, Maryland crab cakes are a fantastic substitute in Maryland.

Illinois–Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

You’ve probably tried deep dish pizza before, but unless you’ve been to Chicago, you haven’t really tried deep dish pizza. The chunky tomato sauce, the heaps of cheese and the perfectly cooked crust makes eating authentic Chicago-style deep dish an experience that every human on earth should try at least once in their life.

Pennsylvania–Philly Cheesesteak

A classic example of something that you can get just about anywhere in the world, but probably shouldn’t. Visiting just about any pizza place in America, you’ll find a menu item that will likely read “Philadelphia cheesesteak.” If you want a real Philly cheesesteak, avoid this. Philly cheesesteaks should be eaten in Philly. Avoid tourist-based spots like Pats and Genos, and opt instead for Dalessandros or Steve’s. My final recommendation: cheese whiz and onions. Not exactly upscale, but certainly delicious.

Massachusetts/New England– Clam Chowder

You had to have seen this coming. As a Boston resident, filling up with a bowl of clam chowder, particularly on a chilly evening, is hard to beat. Thicker than most other chowders because of its creamy base, New England clam chowder is a must-try when you’re in the area. And, by the way, to the locals it’s chowda’.

 

Tasting Table: Cooking Perfect Porkchops

Our friends at Tasting Table have turned out a great video for cooking the perfect pork chop every time. I’ve already reviewed in the past how to cook the perfect steak and how to order it at a restaurant (if you want a good steak, that is). But pork chops are a whole other ballgame, so to speak.

Cooking pork isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it’s well worth the payoff in the end; few things can beat a perfectly cooked, juicy cut of pork. Similar to what you’d expect cooking steak, cooking a piece of pork for just a bit too long can result in a dry piece of meat–the enemy of what we expect when we indulge in pork chops.

Tasting Table recommends four key aspects to cooking a good pork chop:

  • choose one with about a one inch thickness for optimum flavor and juice.
  • Get a cast iron skillet, if you don’t already own one.
  • Use oil before you use the butter. The oil is great for searing the chops to begin with, while adding the butter later helps add to the flavor.
  • Shoot for a medium finish on the chop.

The Most Expensive Restaurants in the US

When you dine upscale, you should expect to pay upscale prices.

Compared to a local eatery that may cater more towards family audiences, or mid-pricing levels, upscale dining is a whole new world. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you indulge at least once or twice in your life, whether it’s a date, an anniversary or just because.

Choosing an upscale establishment means that you’re not only paying for exemplary service, you’re paying for an exquisite meal, the atmosphere surrounding the meal, and the experience as a whole.

Here are some of the most expensive meals in America according to Eater and MSN. Note that these may not be the most expensive meals in America, but checking the prices won’t be doing you or your wallet any favors nonetheless.

 

  1. Daniel–New York City

An absolute classic and very well-known establishment from one of my favorite cities in the United States. I have actually mentioned Daniel in this blog before; Daniel was the featured restaurant in the “What Happens When Kids Try Fine Dining” blog entry and accompanying video. Clearly, the children in that video ate quite well that afternoon, despite not appreciating every food served.

Tastings are often incredibly expensive, understandably so. An eight-course tasting at Daniel will run you $220 per person.

 

  1. Empire Steakhouse–New York City

You can see a trend developing–with New York City’s wide array of restaurants and upscale atmosphere, you’re bound to find an accompanying wealth of high-priced foods. A 10-ounce Kobe sirloin at the Empire Steakhouse will run you $345. While this seems like an obscenely high price for a steak, consider the fact that Empire is one of just two restaurants in New York that serves real Kobe beef.

 

  1.  Masa–New York City

Back to New York for number two, Masa serves up some of the most expensive, and certainly the tastiest Japanese food you’ll find in the US. Masa screams exclusivity, and has the menu to back it up. Chef Masayoshi Takayama has worked since his youth to perfect the art of cooking, and you won’t hear that many complaining. The $450 price point for a meal–not including drinks–makes Masa one of the most expensive eateries in the US.

 

  1. Serendipity 3–NYC/Las Vegas

The perfect after-meal sundae treat, Serendipity 3’s Golden Opulence Sundae contains Tahitian vanilla ice cream, Madagascar vanilla and, of course, a golf leaf. Caviar and Venezuelan chocolate are just two more of the incredibly lavish “toppings” on this sundae that will run you $1,000.

 

  1. Fleur–Las Vegas

If you like a good burger–maybe the best burger in America–Fleur is your restaurant. Having some disposable income also helps, as the most expensive item featured on the menu is the Fleur burger. Wagyu beef, foie gras, truffles and a bottle of Chateau Petrus brings the price of this entree at Fleur to $5,000.

Fast Food is Getting a Make Over

It’s a rare occurrence that fine dining and fast food are mentioned in the same sentence. There isn’t much that the two share. One is offered via a drive-through, made as quickly as possible by people who aren’t trained cooks, it’s cheap and it’s usually a last-minute option for hungry people on the go.

But recently, fast food has been changing. Perhaps evolving is the right word. The dining experience usually associated with cheap, nonnutritious food is getting a makeover, and it’s not the one I wrote about in this blog post.

In response to the emergence and huge surge in popularity of places like Chipotle–fast casual restaurants–many fast food establishments are introducing faux-upscale menus to compete. Taco Bell introduced its Cantina Bell menu, chef inspired entrees that use higher-quality ingredients to push a more “cultured” view of the restaurant. In the name of innovation, Taco Bell is gearing it’s menu to try to capture parts of the market that would normally flock to the likes of other, less “casual” eateries.

And Taco Bell certainly isn’t the only fast-food restaurant attempting to make the shift. McDonalds has been slowly transitioning its establishments all over the world into “McCafes,” which serve fancier coffees and give off an air of Starbucks culture to the building.

Recently, the Golden Arches have also been experimenting with some menu transitions that would, in an ideal world, help drive them into the world of nice food on a similarly nice budget. Recently, the chain has been experimenting with a Pesto Mozzarella Melt. In similar vein, Wendy’s has been experimenting with the addition of truffle to its menu with truffle bacon cheeseburgers and truffle fries.

The issue with these two menu additions might not be in terms of taste, style or speed, it could be in the clientele. Those swinging through the drive through of a McDonalds or Wendys at midnight are often not seeking delicious truffle cheeseburgers, they’re seeking a $1 McDouble that will satisfy them until they get home.

In all, fast-food is going to remain fast food. Places like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys, Taco Bell and Arby’s have built a reputation over their existence. They’re the kings of fast-food for a reason–that’s what they branded themselves as. They’re fast, they’re affordable, they’re on-the-go, and they’re everywhere. To begin to try to separate your business from those traits while maintaining the same brand is a difficult move, and one that may or may not prove to be successful. It is safe to say, however, that places like Daniel’s likely don’t have to worry too much about McDonalds stealing their customers.

The New Face of Fast Food

In recent years, the fast food market has changed dramatically. Today, there’s a focus on healthier options, better quality of products, and an effort to serve food in environmentally friendly ways.

While the fast food industry may appear to be making positive changes, the negative aspects of still outweigh the good. For example, a standard fast-food restaurant delivers on average more than 1,500 calories per meal. It’s no wonder that obesity is now considered a national health crisis.

 

Could affordable salads be the secret to America’s health?

An easier solution must exist. How can we make fast food healthy and affordable? The secret may have already have been discovered. Drive-thru salad chains.

The genius behind this solution is that it delivers what the market wants (healthy food) yet remains efficient and affordable. The unfortunate lure of fast-food is not the quality but the convenience. If we build healthy meccas that offer nutritious options, we could solve one of the leading health challenges in America today.

 

Leading the way

The future may have already arrived–and chances are–you’ve heard of them: Chipotle, SaladWorks, Panera. While not all of these chains exclusively offer salads, they do impress a healthier image to their consumers. At Panera, a customer can choose from a wide range of nutritious meals, including meat that’s free of antibiotics.

And there’s one chain that’s making a big impression. Salad and Go. This newer model hopes to break into the big leagues by offering fresh and affordable salads and meals, exclusively. With 8 locations across the midwest, the menu at Salad and Go offers salads, burritos, and smoothies made with whole, natural, and organic ingredients. The company’s goal? According to their website, living life in the fast lane doesn’t require sacrificing flavor or nutrition.  

The question remains whether these new chains have the potential to attract the consumers. We know that the market exists and thrives today. According to a Gallup study, 1 in 3 children eat fast food at least once a day.

It’s far easier to consider exchanging the type of food in this American diet staple than trying to reinvent a way for Americans to consume food affordably and on-the-go.

 

Bjorn Koch fast food placePerhaps the biggest obstacle facing these chains is the cultural association we keep with the industry. For 50+ years, the phrase fast food has conjured a very specific type of experience. Today, we have the opportunity to change that. But to achieve that goal, we first must shift our mindset: there’s no rule that the items at a fast-food restaurant have to be fried.

 

 

Want to Cook at Home? Read This First.

Bjorn Koch home cooking

Going out for dinner takes a lot of pressure off of you, the consumer of the meal. Weighed against cooking at home, going out to dinner means no cooking, no cleanup, no time spent cooking and table service. When it’s put this way, it seems like dining out should be the unquestionably better choice here.

But sometimes cooking a nice dinner at home is just a better option. Maybe you don’t feel like spending money on dinner one night, or maybe you just want to hone in your cooking craft. After all, anyone can pay for a meal cooked for them, but not everyone can actually put in the work and cook one themselves. Plating a beautiful and delicious dinner yourself is a sense of pride and accomplishment second only to the satisfaction you get from devouring it.

But not everyone can cook a dinner or prepare a dish as well as what you’d get from a restaurant. If you’re one of the people who falls into this category, consider these four tips.

 

Read the recipe All the Way Before You Start

There is nothing quite as disheartening than getting two thirds of the way through a recipe and then realizing that you lack a fundamental ingredient, or come up a little short in quantity. Rather than forcing yourself to rush to the grocery store for another stick of butter or onion, jeopardizing the entire meal, sit down the night before and read through the recipe.

Why the night before? It’s simple: some recipes require that you let something sit overnight before cooking. While this may seem to be an entirely skippable step, it’s not. If a recipe calls for something to marinate overnight, you’ll want to let it marinate overnight. This is particularly true of tougher cuts of meat, as marinating overnight facilitates the breakdown of muscle fibers and allows for a juicier steak the next day.  

 

Buy Nice Cutlery

The difference between a good knife and a bad knife could be the difference between having two thumbs and having one. The better the cutlery you own, the sharper your knives are, the safer you’ll be when using them. Theoretically, this sounds counter intuitive; a sharper knife however ensures that you’ll have to apply less pressure to cut your food than a you would have to with a duller knife. A sharper knife makes for easier cuts and less slipping and fumbling with your foods.

 

Cast Iron is Your Friend

Cast Iron skillets can be a lifesaver and make cooking much easier and much higher quality. Cast iron skillets are fairly cheap and last almost forever. They’re durable and can withstand higher levels of heat than standard glass or cookware. They’re also fantastic for heat distribution, and the “seasoning” aspect of cast iron means they don’t need to be washed with soap. They’re also non-stick by nature and incredibly versatile, you can cook anything from scrambled eggs to biscuits and gravy, all the way to baking a cake!

 

Practice, then Tweak

While you’re still homing in your cooking skills, follow recipes. It may seem too “standard” or “unoriginal” to simply follow a recipe you found online or in your cookbook, but following advice of the professionals to a T will guarantee good results at first. Then, when you’ve mastered the recipes you should begin experimenting with tweaking them to meet your specific taste.  

Table for One: Why Dining Alone is A-Ok

Bjorn Koch dining alone

Sometimes what we need most in the world is some peace and quiet. We often prefer quiet while we’re working, while we’re reading and while we’re relaxing. There are certain things that are just almost undebatably better to do alone. But, for whatever reason, there are certain other things that are seen as strange to do by yourself, among them going to the movies, going to see a concert or sporting event and, of course, eating.

It’s time to stand up against the stigma. Eating alone can, and often is, a fantastic experience.

Think about what your immediate musing are when you see a friend, coworker or acquaintance sitting alone at a table, whether it’s at an upscale restaurant or the cafeteria at work. Your first inclination is often to offer to sit with them on the grounds that no one should ever have to eat alone.

That right there might be your first mistake. There’s a chance that that person you’re currently taking pity on isn’t being forced to sit alone, he or she is doing it by choice. Sometimes, eating alone is far more enjoyable than eating with others depending on the person.

Dining out alone doesn’t have to be a sad, sultry or pathetic exercise in getting food and hiding behind the menu hoping that no one will spot you committing such an unfathomable act in public. Eating alone is relaxing. It takes the pressure off–this might be one of the relatively few times that you get to experience a silent evening enjoying a meal cooked for you.

There’s no pressure to make something everyone will enjoy, as if you were eating at home.

There’s no pressure to hold a conversation with someone who you may or may not be interested in (think “first date”).

There is no pressure. There is only you. And the waiter/ess. And your delicious food.

And perhaps, a book. Bringing along something to read is another one of life’s carnal pleasures–reading that thriller that you’ve been picking up every night before bed while you eat your dinner is the ultimate experience in solidarity.

There is no sense in being embarrassed or ashamed of eating alone–in fact, it’s something that everyone absolutely should experience at some point in their lives. Dining alone is liberating, stress-free and cheaper. It gives you time to unwind, whether it’s by reading a book or surfing the web on your phone. You can listen to music, catch up on a podcast or have a drink or two at the bar.

Really, you can do whatever you want, you’re alone, remember?

 

Page 2 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén