by Lisa Lozano
We all love dining out, but staying within the budget makes a delicious meal out with loved ones taste even better! Sara Moulton reveals the budget-busting markups made by restaurants, and how you can get around them.
Tip #1: Be frugal, and wise, when choosing wine
We've all been in the situation where we're going on a date but we're also on a budget. But, as Sara says, we don't want to seem cheap, so instead of ordering the least expensive wine, we order the second-cheapest bottle of wine. But Sara reveals that restaurants know we do this, and therefore the second-cheapest wine is the most marked up! Sara advises that you take a look at a restaurant's wine list before you go, and see which wine is the best value.
Tip #2: Don't be fooled by "fancy" names
When you order at a restaurant, you want to seem sophisticated so instead of ordering familiar items, you go for something that sounds exotic, like Shrimp Scampi Tagliatelle. But, Sara reveals, that actually translates to "Shrimp Shrimp Noodles"! Bottom line: order what you want to eat, not what you think will make you seem fancy.
Tip #3: Beware the wedge salad
An iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing can be a pricey item on restaurant menus, but it costs pennies on the dollar to make at home. Moreso – Sara reveals that restaurants don't do a thorough job of washing the lettuce! So skip the restaurant wedge salad and make it at home instead.
Bonus Tip: To properly wash iceberg lettuce, remove the core, turn upside down and run water into the hole left by the core. The water will filter through the leaves, cleaning them. Then just turn over, plop into a strainer, and let it dry for about 20 minutes.
Tip #4: Don't Pay Steakhouse Prices
Steakhouses charge exorbitant prices for aged meats. But Sara reveals that it's super easy to do it yourself at home. Just take a typical supermarket steak, wrap it in cheesecloth, put it on a wire rack so that it can breathe, and leave it in the coldest part of your refrigerator for about four days. Rachael comments on Sara's home-aged rib-eye, "It has a firm texture to it, and so much tenderness and depth of flavor. It almost becomes earthy as well as meaty."
Tip #5: Make Your Own Restaurant Home Fries
How do restaurants get their home fries so crisp and delicious? Sara is showing you! Just drop cubed russet potatoes into boiling water that contains ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Boil for only one minute, then drain and add back to the hot pan. Cook for about 30 seconds in the pan to develop the starch on the outside of the potatoes (this will get you that amazing crunch factor you're looking for). Add butter and salt to the pan, and when melted, pour potatoes on a hot sheet pan and add a bit of EVOO. Roast at a whopping 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Done!
Which one of these tips will you use first? Tell us in the comments.