The Hemp Connection + women's health

Redefining Restaurant Eating Rules for Success

The other night I had dinner with friends at a popular Scottsdale restaurant, Cowboy Ciao. We had a wonderful waiter who, without our verbalizing it, sensed that our appetites, though healthy, were not nearly as large as the portion sizes on our menu. He helped us order in ways that did not bring excessive food to the table. We would likely not have eaten them anyway, but it was really nice to not have to spend any of our concentration on ignoring food that was sitting there suggesting it should be eaten.

He helped us figure out portion sizes of both the salad and the entree that worked for three people. In this particular restaurant it worked because they offered half portions of entrees. So we ordered one half and one whole portion but had it served in one dish so we could serve ourselves family style. Of course, depending on the situation this won't always work, but I do encourage you to be assertive and let your server know what you need and engage them in problem solving. The smart ones will recognize that there's a better tip for them if they cooperate.

I learned from a friend who travels for a living that if the ingredient shows up somewhere on the menu, even if it's not in the item you want, it's in the kitchen and you can ask for a substitution. For example, once we were eating breakfast together and he noticed asparagus on a dinner dish. He asked if it could be added to his lobster omelet and there was not an issue.

Be assertive, ask about the possibilities. Don't assume the rules are dictated by the printed menu. If you frequent a restaurant that obliges you, you may actually give them reason to consider putting your own creation on the menu. In which case you've also made it easier for those coming along behind you!

This blog post, by the way, is also an excuse for sharing Cowboy's recipe for their famous chopped salad. I posted this photo on my Facebook page and it received so many likes it was clear it should have its own fan page! If you choose to make your own aioli, be sure to use canola mayonnaise.

For the dressing:
1/4 cup basil pesto
1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 cup aioli (see note)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1/3 cup cooked Israeli couscous
2 ounces chopped arugula
1/3 cup diced roma tomatoes
1/3 cup diced smoked salmon
1 tablespoon crumbled Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon toasted pepitas
2 tablespoons dried black currants
2 tablespoons super-sweet dried corn

For the dressing, combine pesto, shallot and aioli in a food processor; blend thoroughly. With motor running, add buttermilk. Add pepper and lemon juice; blend to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

For the salad, arrange ingredients in separate rows on a large platter. Toss salad at the table, using about half of the batch of dressing. (Refrigerate remaining dressing up to three days.)

Makes 2 servings.

Note: Aioli is like garlicky mayonnaise. Look for it in gourmet food stores, or make your own by blending together 1 to 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup mayonnaise.

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Redefining Restaurant Eating Rules for Success + women's health