No one likes to feel like a dope when staring down a wine list. So here's a cheat sheet on how to avoid embarrassment, culled from the collective wisdom of sommeliers and other wine professionals. For example, never walk into a wine store or restaurant and ask for a nice, dry red wine. It's like walking into a grocery store and saying, "excuse me, do you have any FOOD?'"
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[Part of the menu at Mario Batali's Babbo. Photograph: Robyn Lee] Yesterday Ed asked "Are you a menu whisperer?" Like a couple of you, I thought the topic was headed somewhere else—namely some folks' seemingly magic ability to order just the right thing wherever they go. I'll admit right off: I am not a menu whisperer. But my girlfriend is. Her meal inevitably ends up being more delicious than whatever I order. I don't know if this is a case of grass-is-always-greener syndrome or an innate gift that she has. (She says her mom has noticed the same thing whenever they eat together.) I have some workarounds that sometimes steer me in the right direction, and I hesitate to...
Wherever we go, my wife first orders her usual modest repast, then I follow with a slightly more substantial, but still reasonable list of dishes. Then, as I'm handing the menu back to the server and my wife is sitting back, settling into her chair thinking we are done ordering, I say to the server in my very best stage whisper: "We'll also have x and y and z, for the table." Are you a menu whisperer too?