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What is Rassolnik?

This traditional Russian soup is known to have existed as far back as the 15th century, when it was called ‘kalya’. Today, famous with the name Rassolnik, the authentic Russian dish is prepared mainly with veal and lamb kidneys (or pork and beef kidneys), pearl barley, sorrel leaves and some pickled cucumbers! Yes, you heard it right. A ‘pickle soup’ it is!

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No matter how bizarre it may sound, but this bribing Slavic blend is definitely a bowl of happiness.  Rassolnik or rassoljnik, as it is known, varies from family to family and region to region. Some include barley and potatoes and is so thick, a spoon can stand up in it. Others make it with prime cuts of meat instead of offal.

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Despite of all the variations, the belief behind the recipe stays common, i.e. it is the one of the easiest and surest way of curing hangovers!  This is due to the fact that this savory soup helps the body to hold water and counteract the dehydration produced by over-imbibing, which causes hangovers.

Ever heard of an eatable Margarita?

No, this isn’t your traditional glass of tequila and fruit juice cocktail that you sip casually on a usual Friday evening. Doug Laming’s Margarita is definitely much more interesting than that! As suggested by the name, this cocktail was introduced by Molecular Mixologist, Doug Laming at his experimental lab i.e. Rabbit Hole Bar & Dining, Sydney.

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Laming uses ‘Cointreau Caviar Spherification’ to create spheres of Tequila, Cointreau and syrup, which results in little ‘pearls’ of alcohol that burst in the mouth!  While the glass is only there for decoration, to actually consume this margarita, one has to lift up the salt rimmed lime and eat the pink finger lime and the two types of the caviar pearls. One contains a Souza Gold tequila and sugar syrup and the other contains Cointreau. Basically, you eat these and lick the salted lime. It’s a margarita unlike any other kind that you may have had.

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Which is the most expensive cheese in the World?

Originated from Serbia, Pule cheese is made exclusively from the milk of Balkan donkeys. A characteristic feature of Serbian cuisine, Pule is not only extremely rare but also the most expensive cheese in the world. This exotic delicacy would cost you a whopping $576 for a pound!

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It takes 25 liters of donkey milk to produce just one kilogram of this white & crumbly smoked cheese. These donkeys are given the very best grass to eat and live as free rein as they can, living in the wilds of Serbia, they are farmed, milked and that results in this Serbian food-treasure!

A woman milks a donkey at a farm in Zasavica Resort, west of Belgrade

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What exactly is a champagne breakfast?

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It is, well, exactly as luxurious as it sounds: Breakfast served with champagne or sparkling wine and fruit juice, usually orange and/or peach.

This special treat is generally reserved for special occasions such as an Anniversary, Mother’s Day or a holiday. High-end hotels and vacation resorts often serve champagne breakfasts served in three elegant courses: bread, cake and fruit, followed by the main course, and finally, coffee, cheese and biscuits.

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To give you a clearer idea, here’s the romantic champagne breakfast menu at the Governor’s Suite in Hartness House, an Inn in Vermont, USA.

Ice-chilled Champagne in a bucket with two crystal flutes;

Freshly-squeezed Orange or Carrot-Apple Juice;

Freshly baked Crumb-topped Blueberry muffins
and Orange marmalade;

Strawberries with Framboise Creme Parfait;

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Your choice of:
Smoked Salmon and Green Onion Omelet, or
Almond and Graham Crusted French Toast; or
Governor’s Eggs Benedict

French Press Columbian Coffee with Cream

Decorated with a beautiful silk Rosebud in Vase and newspaper

This indulgence for two can be yours for an extra $75 USD!

Is Cambodian cheese really a cheese?

Confession: We haven’t been to Cambodia yet. But we’d love to go. If you have been to that fascinating land, we’d love to hear your travel tales. Write to us on travelsecretsmag@gmail.com, and we’ll take it forward.

For now, let’s talk about “Cambodian cheese” that isn’t really a cheese!

It’s actually fermented fish paste, with a cheese-like texture, salty taste and distinct odour. Wrapped in banana leaves and served with hot rice, the “cheese” may look  appetising, but that smell isn’t for everyone! Incidentally, it’s called prahok in Cambodia.

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(Image: Wikipedia)

Wikipedia: “Prahok is obtained by crushing or grinding fresh fish after de-scaling, gutting and cleaning them. They can be crushed underfoot, like wine grapes, or processed by machine. After the fish is crushed, it is left in the sun for a full day, then salted.”

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Image: fishconsult.org

The smell of prahok has been described as “stomach turning” and “like your brother’s socks.” If you still want to try it:

3 more things you must know about Prahok:

It’s always eaten fried or steamed, never raw: for fear of spoilage.

Good quality prahok is fermented upto 3 years.

Prahok is also wildly popular in Vietnam.

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prahok

How Not to Eat in Florence, Italy

Posted By Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan

As someone who believes in stumbling upon great places, I decided to ditch the guide books/blogs/local advice, and plunged straight into Florence.

Big mistake.

Stepping out of the magnificent Santa Maria Novella Railway Station…

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I wended my way through the crowded streets of the city…

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asking for directions to  The Gallery Hotel Art

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Along the way, hunger pangs hit. Hard. And since I was in Italy, the fragrance of herbs and the aroma of baked bread was everywhere. Honestly, I could hardly wait to drop my bags at the hotel and get back on the streets for a bite.

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Strung along a pipe-thin lane, I spotted a string of eateries that promised big meals at incredible deals. Smiling restaurant staff stood outside their outlets, handing out colourful pamphlets that promised a free drink with pizza and seemingly endless menus.

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Photo: thepodanys.blogspot.com Used here for representational purposes only

 

I succumbed.

And regretted it minutes later. The pizza was cold and leathery, with about 3 olives that tasted as if they had been glued atop the bread a month ago. Sure, it cost me “just 4 euros” for pizza and coke, but I would rather have spent a few bucks more to get a better bite.

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I am sure the giant plastic chef standing outside the restaurant, holding that huge menu card, giggled a little when I walked in.

Moral of the story: do your research when you are going to Florence. Read helpful advice such as this. And this.

Bon Appetit!

 

Food Review: Kylin Sky Bar, Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi

Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi

Reviewed By Apoorva Mohan

Cuisine: Chinese, Japanese, Thai

On The Menu: Assorted Vegetable Dim Sums, Assorted Chicken Lamb & Prawn Dim Sums, Tiger Prawn with Teriyaki & Egg Roll Yolk Sauce, Mushrooms Yakitori, Claypot Vegetables with Tofu & Rice.

The Experience: Perched on the third floor of Ambience Mall Vasant Kunj, Kylin Sky Bar has an exclusive approach. In accordance with the oriental theme of the restaurant, the interiors exude art and sophistication. With back lit walls and lovely dim lighting, the space makes for a warm and cozy setting.

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My friend and I chose to take our place in the sought-after terrace area of Kylin Sky Bar to figure out what sets it apart from other terraces in the NCR.

We were escorted to a table adjacent to the beautiful gazebo that makes for an exclusive gathering space for a group of friends, family and coworkers. The courteous staff helped us decide a diverse menu for the evening so we could try an assortment of their delicacies.

While we waited for our starters of veg and non veg assorted Dim Sums to be served, the bar in-charge stirred up special drinks for us. The cocktails, a Cucumber Martini and a fruity Cosmopolitan were served with a twist of basil, which made them delectable without being too sweet.

We started our gastronomical trip with the delicately wrapped Dim Sums that were served at the perfect temperature. Veg Dim Sums were carefully steamed with a variety of corn, spinach and black mushroom fillings with ginger lending a subtle flavor to each.

Dimsums, Chicken and Coriander
Dimsums, Chicken and Coriander

The Kylin Siew Mai open Dim Sums are a surprise treat. The non veg Dim Sums were wrapped with stuffing of chicken, lamb and prawns. While the lamb and prawn stuffing was well cooked, the chicken was carefully kept slightly chewy, much to my friend’s liking. Priced at Rs. 575 for veg, Rs. 675 for chicken and Rs. 695 for prawns, the Dim Sums are value for taste and money.

Next we tried Tiger Prawn with Teriyaki & Egg Roll Yolk Sauce and Mushrooms Yakitori as recommended by the chef himself. The well grilled and seasoned prawns dominated the meal with a strong flavour of the Teriyaki sauce that makes it a must try for seafood lovers. The mushrooms on the other hand were grilled tender and juicy. At Rs. 695 for prawns and Rs. 345 for veg, the Yakitori range is a mouth watering delight that cannot be missed.

Bang Bang Style Angry Chicken
Bang Bang Style Angry Chicken

The main course ended with a serving each of a bowl meal of Bang Bang Angry Chicken and vegetables with tofu and rice that are cooked and served in a claypot. The chicken is tender and just as spicy as the menu describes it; definitely not for the faint-hearted. For Rs. 795 it is a fulfilling meal in itself. The vegetables and rice on the other hand are infused with oriental herbs and the subtle influence of the clay. Priced at Rs. 795, it is a gastronomical treat.

Kylin boasts of innovative tongue-tantalising desserts such as Fried Chocolate and Fried Ice Cream along with the traditional Chocolate Fondue that delightfully satiates the sweet tooth.

The Verdict: The soothing ambience, classic meets commercial mash ups, smiling and efficient staff and service make Kylin a worthwhile experience. Exuding warmth, it is an apt choice for a romantic meal or a family get together alike.

Address: T-302, 3rd Floor, Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi -70.

Phone: 098717 57744

Timings: 12:00 PM – 12:30 AM

Meal For Two : Rs. 3000 ++

3 Point Impression: Gracious, Relaxing, Indulgent

Where in Maharashtra is Kalote Lake? Is it worth a visit?

Mansi Ghuwalewalla can help you with this one:

“When we leapt off our rickshaw (10 Rs. per head from the Karjat naka) at the turn for Kalote on the Mumbai-Pune highway, our expectations were quite moderate. We just wanted to find a relatively less crowded lake among the many that dot the Western Ghats during monsoon. Only, there was more in store.

As we followed two headloading village women and a mildly inebriated old man on a short uphill walk, Kalote village slowly revealed itself to us – an almost-still settlement around a lake circled by lush hills and howling wind.

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My friend and I exchanged a look that said, this is not a scene, it’s a place. We were here to celebrate our

birthday, which falls on the same day. The whole thing felt symbolic in the way that it was just another day in this place. This place was itself everyday of its life. It just stayed there being this way. Anyway, our little ‘getaway’ had begun well.

A private property sat on an island in the lake. A couple of understated resorts, followed by a small village and a ‘dabdaba’ up ahead. The rest was all open spaces.

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At the first resort, the lady (hands covered with flour) told us she had no rooms. Having had only ussal pav and chai at Karjat for breakfast, we were famished. At the next resort, Mrs. Khan sat on a swing, breaking coriander. She offered us a ‘package’ of Rs 1500 per head per day, with three meals. When we tried to bargain, she said, “the food is excellent” so matter of factly without as much as looking up from her dhaniya that I believed her. And good that I did. The food, simple and sumptuous, is just by the way in a place like this.

There’s a lot to do in Kalote – walk around, look around, walk around, laze around and look at the lake. You can’t go into it for a swim because that’s where the drinking water for the village comes from. ‘Dabdaba’ is the Marathi word for waterfall, and it’s your free, natural spa! The best part was walking barefoot to and into the waterfall and then becoming one of the rocks.

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Well, that’s what we did for a day and a half. So good.

Even the highway feels like a different place in the monsoon. Especially when you’re in a rickshaw back into town and you know the air is going to smell its familiar smoky texture soon.

For Driving directions:

Use google maps to search for <18°52’4″N   73°17’3″E >”

Take me to an Irish cafe that the locals love!

Just a few minutes out of Belfast airport, and you have a fiesta of Irish treats laid out for you. Rhubarb pie with homemade ice-cream, to begin with. At a pretty tucked-away place that overlooks the endless sea, and doubles as a local nursery. Called Harrisons, quite simply. Harrisons-Restaurant-201207280453 DSC00590 That pie. It alone is worth a trip to Northern Ireland. The rhubarb is nice and tart, and the pie crust is perfectly crisp. And the ice-cream, it tastes like the cow was milked a few minutes ago and the hens just laid their eggs and all of it was churned quickly together and frozen swiftly up to create this fresh, fantastic dream in cream. Sorry, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re reminiscing about a treat so delicious. DSC00591 Many days after I arrived back in India and Googled it, I was blown away by the story of Harrison’s! It is owned by a family that lives on 90 lush acres of land. The location is called Ards Peninsula, one of Northern Ireland’s most picturesque locations. (But then, I was there for nearly a week and did not see one spot that would not qualify as that! All of Ireland, Northern or not, is an ode to natural beauty.) And I am not the only one determined to go back for that ice cream. Apparently, 30 per cent of its customers drive more than an hour to come and eat at Harrisons. I suspect that statistic will quickly crawl upward soon. I have to admit I wolfed down the entire pie and ice-cream, and those calories were worth lunch and dinner both. And I was too hungry to take photos of the treat! Shubhra Krishan

A good dhaba in Amritsar, Punjab?

Located a short walk from the Golden Temple, in the Town Hall, is Bharawan da Dhaba, where we ate a hearty meal of chana masala, paneer kulcha, sweet lassi, and have never quite forgotten the taste!

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This divine food is reason enough to go to Amritsar, and no, the dhaba hasn’t paid us to write this for them!

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The name literally means “Restaurant of the brothers,” and whoever they are, they deserve a collective pat on their backs for dishing up such amazing food.

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The dhaba is always crowded, and that is a good sign. It only serves vegetarian food, but even if you are a meat lover, it is hard not to fall in love with the hearty Punjabi flavours here. Those lachcha paranthas topped with big dollops of butter…mmm!

Address: Hall Bazar, Golden Temple Out Road, Town Hall, Katra Ahluwalia, Amritsar, Punjab 143001

Phone:0183 253 2575

 

The best pizza in Toronto?

Honest answer: we can’t say. Our team has toured Toronto twice and enjoyed some good slices of pizza, but a few days in a city cannot make you an authority on its best eats.

Having said that…

…We know the best resource where you can learn not only about Toronto’s best pizza, but also its best bars, bakeries, bistros, bubble tea and more!

Here it is.

BlogTo, in their own words, are: ” Toronto’s most-visited web site for local news and culture, best of lists, restaurant reviews and events. Founded in 2004, we’re a growing and diverse team of artists, baristas, bakers, tech geeks, DJs, fashionistas, comedians and people who take daily multi-vitamins. ”

About the best pizza: check out their list, and you will know where to go.

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What is a typical day in the life of a Parisian like?

Well guess what: we have a fairly good idea!

TS Editor Shubhra Krishan met the lovely, lively Laurie Trognon, PR head at the iconic Printemps in Paris. The young lady wrote a beautiful ode to her home city, spilling lots of local secrets along the way!

 Over to her:

I am 23, and have lived in Paris all my life. I live in the 17th arondissement in a quiet residential neighbourhood called Villiers, which is sprinkled with parks and French brasseries.

Every morning, I wake up in my apartment and feel lucky to live in Paris. I open the window and look out to a beautiful old Haussmannian building. In the very early hours, we can hear birds, wind, or rain.

Like any other big city, Paris gives you the feeling of being on your own—in a nice way! I start my day with a typical Parisian breakfast of croissant or a chocolate roll with fresh orange juice or a tea. Sometimes, I keep it simple with just bread and butter.

It takes me 20 minutes by Metro to reach my workplace, which is PRINTEMPS (the departement store) in the nine area (75009).

In summer, I like to wear colourful long dresses to work. Parisian women are very fashion-conscious, and enjoy sporting avant garde fashion.

I enjoy going out with my friends in the evenings. My favourite hangouts in the city are as follows:

Local paris secrets       

Best pizza: Paparazzi restaurant (75009)

paris local secrets     

     Best cup of coffee: Kooka Boora (75009) / Angelina (75001)

paris local secrets

Best French cuisine: La petite Cour (75006)

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Best bar: O Chateau (Wine bar)

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Best bakery: Ladurée

Some of the restaurants, pubs and bars that the people of Paris love, and you won’t find in most guidebooks are :

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La Félicité (75010)

Pershing Hall

Pershing Hall (75008)

Le Club des 5

Le Club des 5 (75017)

Candelaria

Candelaria (75003)

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Razowski (75001)

Lefty

Lefty (75002)

Paris looks most beautiful during summer time, when everybody is on vacation. All people are very open-minded, the weather is great and you can enjoy parks, terrace, swimming pools.You can really appreciate space at Rosa Bonheur which is a restaurant in the Buttes Chaumont park.

Rosa Bonheur
Rosa Bonheur

When I am unhappy and need some peace, Paris comforts me with wine! I sit with a glass of wine and a friend at Bertie or Vert Tulipe; very affordable, great wine, and perfect for forgetting your woes!

Vert Tulipe

Plus, I like to practice sport and more particularly Aquabiking; sport is something very important when you live in a big city. It’s a great way to decompress.

When I’m looking for a moment of rest, I go to the NUXE Spa at Printemps Haussmann and get a manicure.

NUXE Spa
NUXE Spa

The city’s loveliest street is Rue des Francs Bourgeois, a typical Parisian street with trendy but not-too-expensive shops such as Zadig & Voltaire, Isabel Marant. For bargain shopping, I would recommend the area of Chatelet – Les Halles. For high-end purchases, you should head to Printemps Haussmann or Rue Saint Honoré.

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In the evening, Paris looks an old city which is waking up; all brasseries and terrace are full, even during the winter and my apartment fills up with the sights/sounds of my neighbours who invite their friends for the cocktail hour.

I don’t have the time to cook, so I usually order food from a website named AlloResto. One of my favourite foods when I can’t cook is Japanese.

A typical Paris weekend is never complete without a brunch on Sunday morning.

All in all, I love my city because this is a city with a real history. The typical Haussmannian buildings are majestic, and I can’t get enough of admiring them!

(This story was first published in May June 2013 issue of Travel Secrets Magazine)

I’m going to Nicosia, Cyprus. Point me to some good eateries, please.

We can recommend three with confidence, since we ate there quite recently.

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Erohia Lounge Bar & Buffet Restaurant, opposite Hilton Hotel: We arrived at around noon from Bahrain, hungry as horses. It took about an hour to reach the hotel, and soon after checking in, we walked down to the restaurant. The buffet was a wake-up call to the eyes and the taste buds. The salad greens and reds and yellows sang with freshness and colour. The corn was juicy, the lettuce crunchy, and the extra virgin olive oil, well, virginal in its purity. Being vegetarian, I was a bit unsure of finding enough options, but I need not have worried; there was plenty to choose from. Paired with delicious local wine, the meal was perfect. Do eat at Erohia if you’re in Nicosia.

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Flocafe: Located in the city’s hippest and blingiest quarter–Ledra Street. Walking around here is sure to make you ravenous, and Flo Cafe is a great place to enjoy hot pizza with beer. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate of Cyprus, the weather is almost always perfect for sitting outside.

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Ikea Cafe inside the Ikea Mall:  it’s quick, cheap and tasty fare; very welcome after you’ve burned up your energy and money roaming through the vast swathes of space inside Ikea. The brightly coloured eatery offers interestingly laid out spread, which you keep picking off the counter and onto your trolley until you reach the pay counter. We loved their potato and broccoli cutlet–a simple and good-looking snack that tasted great. And don’t miss the fantastically fresh orange juice: you’re in Cyprus, after all!

 

 

Italian Tonight? Here’s How to Eat Light.

Bread sticks or bruschetta? Alfredo or marinara? Affogato or gelato? Dining out at a luscious Italian eatery can pose some agonising conundrums. Shubhra Krishan suggests smart ways to get all the flavour without the fat:

italian cuisine eat light

  • Don’t stuff yourself on the bread or breadsticks. Munch on bruschetta instead—the fresh tomatoes on it are loaded with vitamins and minerals, the extra virgin olive oil and basil are wonderful antioxidants, the calorie count is low (approx 80 cal a slice).
  • Don’t skip the insalata. Italian salads can be incredibly flavorful, provided you are careful to avoid creamy (read fattening) dressings.
  • Enjoy Minestrone soup—it is wonderfully satisfying and abounds in health-giving veggies and beans. A 200 gm bowl of minestrone contains just about 200 calories, so yes, soup’s on!
  • Balsamic roasted or grilled vegetables are not only delicious but light and nutritious. A full cup contains only 100 healthy calories! In fact, most dishes cooked in olive oil instead of butter are beneficial for you.
  • Choose a light and nourishing tomato based sauce over alfredo, which combines butter, cheese and cream. Marinara is fresh and delicious, too. Psst: Just 1/4 cup of alfredo sauce contains 90 fat calories! Compare this with 100 gm of marinara, which has only 1.5 gm of fat cals!
  • Keep the pasta light. Nothing quite beats the flavour of Aglio Olio pasta which is tossed in olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs. Low in calories and full of nutrients.
  • Have cheese on your pizza, but ask them to use less of it or reduced-fat variety. If that isn’t an option, simply share with a friend.
  • A gelato or sorbet is perfect for the sweet touch you crave. Dense, creamy and delicious, gelatos have half the calories of ice-cream. And guess what: they contain high levels of protein, vitamin B, calcium and phosphorus; making them a health friendly food!

Why you shouldn’t order the ‘soup of the day.’ 5 Dirty restaurant secrets: spilled!

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  • The ‘restaurant special’ or ‘soup of the day’ is often special only because they are trying to finish it off before it goes bad.
  • That slice of lemon in your drink—looks lovely, but isn’t clean. Everybody touches it, and nobody washes it. Cheers!
  • If you ask ‘Is this dish made from vegetable stock?,” many waiters will say ‘Yes,’ which is a lie. The truth is, you cannot tell the difference, so they don’t bother clarifying.
  • If you ask your waiter ‘how’s this dish,’ and she says, ‘It’s one of our most popular,’ chances are she hates it, but isn’t supposed to tell you that. Ask her to recommend a good dish instead.
  • If you’re worried about how clean the kitchen is, visit the restaurant’s loo. If that is dirty, you can be sure the kitchen is much worse.

(Secrets spilled by veteran waiters to Readers Digest magazine, USA )

A few years back, a restaurant in Tampa had a major roach problem. We don’t want anything like this happening to you.

For more nasty secrets, take a look here.

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