Restaurant Ideas You Can Use At Home: Tips And Recipes


plate settingBy Mary Ellen Psaltis

There is a lot of good to say for eating out. Someone else did the meal planning, grocery shopping, prep work, cooking, and even set the table. Your job as a diner is to sit back and say, “I’ll take the panko crusted tilapia lightly broiled in the tequila-lime reduction.” While an unseen chef is hustling hot sauté pans, you and your companions can chat about how fun it is to eat a roll hot out of the oven.

Soon your water glass is refilled; then your steaming fish and gently cooked vegetable medley arrive and all is well. Yes, someone even washes your dishes. You are expected to pay the bill and leave a tip. This is a good arrangement. To liven up your other dining experiences, you can bring a few elements of the restaurant experience into your own home.

Here are just a few ideas – no requirement to use them every day – but I like to create eating experiences at home that are pleasant and relaxing.

1. Set the Table

This is basic home economics and yet it sets a tone for the foundation of your meal. When you go to a restaurant, the table is ready with silverware, glasses, folded napkins and usually a tablecloth. There is actually table setting etiquette: The plate is in the center with the napkin and fork to the left. The knife, with the blade facing into the plate, is on the right side and the spoon to the outside of the knife. If there is a salad fork,  (smaller tines) it is placed outside of the larger fork. As you eat, use the forks from the outside in towards the plate. If there is a utensil above the plate, it’s a clue to your dessert.

The water glass is above the knife and the wine glass, slightly lower than the water glass, stands above the spoon. A cloth napkin is an aesthetic and ecological addition. Use and wash. I get ones that require no ironing.

It really takes only a few moments to set a table, but the overall effect is impressive. It says there has been thought and attention put into the meal. A small centerpiece – flowers, a piece of your child’s art, or candles – adds even more.

2. Serving Courses

My family does not expect a five-course meal (for goodness sakes, we’re at home, not at a restaurant…) but here’s an idea anyway.  If you are having a salad, serve it on a chilled plate ahead of the main dish. The cool plate keeps the salad bright and crisp.

You can also add a warm roll and chutney. A recent trip to Vancouver, BC, found us staying at the Marriott Renaissance, one of whose restaurants is the p2b bistro and bar. While we waited for our meal, we ate and received a warm, amazingly fresh crusty roll with tomato chutney. Chutney is a mixture of vegetables and/or fruit with spices. Soft butter is lovely melting into a roll, but the chutney was an interesting change of pace.

3. Pairings

Another thing that restaurants do is serve multiple elements together. The meat has sauce and the vegetables are cooked with several herbs. Dessert is not a slab of cake, but a slice w/a drizzle of chocolate and whipped cream. Usually I don’t take the time to think of all these things at home.

My dinner at p2b included a dessert, so I had to get it  – right? I picked the hazelnut torte, not because of the torte but because it came with roasted pears in a salted caramel sauce. How hard is to roast pears and make the somewhat trendy salted caramel sauce? It’s not.

Roasted pears and salted caramel sauce make a mighty fine dessert paired with each other – no need for the torte. Having this duet on hand makes their part of your meal spectacular.

4. Finally, Sit and Enjoy.

When I am eating out, I am not fretting about work or other areas of my life. It’s a few moments to relax, be present with whom I am sharing the meal and to appreciate the food. This can be done at home with any meal – with or without silverware.

Life is short enough. Enjoy your meals. Spruce up your at-home meals from time to time. It can be fun for everyone. Someone will eventually have to do the dishes, but the drive home is very short.


Eat Well – Live Well


p2b bistro & bar

Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside

1133 West Hastings Street,

Vancouver, BC V6E 3T3



tomate chutneyTomato Chutney

24 portions

1 crushed garlic clove

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 inch stem ginger, peeled (finely chopped)

2 pounds tomatoes (blanched/skin removed, eyes, seeded and rough chopped)

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons raisins

Sauté garlic and ginger in a little oil using a hot thick base saucepan. Add all the remainder of ingredients and bring to boil and simmer. Cook until it has reached a thick consistency, correct seasoning and cool. Refrigerate if not being used immediately.


Cheese Herb Bread

1425 grams flour (sieved)

25 grams honey

25 grams salt

150 ml olive oil

900 ml water (warm)

12 grams or 3 tablespoons dry yeast

mixed herbs (finely chopped rosemary and thyme)

grated parmesan

corn meal

Translation: Approximately 6 cups flour, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 teaspoons salt, just under 2/3 cup oil, 3 2/3 cup water.

Add yeast and warm water together to ferment. Mix other liquids together. Mix flour, sugar, salt and herbs. Add yeast to flour and mix in well, add remainder of liquids and knead.

Place dough in bowl, cover with a cloth and prove in a warm place until it doubles in volume. Place dough on a floured table and knead back to original size. Cut into 12; roll out using corn meal.

Allow to prove and deep fry at 400 degrees. Once golden on one side turn over and cook the other side. Remove from oil and place onto kitchen paper to drain.

Dust with Parmesan cheese.

The has a delightful roasted pear preparation with lemon, vanilla and sugar:


vanilla roasted pearsVanilla Roasted Pears Adapted from Sally Schneider at The Atlantic

Serves 4 or so

¼ cup sugar

½ vanilla bean

1 ½ pounds slightly under-ripe, fragrant, medium pears, peeled if desired, halved through the stem and cored. All varieties can work.

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar.

Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut-side up. Drizzle with lemon juice evenly over the fruit, and then sprinkle with sugar. Nestle the vanilla pod among the fruit. Pour the water into the dish. Dot each pear with some butter.

Roast the pears 30 minutes brushing then occasionally with the pan juices. Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer (if the pears are small, test for doneness after 35 or 40 minutes of cooking. (a paring knife poked into the thickets part of one should meet with no resistance.)

Serve warm, spooned with the caramelized pear drippings from the pan over ice cream, dolloped with crème fraiche, on your morning oatmeal, over slices of gingerbread or so so much more.

Salted Caramel Sauce

This sauce is made by slowly cooking granulated sugar and water to a slow boil. Heavy cream and unsalted butter are then whisked in. Sea salt is then added. It takes a few minutes to caramelize the sugar but you are rewarded with a golden sauce that will keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Look on-line for tips for cooking and specific directions.


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