Three random cooking/food tips:

Make your own soda
I avoid corn syrup. It scares me. That means Coke and the like are off the table. Instead I roll my own juice sodas (e.g. Apricot, Peach, etc.)

It’s a technique I picked up from my dad. It’s a simple combo of club soda and fruit juice nectar, which has a higher fruit content than typical juice. (Fyi, nektar is Latin Greek for “drink of the gods.”)

It’s simple: Put some ice in a glass. Fill it about 1/3 full with fruit nectar. I’m a big fan of Bionaturae organic nectars which I get from Fresh Direct. Top it off with club soda (I buy it by the case so there’s always some on hand).

Now you’ve got yourself one delicious, healthy, and cheap beverage. Call it the “soda of the gods.”

Always order the D-Roll
If a restaurant has an item that contains the name of the restaurant in it, order that.

For example, there’s a sushi place near me called Sushi D. It has a huge menu and the first time I went there, I wasn’t sure what to order. Then I saw the D-Roll on the menu. I thought: If they’re willing to name it after the restaurant, it must be good. And it was awesome. Last week at a place called Cafe Fresca, I ordered the Pizza Fresca. Also delicious.

If a restaurant puts its name on a dish, it’s probably a good sign that they’re proud of it. Reminds me of a piece of advice Edward Tufte gives: People should put their name on things — it shows your audience that you care about the content and take responsibility for it.

If that’s not an option, another ordering technique I like: Pick two items on the menu that sound appetizing and let the server decide between those options. They know what’s best on the menu (and, perhaps more importantly, what’s definitely not a good idea).

Or just go all in and order Omakase-style (i.e. the customer lets the chef prepare whatever the chef wants).

Use fresh garlic
Use fresh garlic. Not garlic powder, not a jar of minced garlic, not cloves that are peeled already. Use the stuff you have to peel. Put it under your knife and pound it. (Anytime you’re pounding something in the kitchen, it’s a good sign.)

What I’ve learned over the years: Every time someone comments on how good something smells in my kitchen, it’s because I’m making something with garlic.

Here’s what chef/author Anthony Bourdain says about garlic in “How to Cook Like the Pros” (which has lots of good tips):

Treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas, don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic…Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.

Anyone else have a food tip to share?

Related: Professional Chefs Reveal Their Shortcuts [Slate]