I can't wait to try the grilled tenderloin of beef with crispy potato-leek cake, caviar and red wine reduction on the menu at Dogwood restaurant in Atlanta. The grilled cobia with summer vegetable cous cous and charred pepper vinaigrette sounds awesome, too.
And since many chefs today — including Shane Touhy of Dogwood - reveal just about every ingredient and cooking method in menu descriptions, it's easier to read between the lines to find the food facts you need to help decode the nutrition content.
In general, red-flag words for dishes high in fat and calories include cream, butter, fried, sauteed and cheese sauce. Green lights for choices lower in fat and calories include grilled, broiled, primavera, salsa and broth.
So, first look at how the dish is prepared. Is it deep-fat fried or charbroiled? Does it come with a butter sauce or a fresh fruit salsa? Is it a broth-based soup or made with heavy cream? OK, these are some of the obvious clues. Now you're ready for some advanced menu sleuthing.
What if the word "fried" is nowhere to be seen? "Crispy" can be a code word for fried. And "silky sauce" a sign that butter is lurking. Even "poached" isn't always the light way to go. Some chefs actually poach seafood in butter or oil, not the usual water-based broths.
That doesn't mean you can't enjoy the occasional tempura-battered fried shrimp or side of creamed spinach. It just means that when you see them on the menu, you know it's time to take pause. You can choose to either limit portions, or limit the number of times you order these higher fat choices.
Even "grilled" or "broiled" aren't always innocent because the chicken or fish can be slathered in oil or butter while it's on the fire. Make sure to request that your item be broiled "dry" or "lightly brushed with oil." The server is your conduit to the kitchen.
While restaurants such as Applebee's offer menu selections from Weight Watchers that are clearly marked with calorie counts, lighter choices are not always highlighted.
Healthy dishes such as gazpacho, poached salmon and pasta primavera have become part of mainstream dining. And you don't have to settle for less fun, because now chefs borrow interesting ingredients from Asian and Mediterranean cuisines to add bold flavors to dishes without adding additional fats. So, thanks to globe-trotting chefs these lighter dishes taste better than ever!