No matter if you're on a hot date, celebrating a landmark birthday or trying to woo a client ahead of an important business deal, restaurants provide a great venue for some of the biggest moments of our lives.
As a rule of thumb, a good restaurant meal will usually set you back anywhere between $30 and $100 at a time, and if you're laying that much cash down at once, you'd certainly hope that what you were eating was authentic. Sometimes, though, that just simply isn't the case.
Larry Olmsted, author of Real Food/Fake Food, is as close as we'll get to an expert on authentic cuisine, and he says that "food fraud" is a real epidemic in America, going as far as to call it a "sophisticated $50 billion annual industry". Wherever you go, you should always be on the lookout for different types of fake food, but Olmsted says there are three foods in particular which are pretty much never what the menu says they are.
1. Kobe Beef
Revered around the world for its flavor, tenderness and well-marbled texture, a good Kobe beef steak will set you back a pretty penny, with prices at most high-end restaurants hovering around $350. But with the nominal price of Kobe beef being a whopping $20 per ounce, if you're not having to remortgage your house to afford that beef, it's probably not the real thing. "The supply of the real thing is so scarce that individual restaurants are licensed by Kobe’s marketing council to buy it, and you can literally count the restaurants in this country serving the real thing on your fingers," says Olmsted, revealing that "99+ percent of Kobe claims are lies".
2. Red snapper
If you're not feeling too much like beef, then I think there's nothing wrong with the pescatarian option, if you're looking for something a little bit lighter. But if you're heading to a fancy restaurant or a sushi joint, then Olmsted says you should always steer clear of the red snapper. Calling red snapper the "poster child for fraud", our food expert reckons the fish is legitimately served "less than six percent of the time". Worrying stuff. "Eat this fish out every night for a week and odds are you still won’t have tasted it," he says, while adding that other types of fish like cod, halibut, flounder, and grouper are also pretty common for fakery.
If you head to any restaurant worth its salt, you're likely to see truffles somewhere on the menu. But independent of where you are, whether that be a romantic restaurant overlooking the coast or a gourmet pizza joint in the city center, whenever you've ordered truffles, you've not been eating truffles. Olmsted you should be especially careful of restaurants where every item on the menu seems to be made up of rare, expensive or "foraged" items, and that goes especially for truffles. "Real truffles, especially the prized black and white varieties from Alba, are one of the world’s most prized — and rare — foods," he explains, and blows our minds even further by revealing that truffle oil has "nothing whatsoever" in common with truffles, branding it "a made up substance, manufactured just like perfume, entirely fake and chemical". Ouch. At least Gordon Ramsay will be happy, right?
For those special occasions where getting extra fries with your Big Mac simply isn't enough, restaurants provide a high-class alternative to the home-cooked meals we all enjoy on a regular basis.
Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks of eating at a restaurant is that unless you're making some serious dollar, you probably couldn't afford to eat at a restaurant more than twice a week. Do yourself a favor and steer well clear of these foods if you want to avoid wasting your money.