By Kristin van Ogtrop
Updated January 22, 2015
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Problem: The air-conditioning is blasting; you’re freezing.Solution:“We know that all seats aren’t created equal when it comes to A/C,” says Hanson. “So if you’re not comfortable, let us know.” Don’t be disparaging; just explain that you’re shivering. The restaurant should quickly figure out a way to warm you up without overheating the other diners. At Le Français, this may mean changing your table. Or if you’re female, it may mean bringing you a shawl to drape around your shoulders. But few restaurants will lower the thermostat for one diner and risk making the others hot. And you shouldn’t expect them to. Problem: So many menu options, so little time. Where should you begin?Solution: First, know the following: The top and bottom items on menus are usually things restaurants want to sell a lot of (they’re getting a good cost-to-price ratio on them, says LaBan); the specials often include savory items the chef has plucked at the farmers’ market or fish store and is eager to cook with; signature dishes are what the chef is known for (they are usually marked as such on the menu); and tasting menus (which generally consist of six to seven mini dishes and matching wines) are the best way to enjoy the full range of a chef’s work. That said, if you’re still clueless, ask for the waiter’s recommendation, but avoid questions like “Is the trout good?” says Philippa Rizopoulos, who waited tables at New York’s beloved French oasis Tartine for four years. Instead, give the waiter a framework: “I’m in the mood for fish. Any suggestions?” or “The pasta looks amazing. Can you recommend two or three?”
Jim Franco

Last year, when Julie and Julia came out, I read an interview with Nora Ephron in The New Yorker. The interview was entertaining on a number of levels (she is very funny, after all), but the only thing I remember from it was her remark that all of her friends—women of a certain age, with a certain sort of horrifyingly slow metabolism—ate very little, and how awful and depressing that was. Oh, how sad, I thought in my smug, much-younger way. I’m so glad I can still eat like a horse.

You see, I’ve had a big appetite my entire life. On more than one occasion I’ve sat next to a person at dinner/lunch/breakfast/anyplace who has stared at my plate and said to me, “Are you going to eat all that?” And the answer was usually “Yes.” I suspect it’s because I come from fairly thin people and I exercise regularly, but dieting has never been something I’ve had to think seriously about. At least not since freshman year of college when I gained 25 pounds from drinking beer constantly, ordering countless boxes of pizza, and eating entire bags of Mint Milano cookies in one sitting. Aside from the years (years!) it took me to lose those 25 pounds, I’ve always been pretty much able to eat what I wanted.

But before you scroll down to the comment box to tell me how much you hate me and anybody like me, know this one thing: It has all come crashing to a halt.

I realized today—as I ordered an appetizer for lunch instead of an entrée—that I have turned into a woman who “watches what she eats.” Which is a horrible, horrible phrase. Someone who cannot wolf down a hot fudge sundae without a second thought. The kind of person I always pitied! Why? Oh, who knows. I’m not as hungry as I used to be. I spend most of my day sitting on my derriere in front of a computer. And clearly my metabolism is not what it once was. But all I can think about is Nora Ephron’s sad friends who never eat anything, and wonder whether or not I am going to be one of them someday. (“An apple for lunch? That’s plenty!”) And, really, will life still be worth living?