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6 Tips for Gaming the Restaurant Menu

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There’s always that one person in every group who orders the best dish at the restaurant, while you're stuck looking at a sad plate of wilted greens or over-sauced fish. That’s because there are actually tricks to deciphering a menu and figuring out the best thing to order—no matter where you are. Chefs and restaurant professionals share their tips for scoring the perfect meal.

1. SKIP THE RECYCLED DISHES.

If you’re at a burger joint, don’t order the beef tacos, says Laura Soncrant, owner of The Growling Rabbit in Chicago. And if you’re at a barbecue place, don’t order the pork pasta. “They’re trying to get rid of what doesn’t sell any other way,” she tells Mental Floss. So the burger place will use its leftover meat in burritos, tacos, or a pasta sauce, Soncrant says. You’re essentially eating leftovers at that point.

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Go onto the restaurant’s Yelp page. At the top, the site always pulls out key words that reviewers use over and over again when describing their experience at the restaurant, says Stephen Varela, manager at Villa Berulia restaurant in New York. At his restaurant, for example, reviewers on Yelp often write about the chicken parmesan or the flourless chocolate cake—so these words are highlighted at the top of Villa Berulia’s Yelp page. “These are the dishes that everyone is talking about, so you know that you should be trying them when you come into the restaurant,” Varela says.

3. TAKE A CHANCE ON THE SPECIALS.

Often, the chef will have a vendor who gets a great batch of a certain ingredient (say, beets). "It looks great and fresh, and I say, 'Let me create a dish and see if people are interested in it,'" says Amy Le, co-owner and executive chef of Saucy Porka and Spotted Monkey in Chicago. "A lot of times, it's experimental—it depends on your personality as a diner, if you like to try new things." You can always come back to the restaurant and try the staples over and over again, but if you want to be daring, you can try the specials that may not last, Le says.

4. SEEK OUT HOMEMADE DISHES.

"Scan the menu for these phrases: 'house-made,' 'from scratch,' 'homemade,'" says Soncrant. "These show that the kitchen is doing something from scratch, and it makes a big difference."

5. TALK TO YOUR SERVER.

Don’t ask your server what the most popular dish is, Varela says. Ask what his favorite dish is – or just trust the chef. "Some of our regulars don't even bother looking at the menu," Varela says. "They just ask the servers to tell the chef to make them something delicious and fresh." Since the waiter works for tips and since the chef is flattered by the responsibility, you’re guaranteed to get a fabulous meal this way, Varela says.

6. LOOK AT PHOTOS.

Reading reviews—by both customers and professional critics—is a no-brainer for savvy restaurant-goers. But Varela takes the extra step of checking out the restaurant’s Instagram page prior to dining so he’ll be to be lured by the photos. "I check out the pictures and look at the comments," he says. Part of dining is having all your senses seduced, and this is an easy way to guarantee that it'll work out.

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Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow
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REM-Fit

Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Learn to Tie a Tie in Less Than 2 Minutes
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For most men—and Avril Lavigne-imitators—learning to tie a tie is an essential sartorial skill. Digg spotted this video showing how you can tie one the simple way, with a tabletop method that works just as well if you’re going to wear the tie yourself or if you're tying it together for someone else who doesn't share your skills.

The whole technique is definitely easier to master while watching the video below, but here's a short rundown: As laid out by the lifehack YouTube channel DaveHax, the method requires you to lay the tie out on a table, folded in half as if you're about to loop it around your neck.

With the back of the tie facing up, you loop over each end, then twist the thinner of the two loops around itself so it ends up looking like a mini-tie knot itself. You'll end up nestling the two loops together and snaking the thin tail of the tie through the whole thing. Then, essentially all you have to do is pull, and you can adjust the tie as you otherwise would to put it over your head.

Unfortunately, this won't teach you how to master the art of more complicated neckwear styles like the fancier Balthus knot or even a bow tie, but it's a pretty good start for those who have yet to figure out even the simplest tie fashions.

[h/t Digg]

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