There are lots of rules associated with dining out; some local, some international.
No European south of the Channel would consider having a Cappuccino, cafe au lait or cafe con leche after noon – sits too heavy on the stomach. And as for those lattes that the English are obsessed with; eughhh… Incidentally: ‘latte’ means milk in Italian, simple really.
Pizza is generally an evening thing in Italy – a true Pizza oven will take time to reach the correct temperature, and this will take all day if its wood fired.
Paella the other hand is consumed at lunchtime – that amount of rice should not be eaten late on the day as it will ‘sit on the stomach all night’ – something that Spaniards live in fear of generally…
Parmesan does not go on everything in Italy… It is reserved for tomato or meat pasta dishes, and never with fish or other seafood.
Most people know not to pair red wine with fish dishes; but this is not always true – there are some light Spanish reds that are great chilled.
Spirits and oysters don’t mix; apparently the combination will give you a bad stomach (I can’t vouch for this).
Chop sticks are used to lift food to your mouth, you are not supposed to put them in your mouth (this is why you will often see people passing food around with their chopsticks – they have not been putting them in their mouths).
Something to be absolutely avoided is sticking your chopsticks into a bowl of rice and leaving them sticking up – this is symbolic of incense sticks at a funeral and is considered very back luck/ rude.
A personal one: I try to avoid coffee after 12.00, it keeps me awake in the afternoons.
To the above, I add a few more:
When in a foreign country don’t choose a restaurant where the locals won’t understand the food.
So: Indian food in England = safe bet, Indian food in America = risky. One of the worst meals I have ever had was at a swanky Indian restaurant in Manhattan, simply terrible, it was as if someone had described Indian food to them and they had decided to have a crack at it.
Chinese food in New York = safe bet, Chinese food in Valencia = look elsewhere… You get the idea.
Hotel food is the default option for the tired traveller, they know this so its rarely very inspiring and usually consists of options from the freezer, look outside for better options.
Be suspicious of very large menu choices in places that aren’t busy, a small menu selection usually indicates a fresher and more targeted food preparation. This is especially true early in the week, and especially with fish/ sea food – if they have a wide choice it will be frozen or not very fresh.
Busy places are not always the best, McDonalds is always busy isn’t it?