Why do Americans love to go out to eat? The obvious reason is they work all day and don’t want to take time to make a meal.

However, dining out is about more than convenience. It’s an experience that touches all our senses; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. We’re impressed with tableware, food presentation and decor. From the beginning of the meal to the end, we look for that “wow” factor.

Toppings and trimmings provide visual appeal to dishes. They can add a burst of flavor or an interesting texture sensation. Garnishing is the perfect way to spruce up a meal. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to add some special effects to your meals. Plan to come to the Taste of Home Cooking School in Athens on Thursday, when home economist Tamra Duncan demonstrates techniques for finishing touches at The Cain Center. The two-hour demonstration will combine basic cooking skills with a touch of creativity. Learn how to frost a “Vanilla Rich Chip Cake” or decorate a “Flourless Chocolate Cake.” Watch Duncan prepare grilled teriyaki steak and add pizazz to the plate with garnishes. She will offer tips on melting chocolate correctly and then apply the melted chocolate to “Star-Spangled Mousse Pie.”

“Flavor rules when cooking,” Duncan said, “but picture-perfect presentation draws the compliments.” Simply taking a squeeze bottle and painting sauces on a plate can bring oohs and aahs. Try drizzling gravy or ketchup in a zig-zag motion or shape into a bow or heart and place the food on top. Experiment with combining garnishes. Place a cluster of berries on the side of the plate and sprinkle cheese on top or add a little herb to your veggie garnish. You’ll be pleased with the results and your family will look forward to meals at home.

The Athens Daily Review, as well as the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Cole’s Air Conditioning, is sponsoring our salute to home cooking. They will have a free gift bag ready for you with national food company coupons and brochures; plus local vendor information. Every gift bag will include the 84 page Taste of Home Cooking School Brand Name Cookbook that features the demonstration recipes. “We’re putting the finishing touches on our plans for an evening that promises to be fun and informative for you and your friends,” said Andi Green, Advertising Director at the Athens Daily Review. Tickets are still available at the newspaper, the Chamber of Commerce and Cole’s.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the program begins at 6 p.m. The Athens Daily Review is selling tickets for $10 each at the newspaper office, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Cole’s Air Conditioning.

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