I started trying to teach myself with Julia's MTAoFC. It was really, really hard. Most of the positive reviews I read began with, "Just like when I studied in Paris," or "This takes me back to France." However, for someone who has never even eaten in a French restaurant, I had no idea how these dishes were supposed to smell, taste, feel texture-wise, let alone how to pronounce them. (I persevered and have since met with some success.) But then, I tried to make risotto from Molly Stevens' book. It was a fiasco. I followed the directions and yet it was HORRIBLE. I've never eaten risotto before, never even seen it in a restaurant. So how do I know I made it incorrectly? Maybe I just don't like it?
So, this got me thinking. Perhaps I could try to seek out restaurants as a way of broadening my palette in an attempt to at least know what the dish I cook is supposed to taste like. What do you think? If not, can you recommend another approach?