Reality Check, Please

Food Network apparently has a magazine and the first issue actually has a few interesting articles on food and economics. One, titled Reality Check, Please discusses design tricks on menus that restaurants use to manipulate diners’ psychology. For instance:

Menus typically show prices right after dish descriptions rather than in a column. Why? So you won’t go looking for a cheaper dish. If you see a chicken entree for $17, the restaurant doesn’t want you to notice that the chicken tenders two lines down up are $3 cheaper. Kevin Moll, CEO of Denver’s National Restaurant Consultants, says staggering the prices on a menu leads to a 10-percent increase in sales.

ThatsSoYummy has transcribed the article: Reality Check, Please.

Cardinal Stew

While looking for recipes for Steelers-inspired food, I came across this gem on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Cardinal Stew

1 – washed up cardinal quarter back
5 – mediocre offensive lineman
3 – legitimate pass receivers
2 – Steeler Coach wannabe’s

Toss ingredients vigorously in large (Super) bowl, Bake under extreme heat for 60 minutes. Cool by fanning with large yellow towel.

Throw it out.

Try again next Year

Props to the Post-Gazette for having forums.

Preventing onion tears

Some good data on preventing onion tears. Instead of buying onion goggles, you should learn to cut onions correctly. I particularly like this part:

The placement of various foreign objects between one’s teeth (wine corks seem to be a particular favorite) is of questionable value, except when used as an excuse – if indeed one were needed – to open another bottle of wine.

Bribing your way into a restaurant

When going to dinner on a Saturday in New York, one only has a few options: eat early, eat late, or eat at home. Last night we were confronted by Williamsburg Saturday-night economics, four restaurants in a row with over an hour wait, and I was reminded of a story that I read ages ago entitled Pocketful of Dough. The author, Bruce Feiler, is paid by Gourmet magazine to bribe his way into restaurants:

Curious, I hatched a plan. I would go to some of the hardest-to-penetrate restaurants in New York armed with little more than an empty stomach, an iron-clad willingness to be humiliated, and a fistful of dough. Most people (including the editors of this magazine) assumed I would get turned down at half the places on my list. “You’ll never get into Daniel,” said one. “Union Square Cafe?!” said another. “Forget it.”

My plan was to show up between 8:15 and 8:30 on varying nights of the week. I would go with a different companion each night. I would try to get a reservation by telephone that afternoon and go only if I were turned down. And I would carry a twenty and a fifty in my left pocket, and a hundred in my right pocket. I did have an incentive: I could eat at any place I could successfully finagle my way into.

What results is a classic piece of journalism that I cite at least twice a year. That is to say, I am only referring to it, not a practicing bribe-maker. Since the cat has been out of the sack for over 7 years now, I wonder what effect Bruce Feiler has had on wait times in New York? Next time I go to Williamsburg on a Saturday night, I will definitely bring some dough and report back on the timeliness of this technique.

My favorite cocktails in Manhattan

Over the past year I have had some amazing cocktails. As I head into Health Month, I’d like to reflect on some of the cocktails I’ve had over the past year in Manhattan which are probably among the best drinks I’ve had in my life.

  • Eastside Cocktail (gin, cucumber, mint, lime juice, and simple syrup) at Little Branch
  • El Diablo (tequila, homemade ginger beer, Cassis and a taste of citrus) at the Flatiron Lounge.
  • Presbyterian (whiskey, ginger ale and club soda) at the East Side Company Bar.
  • Negroni (Campari, gin and sweet vermouth) sitting outside at the Maritime Hotel.
  • Greyhound (fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and vodka) at Passerby.
  • Bloody mary (tomato juice, vodka, and tasty sundries) at Cookshop.

Until February, this is Cameron’s alcohol palate singing off.

The no-corn-syrup diet

If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or anything else by Michael Pollen, then you are aware of just how ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is. Every can of Coke, dollop of Heinz Ketchup and Fig Newton is full of the stuff. It’s hard to avoid, but it’s also pretty easy to identify on a long list of ingredients. It’s usually towards the beginning.

Pollen’s piece “Unhappy Meals” in the New York Times Magazine identifies how very different America is for eating processed foods, and how it is affecting our health. In this essay refers to “food” as anything that is whole and unprocessed and claims that we should “eat food, not too much, and mostly vegetables.” I think this statement can be easily visualized in the following Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram
Edible products

So all of you detox, Atkins and South Beach dieters, I have a new one for you: the No-Corn-Syrup Dietâ„¢. It’s extremely simple and will have a dramatic impact on your ability to consume things that are processed and bad for you. Here’s how it works:

  1. Read the ingredients of everything you plan to eat. If it contains high-fructose corn syrup, don’t eat it

If these things don’t have a list of ingredients, then you’re either eating “food” or you’re in a foreign country. In either case, you’re probably ok. If you’re unsure about whether the restaurant you’re eating at uses HFCS, ask. Tell them you have an allergy and you’ll either need to find a new restaurant or be pleasantly surprised that some places still cook with “food.”

And the best part about this diet? I won’t charge you a cent for it. It’s yours absolutely free. You can take the money you would have spent on a diet book and invest it into the “food” you’re going to eat, because unfortunately it’s going to cost you more than the processed stuff. But you’ll be happier, and healthier. Sometimes it’s good to invest in your body.

Kobayashi vs. Chestnut: final showdown?

It’s almost Independence Day, and you know what that means… INTERNATIONAL HOT DOG EATING CONTEST. This age-old battle has been dominated by Takeru Kobayashi for the past 6 years, but his closest call came from a rookie named Joey Chestnut at last year’s contest.

Since then, Kobayashi has started suffering from debilitating jaw pain while Chestnut broke the world record on the road to the international contest, gobbling 59 1/2 hot dogs in Arizona, a full 8 more than Kobayashi’s record. Check this video of Chestnut wolfing down hamburgers in a preliminary for the Krystal Square Off:

I did not realize there was such an undertone of nationalism embedded in this competition. And of course Kobayashi went on to win the Krystal hamburger eating contest, barely edging out Chestnut. With a lot of speculation in the air, Kobayashi’s manager (eaters have managers?) has guaranteed that he’ll be in Brooklyn next Wednesday. Well, my manager says I will too.

Secret Value Meal

cheeseburgerEver since McDonald’s invented the Extra Value Mealâ„¢, I was a spirited supporter of the “two cheeseburger meal,” a.k.a. the “Number two.” Suffice to say, I was distraught when it mysteriously disappeared off their menu a little over a year ago. I think they probably lost a small percentage of their market, but those little cheeseburgers couldn’t be profitable anyway. I started eating Big Macs.

Last night I was determined to relive my childhood and eat the “Classic #2,” ((The new school number two is a Quarter Pounder with Cheeseâ„¢, hardly a replacement for a classic.)) so I order two cheeseburgers, medium fries, medium coke. The manager who was hovering about swooped in and asked, “Would you like the value meal?” Of course I answered yes, of course I want to save money. I scanned my value options, no two cheeseburgers with a number. I asked the manager what number it was. “Oh, there’s no number, just a button. They deleted the meal but kept the button.”

So all this time I’ve been settling for a Big Mac, my server has been staring at a button that says TWO CHEESEBURGER VALUE MEAL? What other kinds of discontinued products do they buttons for? Can I get a McDLT just by asking for it? How about some New Coke with that?

We’ve all heard of In-N-Out’s “secret menu,” which offers crazy items like “burger wrapped in lettuce,” or a suicide milk shake. But I never pegged McDonald’s as an easter egg kind of company. Or maybe they’re just trying to minimize their losses from us disenfranchised number 2 people. I’m ready for some answers.