Dining Out

This Week in Food: Couture Pops, Customizable McDonalds Hamburgers, and More

Get your couture pop in various celebrity-themed designs, including Hello Kitty, The Pussycat Dolls, Mel B (I knew the Spice Girls would be involved somewhere), and Kylie and Kendall Jenner.

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Eating Thanksgiving Dinner in a Restaurant is Cheating Y/N

The point of the holiday isn’t to partake of cranberry sauce, which is possibly the best straight-out-of-the-can food there is, but to partake of cranberry sauce across the table from someone you might not ordinarily see or even like all that much. Somebody you know — not some line cook paid $5.50 an hour — has to scrape that cranberry sauce out of the can into a bowl. Otherwise, so help me, it doesn’t count.

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WINTER IS COMING Time to Watch Some Movies

That was my favorite part of Interstellar: sitting in the theater. Especially since it was 3 hours.

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How to Order Chinese Food

In Ruth Reichl’s fabulous memoir Garlic and Sapphires, about her tenure as the New York Times’ food critic, she describes a dim sum experience she had in Flushing with a graduate student from Hong Kong. The student’s advice was to begin by ordering fancy tea.

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Going “Gluten Free” is for Rich People

The author quotes one of the nation’s foremost gluten specialists and celiac doctors, whose diagnosis is that the gluten free phenomenon is not nearly as much about health as it is about class.

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Broke Young People Will Always Have Paris

Paris has the highest minimum wage of any metropolis considered, the equivalent of $12.84 an hour. Berlin is in 2nd place with a minimum wage of $11.86 and Rome is third.

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Save Your Money, Stick to Wine

Fancy-shmancy restaurants serve fancy-shmancy cocktails full of ingredients you’ve never heard of, so that you will pay too much to get drunk on something gross and then, because you’re drunk, buy more and more expensive food and wine than you planned to and then, the next morning, wake up gout-y, dehydrated, and poor, wondering where it all went wrong. Don’t worry, the Times is on it:

a restaurant is way more likely to hand you a not-good drink than a bar that prides itself on cocktail conjuring. … restaurants have come to depend on these [cocktail] lists for extra revenue, which comes in two forms: the margin on the cocktails, and the extra cash that first drink of the evening may pry loose from a customer’s money clip.

“It’s an unspoken truth in the business,” said Eben Freeman, who used to superintend the bars operated by Mr. White’s Altamarea Group and recently moved to a similar job with AvroKo. “You’re hoping to get a cocktail sale in before they settle down with the wine list. The dark side is that they will drink the cocktail faster” than a glass of wine, he continued. “And it will affect their decision-making, and might cause them to get the steak for two. Or the more expensive bottle of wine.”

The only way to escape this endless, torturous loop is to stare down your server and decline the cocktail menu altogether. Stand strong, America! Only you can prevent Atomic Fireballs.

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The Cost of Things: Shake Shack Around the World

Danny Meyer’s take on better-than-average-burger-and-fries has gone global. Though the appeal of fast food is predictability and consistency, meals at Shack Shack still vary in cost. The trademark burger in the original Madison Square Park location “is now $4.95 at the flagship location, which is actually cheaper than the original inflation-adjusted price from the summer of 2004,” Eater.com explains. But what about the rest of the world? 

The world’s cheapest Shake Shack, in U.S. dollars, is in Moscow, where a burger, fries and a shake currently cost 495 rubles ($12.38). … The world’s most expensive Shake Shack — in US dollars — is at The Dubai International Airport, where a meal consisting of a burger, shake and fries would cost over $23. This is important because DXB is the world’s seventh busiest airport, with over 66 million passengers in 2013. And the in-house Shake Shack, located in Terminal 3 (the worlds largest building by floor space), is open 24/7. That means a whole lot of folks from around the world stand to have their first encounter with a Shake Shack at a very expensive Shake Shack.

To be fair, the DXB Shake Shack is a captive audience Shack, where a certain level of higher prices is anticipated. But just so we’re clear on how expensive it is, consider the following: A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese costs 12 AED at the Middle Eastern airport, which is 16 percent cheaper than the New York East Village price of $3.89. By comparison, Shake Shack’s 33 AED ($8.91) for a burger is about 80 percent higher than what it costs in NYC. That’s a heck of a markup. Still, this author would rather splurge on a Shack Burger if marooned here, rather than ingest the awfulness that is McDonald’s.

Other Middle Eastern and London locations also charge more, but who goes to those places to eat at Shake Shack? Especially in London, I’m sure there’s a local hamburger worth trying. Right? While in the Middle East you will eat your falafel and you will like it.

Photo: Niki Achitoff-Gray/Serious Eats

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Book It! Alumni: Get a Free Personal Pan Pizza

I know a lot of us on The Billfold are “readers of a certain age,” and many of us proudly spent our elementary school years reading books, affixing stickers to a huge, dorky button, and wearing our Book It! buttons to Pizza Hut so we could get our free Personal Pan Pizza.

Well, get ready to nostalgize so hard, because Book It! is offering alumni the opportunity to get a free Personal Pan Pizza once again—and you don’t even have to read anything.

Just go to the Book It! alumni site, enter your name, age, location, occupation, and former elementary school, and get your coupon. (I don’t know how quickly you’ll get your coupon; mine hasn’t shown up yet.) (UPDATE: I GOT IT.)

Mmmmm… Personal Pan Pizza. You got to choose your own topping (I always picked black olives), you didn’t have to share it with anyone, and your whole family got to go to Pizza Hut because of you. It was a genius scheme, and I can hardly wait to taste that sweet, greasy Personal Pan flavor again.

Photo: Marco

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Visiting Hogwarts When You’re Broke

Yeah, I paid $31.12 for an enchanted (discounted) piece of plastic. But *it* chose *me.*

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