Food

Would You Pay for a Restaurant Reservation?

Getting a restaurant reservation for a popular restaurant can sometimes feel like an impossible task. A friend of mine once wrote a long, lovely letter to a restaurant owner to get a reservation, while another friend was able to land a reservation by using a concierge service via his credit card. I tend to wait until the hype has died down a bit before making an attempt to dine at whatever restaurant just received a load of glowing reviews, or join a dinner party that managed to get a reservation through some kind of hookup.

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A Drunk Stole My Kale. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!

Today’s Link of the Day, a gripping tale of tragedy, redemption, and kale, comes from the vibrant, increasingly yuppie Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.

About two weeks ago, my Tuscan kale plant disappeared. … we wrote it off as lost, a casualty of the urban environment in which we knew fenceless gardening to be a risk. And then, over the weekend, we found this wet note sticking out from under a flowerpot. [Note reads: "To: Wonderful Gardener. From: A Remorseful Kale Thief (I was drunk & I'm very sorry."] Attached to the back was a $25 gift card to Ace Hardware, where we plan to restock our gardening supplies in the spring. Never has my faith in humanity been more emphatically restored. Kale thief, if you’re reading this, all is forgiven and then some.

Back in the early days of our relationship, Ben borrowed my laptop and left it attended for a moment in the law school library. Some other enterprising law student, no doubt bound to be one of those shysters who advertises on billboards using dollar signs, made off with it. Ben was devastated — so upset, in fact, that I ended up calming down so that I could calm him down. (Good trick, btw, if you can pull it off.)

What’s the most valuable thing anyone has ever stolen from you? Did the thief make recompense somehow? Or have you ever had to express your remorse for taking something that wasn’t yours?

Photo via Washington City Paper

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How to Eat Right, Office Lunch Edition

Keep almonds by your computer. What if I don’t like almonds? Also, they’re expensive. STOP TELLING ME TO EAT ALMONDS, unless you feel like subsidizing my almonds, and/or dipping them in chocolate for me.

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The Cost of Making My Own Sub Sandwich

As you may have heard earlier this week, I broke up with Jimmy John’s.

“I’ll just make my own delicious sandwiches!” I told myself. “I can be fast! I can be freaky!”

So I went to the grocery store and got the supplies I needed to simulate my favorite Jimmy John’s sandwich, the Number 6 With Pep.

Supplies:

French demi baguette: $0.99

Cucumber: $0.99

Tomato: $0.42

Avocado: $0.99

Sliced provolone cheese: $2.29 (but I only used 1/3 of the package, so technically $0.76)

Sliced hot peppers: $3.99 (but I only used a few slices, so… we’ll say $0.25)

Mayonnaise, salt, pepper: I already had these in the apartment, and I should figure out exactly how much a shake of salt costs, but I’m not going to do that. How about another $0.25 for these three supplies.

Total cost: $4.65

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Love and Nostagia for the Cheaper Stuff

Sometimes the best things in life are the cheap things.

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Eating Bugs (Bunny)

Rabbit is a more environmentally friendly meat than most alternatives, writes Tamar Adler at Vogue. It’s lean, it’s easy to raise, and it’s also cheap.

Rabbits are so inexpensive to raise that organizations such as USAID, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and Heifer International have, since 2010, funded tiny rabbitries in Haiti as a way of alleviating the many burdens of poverty. The Haitian Rabbit Project’s 1,250 farms provide dependable income and create more food than its rabbit keepers’ families can typically eat. …

I wonder if his rabbits are raised outside, in the meadow. “There’s no such thing as a free-range rabbit,” he says. Even in the wild, rabbits find dark, contained places to huddle—e.g., tunnels. They obviously hop about on their furry legs, but not to graze or sun, only to get from one small shaded place to another. Put directly: Chickens suffer from being in little cages, as would cows and pigs. Put a rabbit on a field and he will naturally find himself a dark, cramped place.

If it’s an affordable and more ethical alternative, could you eat something so cuddly? Does the cuddliness even matter, or is it all protein to you?

RELATED: Virginia Heffernan addresses the treadmill of figuring out weeknight dinners. (“Cooking! Aren’t we past that?”) She and Amanda Marcotte should hang out.

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How to Make Meatless Monday Your Favorite Day of the Week

So far my thirties have been the tightest years of my life, budget-wise. I didn’t stop buying meat and dairy for that reason, but it’s a fortunate coincidence, because going vegan has helped me avoid food-related credit card debt. I bought meat to serve guests recently and I was stunned by the price (granted, I was at Whole Foods). For the cost of four chicken breasts, I could feed myself healthy vegan lunches and dinners for a week.

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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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A Review of Pizza Hut’s Nostalgia Pizza

Have you ordered your free Pizza Hut Book It! Alumni nostalgia pizza yet?

I ordered mine last night, and will provide a thoughtful and nuanced review of the experience.

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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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Here Is Your Open Thread

Tamar Adler, in The New York Times Magazine, on cooking and eating when it’s just you at the dinner table.

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