Leftovers

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eating free on your birthday

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 10:50 AM

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Fat City turns one year old next week. Birthdays are always a fun time, and if you play your cards right, they can be a perfect opportunity to get free stuff from restaurants.

The blog Rambling Hussies has put together a list of metro-area chains that honor birthday boys and girls. For lunch, you could have a free sandwich from Planet Sub or a free burger from Red Robin. At dinner, Zarda Barbecue will give you free ribs, while The Bristol and its sister Houlihan's both offer free entrees. For dessert, you have your choice between Cold Stone Creamery and Baskin-Robbins -- both chains offer free ice cream.

The catch is, you often have to sign up for a restaurant's e-mail list or join its club or register in some other way. Registration forms generally ask for your birthdate, and more often than not restaurants will mail you a coupon for a free item on your big day. The other downside is that using a birthday coupon alerts the staff it's your birthday at that point, pretty much any plan for a low-key celebration is out the window. Yes, you'll probably get a free dessert, but it's at the expense of every other diner in the restaurant knowing it's your special day.

Garozzo's -- which offers free chicken spiedini on birthdays -- doesn't make you register, but it does ask for your ID. An even more exhaustive list is available at Spoofee.com. You could easily live to 100 and never have to pay for a meal on your birthday again.

Image via Flickr: Jessica N. Diamond


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Thursday, June 25, 2009

I see an ICEE

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2009 at 1:30 PM

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The ICEE has often been imitated, but purists know that nothing compares with the blue-and-red-striped cup and the incredibly cold and sweet liquid ice. And the inevitable brain freeze.

Maybe this is just idyllic childhood talking, but didn't there used to be an ICEE machine on practically every corner? Or at least in every gas station? These days, the machines aren't

exactly rare, but it can be hard to find one. Especially when you need

an ICEE fix on 100-degree days like we've had this week.

Enter the ICEE location tracker.


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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Goodnight Mr. Budweiser: the commericals of Ed McMahon

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 9:35 AM

Ed McMahon's death was sort of overshadowed by all the rest of the news in the world yesterday. But let's not forget the man who introduced, sat next to and laughed with Johnny Carson for three decades. McMahon also starred in his share of commercials, most famously for Publishers Clearing House and Cash4Gold. But back in the late '60s and early '70s, Ed McMahon was Mr. Budweiser, his everyman persona and friendly demeanor extolling the virtues of "America's greatest beer."

Always ready to be the sidekick, he played second-banana to Frank Sinatra in this one:
 


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barney Frank: a one-man decriminalizing-pot machine

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2009 at 11:15 AM

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For better or worse, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank has seen his profile rise in the past year. He's chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee and was one of the bailout's most vocal backers, urging fellow members to pass it. Then, after losing confidence in Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, he became one of the most vocal backers for putting restrictions on that same TARP money.

But when Frank is not saving the economy, he's got other things on his mind, specifically sweet, sweet bud.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Manipulative menus

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 10:50 AM

Pictures and font varieties like on this City Tavern menu are key to bumping up sales
  • Pictures and font varieties like on this City Tavern menu are key to bumping up sales


Gone are the days when a menu was a simple piece of paper listing items and prices. Restaurants see it as the last piece of advertising a guest sees before ordering. So it's only natural that large restaurant chains have brought in psychologists and sociologists and lots of other professions whose titles end in "ologist" to make menus as effective as can be.

Certain little tricks can improve sales up to 10 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association. The adjective "marinated" increases sales while "fried" has the opposite effect. (Try pan-browned instead.) Daily specials should be highlighted in a different font or preferably a different color. Pictures and drawings help. The "power position" on the menu should be on the right page and just above center level. This is the spot for items with "high margin and appeal." Dollar signs are to be avoided.

Some good examples in Kansas City:

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Grown-up foods

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 10:45 AM

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When you're a child, it's not uncommon to sometimes think of your parents as weird. Especially some of the foods they eat. Say, vegetables or shell fish or hamburgers cooked medium-rare.

Sometimes tastes don't evolve -- hence the reason Mexican restaurants feature chicken fingers on adult menus. But more often than not, the foods that seemed so foreign to us as children become some of our favorites.

Author Accidental Hedonist describes the change that happened with oysters.

When I was younger, oysters were slimy things, often bought from the tin, and often smoked ... Now as I've aged (and have moved to a region of the country where oysters are plentiful), I find myself migrating to dishes that contain the mollusk, regardless of whether it's raw, cooked, or deep fried.

But it's not just oysters. Other foods that I have once disdained I've recently rediscovered. The ultimate test, I suppose, if anyone could make liver an interesting treat.

Why and how do our tastes evolve? It's mostly a mystery. Of the five tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami), children seemed programmed to react positively to sweetness and adversely to bitterness. As people reach adolescence, saltiness starts playing a more important role and sweetness takes a back seat. (People remain divided on bitter.) It stays relatively the same for adults, though our sense of smell decreases with age, causing older people seek out stronger foods.

Whatever the reason, just be thankful kids don't like foods like oysters since it saves that much more for us adults.

(Image via Flickr: Daniel James)

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Need a job? The pros and cons of being a Hooter's waitress

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 10:30 AM

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Pity the poor Hooter's waitress. Not only does she have to do the extremely demanding job of serving while wearing warning-vest-orange shorts, but lately rival chains have been swooping up loyal customers with cheaper food and even more scantily clad women.

As if that wasn't bad enough, she has to deal with a slew of corporate rules. Even down to the color of her bra.

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The way the world eats on the go

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 9:47 AM

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German curator Mike Meire has put together a collection of street-vendor carts from around the world. His show, Global Street Food, is "dedicated to the fascination with improvised kitchens in public places. Urban fast food stations

navigating the contrast between pragmatic dilettantism and complexity in the smallest of spaces."

The collection focuses on the countries of Vietnam, Uganda, China, Sudan, Mexico, Argentina and the good ol' USA. The above picture is of a sausage and cheese cart native to Argentina.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Generic versus brand-name

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 12:00 PM

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Let it be said once and for all that when it comes to ketchup, no restaurant should mess around with anything but Heinz. Sure, it's all well and good to have premium house-made ketchup but if some people don't want that (and they won't) you better have that classic awkward-pouring glass bottle ready just in case.

There are only a few other food basics that merit such loyalty. Hershey's chocolate syrup, Oreo cookies, Tabasco, Frank's Red Hot Sauce and Sriracha, for instance. Yet in categories where there's no one correct product people still buy name brands over store brands. Is it worth it to spend the extra 50 cents on Jolly Green Giant spinach versus the grocery store's brand?
 
The financial Web site The Street looked into the question and came up with a surprising conclusion: As the difference in quality between name brands and store brands has declined, the social stigma of buying the cheaper store brand has all but disappeared.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Fear Mother Nature

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2009 at 11:15 AM

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The movie Food, Inc comes out later this week, promising to rip into Big Ag and all the evil it has done.

Big Ag, or Big Food as it's also called (really, anything with "big" in the title will work, the better to remind people of similarities to Big Tobacco) consists of a handful of companies -- Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Mars -- that control a majority of food products.

The companies have drawn the ire of green supporters for years, but it's only been recently, through the efforts of writers like Michael Pollan and books such as Fast Food Nation, that the public has come to understand the practices of Big Ag. Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack happen to be two people influenced by the green movement and this has Big Ag worried.

But as Slate reports, Big Ag's worries go well beyond the government. The weather has been particularly unkind the past several years, with unbearably hot summers, late-season freezes and droughts. It's a catch-22 for the industry: Its model of cheap food is built on cheap fuel to bring water to plants, make fertilizer and transport products. But fossil fuels only exacerbate the problems of nature.

Last year's spike in oil prices quickly drove food prices higher, even

contributing to food shortages in parts of the world ... And then there are the reports that the world is down to a few decades' supply of phosphorus,

a key ingredient in synthetic fertilizer. One of Big Food's favorite

refrains is the need for synthetics in order to feed the world. Yet it

continues to lack long-term plans for providing adequate, affordable

amounts of the stuff.

Although Slate doesn't mention it, what it's implying is that Big Ag will eventually lead us to a dust-bowl situation where a combination of Mother Nature and bad farming practices leads to disaster. Signs of another Dust Bowl have begun to appear in California, where a lack of rain for the last three years has led to permanent drought conditions and an abundance of wildfires.

(Image via Flickr: Georgie Rain)

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