Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Box of Wine, A Loaf of Bread, and Thou--Huh?

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness -
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Edward FitzGerald translation, 1858

Recently,  I saw a story online about the challenges of the restaurant business with losses being posted by various restaurants. I like the idea of eating out in restaurants, but I don't patronize very many or very often. Who doesn't enjoy a relaxing meal when you don't spend hours cooking, and a meal with conversation with dinner companions? Before we retired, we ate out often.  When we used to eat out, we would set aside half of the meal, request a box, and take half of it home. We never ate as much food as restaurants served. So we weren't too offended by sticker shock for a dinner out for two was actually dinner for four.

Nevertheless, I was always offended, as a seasoned cook, to pay gratuities that could run to ten dollars per meal just to have someone walk my food from the kitchen to my table. I can buy two whole chickens for that amount. Generally, I don't like dealing with servers. The only reason I would need their name is in case they disappear for too long and I don't want to wait all night. Generally the problem is that they want to turn over the table several times during the night and they rush you through the meal . Sometimes the person who delivers the food isn't even the person who takes the order. I don't like to spend a lot of time socializing with the servers because I want to socialize with the persons eating dinner with me. Sometimes if you eat at a buffet, servers don't really do anything but expect tips anyway.

I've been cooking for a long time and technique is something I notice. I tend to be demanding about quality of the cooking and I don't like things over-cooked or under-cooked. I like food to be hot enough that I think it has just been cooked. Getting the food to meet my requirements is hard because they are cooking for a lot of people and some cooks have more experience than others. I don't like to send back dishes because that causes a whole bunch of situations. What I get as a result of that practice takes longer, and isn't usually any better than what I sent back. It has to be pretty bad for me to return a dish to the kitchen. I have done so, but it is quite a bother. I wouldn't send back a dish just so they comp the meal, but some places do that. They have to make a living too and I don't like to try to cheat them. If the restaurant is a bad one, I just don't return. Since I tend to avoid fatty foods and things with cheese or bacon, food prep becomes an issue in a restaurant. Olive oil is a favorite of mine and I prefer meats or fish baked or broiled. I like to avoid fried stuff.

My biggest quarrel with restaurants concerns the drinks. I can buy a 5 liter box of red or white wine at a wholesale liquor store for $14. Depending on who is pouring, a box of wine yields what we guesstimate to cost less than fifty cents per glass of wine. In a restaurant, most wine will run $4.50 per glass, which is rock bottom cheapest, and wine can cost up to the sky depending on how picky your palate happens to be. Some restaurants even serve their cheap wines in juice glasses so they can also insult you for buying the cheapest house wine. Those are the restaurants where I order beer. I'm not a wine snob and I have very unschooled taste buds so I'm not impressed by a $500 bottle of wine. I'm not a brew snob, so I don't know the taste of one beer from the other. Any beer that is very, very cold works for me. The price of the wine is put with the total cost of the meal so that there is also a surcharge for tips on the wine. I'm not a gourmet and I hate paying excessive amounts for wine, beer, food, or servers. When you can find a BYOB, they charge a corking fee. I use any coupon I can find and they won't be able to stay in business with many customers like me.

Since I'm not Romney with megabucks hidden in the Cayman Islands, we seldom eat out. Now that I am retired, I prefer to spend my money in other ways.


  1. I'm right there with you on everything. We're boxed wine drinkers too. We can hardly tell cheap from expensive wines.

  2. These days, it's much more environmentally friendly to buy wine in boxes, and they make good ones, too. I use Bota Box wine and I can't fault the quality. We don't go out to eat much any more, but it's mostly because we are trying NOT to celebrate by using food, finding other ways to appreciate special events. :-)

  3. When you are a good cook as you are, it doesn't make sense to pay extra to go out to eat, does it? I like cooking for myself and eating out is only for the benefit of friends who want to eat out. I seldom eat out these days, but like you, when I worked I wanted to eat out more often because I used energy at work and didn't want to cook when I got home. The crock pot came in handy then.

  4. I enjoy eating out, whether at a restaurant or at a friend's or relative's home. I sure do get tired of my own cooking.

  5. We've gotten into the habit of going out to eat alot. Sometimes it's quite enjoyable, especially at places where I wouldn't be able to create the same dishes. I have made Korean food, but not being a Korean it's simply NOT the same.
    Other places we should avoid .. burger/steak/pasta restaurants as I can make all of that (and healthier) at home! Still, we go out often. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty knowing the money could have gone for other things. And you're right about the tipping. Even though we do generally tip pretty well, I do think that it's unfair. In one place, say the diner, the bill is so little and the waitress gets next to nothing in tips but at a restaurant for breakfast or brunch where the meal is much more the waitress gets higher tips but for the same amount of work.
    I like places where they allow you to bring your own bottle and don't charge a corking fee.

  6. I love going out to eat, but I also like cooking at home. It's just nice to have a break once or twice a week. When I'm in America, Cracker Barrel is my favourite because they sell tasty, home-cooked food. I never drink wine so that doesn't concern me. In England we don't always tip the waiter or waitress. It depends on how good a job they do. I would never tip for a lunchtime meal, but I probably would if it was an evening do.
    Thank you for your comments on my recent post.