“A group of eight of us dined at Per Se a few years ago, and one couple, who are true oenophiles and collect great wines from around the world brought three bottles from their collection. They offered the sommelier some from each bottle, which he gladly enjoyed.. We then purchased a bottle of Per Se’s wine along with some cocktails before dinner. The couple bringing the wine live in Napa Valley and are regular customers at French Laundry, Keller’s other restaurant. Given those parameters, the couple politely asked if perhaps one of the corkage fees might be waived, but a flat “no” was given. So much for negotiating fees.”
A commenter responds to my EATER ARTICLE about Per Se’s new $150 corkage fee, and the assertion that some culinary establishments will waive those fees if one buys a bottle off the restaurant’s list in addition to bringing wine from a private collection. Agree? Disagree? Let us know!
Nineteen percent of New Yorkers surveyed by Gallup said they struggled to afford food at least once over the past year, compared with a nationwide high of 23% in West Virginia and 25.1% in Mississippi.
New York is on the higher end of the scale, with residents of Alaska and New Hampshire being the least likely to have a hard time with food costs. “Americans’ growing struggles to afford food may be linked to a rise in food prices across the country, particularly meat prices, while national incomes have largely flat-lined since the recession," Gallup wrote. Sad news.

Nineteen percent of New Yorkers surveyed by Gallup said they struggled to afford food at least once over the past year, compared with a nationwide high of 23% in West Virginia and 25.1% in Mississippi.

New York is on the higher end of the scale, with residents of Alaska and New Hampshire being the least likely to have a hard time with food costs. “Americans’ growing struggles to afford food may be linked to a rise in food prices across the country, particularly meat prices, while national incomes have largely flat-lined since the recession," Gallup wrote. Sad news.

I’ll be joining Eater as a restaurant critic and a data guy! Am humbled to be working with other new hires like steakmaster Nick Solares, jack-of-all trades Robert Sietsema, and national restaurant editor Bill Addison. Am also stoked to say I’ll continue filling The Price Hike & The Bad Deal with great content, both original and from around the web. I’m very grateful to all of who’ve read The Hike & The Deal over the past three years! You’re the BEST!

I’ll be joining Eater as a restaurant critic and a data guy! Am humbled to be working with other new hires like steakmaster Nick Solares, jack-of-all trades Robert Sietsema, and national restaurant editor Bill Addison. Am also stoked to say I’ll continue filling The Price Hike & The Bad Deal with great content, both original and from around the web. I’m very grateful to all of who’ve read The Hike & The Deal over the past three years! You’re the BEST!

Anna Savittieri has launched a KICKSTARTER to fund her documentary about tipping in the hospitality industry. Tipping, in its unique American form, involves guests deciding how much money a server will earn on a given night by “rewarding” them with a gratuity. 

Savittieri, a third-year student at McGill, will travel to Washington DC, Chicago, New York and Boston to interview members of the service industry as part of her film. To achieve this, Anna’s looking to raise $1,550. Let’s hope she gets many times more than that. And let’s hope she can swing by San Francisco as well, where the servers make a full $10.55 before tips, instead of the federal tipped minimum, of $2.13. 

We at The Bad Deal & The Price Hike have been long been in favor of abolishing tipping in favor of service-included pricing along the lines of Sushi Yasuda, which banned tipping last year. That move, of course, followed Thomas Keller’s decision to go service-included at Per Se in 2005. 

We hope and believe that more restaurants will follow. Such European-style policies make it easier for restaurants to put waiters on salary and guarantee them steady incomes. And such policies also allow for restaurants to better address the pay disparity between front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house staffers; cooks can earn much less than waiters at high-end restaurants.

And that rebalancing of incomes is why some expensive restaurants legitimately fear that going service-included will cause wait staffs to defect, as it would almost certainly involve pay cuts for servers. We hope Savittieri address that in her film. 

We could go on. But for now, watch the excellent “teaser trailer” for Savittieri’s documentary. We wish her luck. (Kickstarter). 

This week in my Bloomberg News review I award two stars to Costata, the new steakhouse by chef Michael White & Ahmass Fakahany. The steaks are decent but the wine list is superb, with a particularly deep by-the-glass selection; there are over fifty pours ranging from $11 to $145. 
That list is made possible by a neat little piece of science equipment called the Coravin. It costs $300 and it lets restaurants pour glasses of wine from bottles without actually opening them. 
Costata, along with Del Posto, was one of the few restaurants that got a chance to test drive the Coravin before it debuted to the public this summer, and Del Posto’s Jeff Porter gave a thoughtful interview to Eater’s Levi Dalton explaining why the device is so revolutionary. Briefly: The Coravin uses a surgical needle of sorts to allow the diner to access a glass of wine from a given bottle without buying the full bottle. In turn, the restaurant doesn’t have to sell the rest of the bottle by the glass that night because the bottle technically hasn’t been opened or exposed to oxidation. 
Here’s how a spokesperson for AltaMarea Group described the importance of the device: “Coravin is growing and off the charts, allowing clients to have a memorable glass with crudo without ordering a whole bottle of white and be able to get that elusive final glass of wine with your steak when you have drops left in the bottle. It is a customer win win.”
I asked AltaMarea Beverage Director Hristo Zisovski about whether it also might allow big-spenders to access not just the official “wines by the coravin” but any high-end bottle of wine, an important question in our somewhat modest post-Bear, post-Lehman, and post-Cru era. Here’s what he had to say about that, about how Coravin helps him manage his inventory, and about how it aids customers who want to take their wine home “in a doggy bag.” 

Hristo Zisovski: The Coravin has been more popular than we expected. We’re seeing many glasses sold every night as of the first week we’ve been open. We were lucky to be 1 of 5 restaurants to test the product before it was launched in July. Marea & Ai Fiori started with it this month and our upcoming Ristorante Morini will also offer it later this year.The device is great because if offers a fantastic bottle of wine to a guest in portion sizes instead of having to commit to the entire bottle. It’s like adding one more layer of depth to someone looking at half bottles on a wine list to find a more premium option over standard wines by the glass.
Here’s why our guests like using Coravin:
When ordering a premium bottle, they have an option of finding another glass to start or finish their meal with of equal caliber.
They can choose to take a partial bottle home. From my experience, a pierced bottle of wine under Coravin can stay fresh for almost a year. If a guest wants to continue with another bottle of the same wine but doesn’t need an entire bottle, she can still purchase the bottle off our list and use the Coravin to control how much they want to drink. Then she can take the rest of the ‘unopened bottle’ home and pop the cork of this fresh bottle at their convenience. There are many combinations in which you can offer this service as well; say, one person wants “this” bottle of white & the other person want “that” bottle of red. We can offer to use Coravin for them to take what they don’t drink back home with them.
It also helps move through cellar inventory faster so we can keep the inventory moving and fresh on the list. As far as opening up wines we wouldn’t normally open, absolutely. With such a premium option, it’s important for the guest to recognize the wines priced on the higher end (Sassicaia, Marcassin, Lynch Bages) but then we can have fun on the more entry-level Coravin pours to introduce guests to things we feel would round off our half bottle selections as an option. It’s wonderful to have the ability to get something new in a guest’s glass that they wouldn’t normally think of as a glass wine. When I put this list together, I basically put together a list of greatest hits that I & my sommeliers want to drink.

This week in my Bloomberg News review I award two stars to Costata, the new steakhouse by chef Michael White & Ahmass Fakahany. The steaks are decent but the wine list is superb, with a particularly deep by-the-glass selection; there are over fifty pours ranging from $11 to $145.

That list is made possible by a neat little piece of science equipment called the Coravin. It costs $300 and it lets restaurants pour glasses of wine from bottles without actually opening them.

Costata, along with Del Posto, was one of the few restaurants that got a chance to test drive the Coravin before it debuted to the public this summer, and Del Posto’s Jeff Porter gave a thoughtful interview to Eater’s Levi Dalton explaining why the device is so revolutionary. Briefly: The Coravin uses a surgical needle of sorts to allow the diner to access a glass of wine from a given bottle without buying the full bottle. In turn, the restaurant doesn’t have to sell the rest of the bottle by the glass that night because the bottle technically hasn’t been opened or exposed to oxidation.

Here’s how a spokesperson for AltaMarea Group described the importance of the device: “Coravin is growing and off the charts, allowing clients to have a memorable glass with crudo without ordering a whole bottle of white and be able to get that elusive final glass of wine with your steak when you have drops left in the bottle. It is a customer win win.”

I asked AltaMarea Beverage Director Hristo Zisovski about whether it also might allow big-spenders to access not just the official “wines by the coravin” but any high-end bottle of wine, an important question in our somewhat modest post-Bear, post-Lehman, and post-Cru era. Here’s what he had to say about that, about how Coravin helps him manage his inventory, and about how it aids customers who want to take their wine home “in a doggy bag.”

Hristo Zisovski: The Coravin has been more popular than we expected. We’re seeing many glasses sold every night as of the first week we’ve been open. We were lucky to be 1 of 5 restaurants to test the product before it was launched in July. Marea & Ai Fiori started with it this month and our upcoming Ristorante Morini will also offer it later this year.

The device is great because if offers a fantastic bottle of wine to a guest in portion sizes instead of having to commit to the entire bottle. It’s like adding one more layer of depth to someone looking at half bottles on a wine list to find a more premium option over standard wines by the glass.

Here’s why our guests like using Coravin:

When ordering a premium bottle, they have an option of finding another glass to start or finish their meal with of equal caliber.

They can choose to take a partial bottle home. From my experience, a pierced bottle of wine under Coravin can stay fresh for almost a year. If a guest wants to continue with another bottle of the same wine but doesn’t need an entire bottle, she can still purchase the bottle off our list and use the Coravin to control how much they want to drink. Then she can take the rest of the ‘unopened bottle’ home and pop the cork of this fresh bottle at their convenience. There are many combinations in which you can offer this service as well; say, one person wants “this” bottle of white & the other person want “that” bottle of red. We can offer to use Coravin for them to take what they don’t drink back home with them.

It also helps move through cellar inventory faster so we can keep the inventory moving and fresh on the list. As far as opening up wines we wouldn’t normally open, absolutely. With such a premium option, it’s important for the guest to recognize the wines priced on the higher end (Sassicaia, Marcassin, Lynch Bages) but then we can have fun on the more entry-level Coravin pours to introduce guests to things we feel would round off our half bottle selections as an option. It’s wonderful to have the ability to get something new in a guest’s glass that they wouldn’t normally think of as a glass wine. When I put this list together, I basically put together a list of greatest hits that I & my sommeliers want to drink.

“According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly four million people would be removed from the food stamp program under the House bill. A Census Bureau report released on Tuesday found that the food stamp program had kept about four million people above the poverty level and had prevented millions more from sinking further into poverty.”
The House bill passed, cutting $40 billion from the food stamp program. President Obama has threatened to veto the measure. (Source: NYT). 

Sorry, Folks. Vegetables Are Mad Expensive.

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I’m in Napa Valley, California, at the Restaurant at Meadowood’s chef’s counter, which is a fancy way of saying I’m sitting in someone’s kitchen. There are outdoor seats, which overlook the croquet course. I opt for the indoor seats, because I rather watch chefs make food than rich guys hit croquet balls. Creedence Clearwater is playing on an iPod hooked up to Bose Speakers. “I ain’t no millionaire’s son,” John Fogerty croons. The cost of my meal is $500 before tax, wine, and booze. I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m ready for a ton of caviar. And what I get is a ton of leaves, roots, and flowers. WTF.

A bunch of radishes appear in front of me. They look no different from the radishes I pass by and forget about at my local Key Foods. These radishes, however, are fermented in champagne yeast. I pop one in my mouth. Tastes like a radish. So what? Then something happens. The flavor goes on. And on. And on. Sort of the same way you can taste uni a few minutes after you eat it. I take a sip of Billecart vintage Champagne (gotta live, right?), and the flavor is doubled. I’m giddy now, in the same way I once got giddy about knocking back some Dom Ruinart with a whole lot of Israeli caviar at Le Bernardin. 

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And that was all before they gave me this kale crisp pictured here. Chef Christopher Kostow makes it by pureeing kale with tapioca, drying it and frying it. It wasn’t so much a regular kale chip as it was kale impersonating a pork rind. Yep, kale can do it all. Instead of dip, the kale rind comes with a few dots of chorizo-flavored kale puree. Meadowood isn’t the kind of place where you ask for a bowl of sour cream dip flavored with powdered French onion soup mix. How did it al taste? Like kale, times ten. So no, we’re not talking  about “fig on a plate” vegetables here. We’re not talking crudites. We’re talking about manipulating vegetables from the point of growth, to the point of cooking, to the point of consumption. We’re talking about cooking good food, dammit. And that all costs good money. 

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Refinery 29 Names The Bad Deal & The Price Hike to List of Eight "Must Know" Food Empires4

We’re honored and humbled to make Refinery 29’s short list, which includes Alex Stupak, Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone, and others that we look up to! Many thanks to Carlye Wisel, this report’s author, for thinking of us!

The Price Hike & The Bad Deal are just over two years old and we hope we can bring you some GOOD DEAL growth in the coming two years! In the meantime, thanks to the good people at Tumblr for hosting us, to the good people at Bloomberg News for being awesome, and to you good folks for reading our esoteric little tumblr blogs!

— Ryan Sutton, The Editor

NYC's Sushi Yasuda Eliminates Tipping. Waiters Get Salaries. Everyone Wins.4

Our sister site The Price Hike breaks the good news about Sushi Yasuda no longer accepting gratuities. Recall that we were talking with Manresa’s David Kinch just last week about how American-style tipping can hurt both diners and servers. Here’s hoping that more U.S. restaurants follow; Eater’s Raphel Brion tells us Black Star Co-op in Austin has a similar policy. Check it out.

pricehike:

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Are Servers Hospitality Industry Mercenaries?

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Here’s the second-half of our phone interview with David Kinch, the chef behind the two Michelin-starred Manresa in Los Gatos, California. Dinner is $130 per person for the short tasting, $185 for the longer menu. Service, like at most American restaurants, is not included and is at the discretion of the individual guests. Sure, good guests will tip 20%, but we’ve long argued that adding a service charge (in the style of Coi, Brooklyn Fare, Alinea or Atera), or adopting service-included pricing (in the style of European restaurants) is the fairest solution for both restaurants and for diners. 

Such policies give guests a more transparent picture of exactly how much they’ll be spending. Such policies, can also have positive economic benefits for the staff, but we’ll let chef Kinch talk about that in his own words. Keep in mind that Kinch once worked at the late, lamented Quilted Giraffe, one of the first NYC restaurants in the modern era to (controversially) impose a service charge on guests. Here we go: 

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How do you feel about French Laundry and Per Se-style “service included” policies? Would you ever adopt such a system?I would love to do it. It’s the last major hurdle that’s is holding back dining in America. We are the last major industrial nation, civilized nation, where tipping is still in effect. I think it is holding back an entire half of the industry. The hospitality industry is about service. Servers will always be treated as a domestic, as a hired gun, if they’re paid like a domestic, if they have this carrot dangled in front of them. ‘If you don’t give good service, you’re not getting your 15%.’ It’s a terrible mindset. And I don’t see the whole of America coming out of it because it’s so ingrained, which is a real pity. 

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Cronut Scalping Operations (CSOs) on Craigslist have expanded. That’s no surprise, because really, when there’s money to be made on such riskless pastry arbitrage, there’s going to be more than just one person doing it! 
As we all know by know, cronuts are a trademarked croissant-donut hybrid, which Dominique Ansel Bakery debuted in New York a few weeks back. Black market prices started as high as $40 over the weekend (as we first reported, even though Fox News isn’t giving us credit), a whopping 635% markup above retail, but more affordable offers have appeared as competition grows among the scalpers. The lowest priced cronut on Craiglist is now $10, a more reasonable 83% markup from the base price (plus tax) of $5.44 per pastry.
Keep in mind that Dominique Ansel, per a receptionist, has cut the max order per customer to three cronuts, down from six. So what say you people of earth? Are scalped cronuts a BUY HOLD OR SELL at these prices?

Cronut Scalping Operations (CSOs) on Craigslist have expanded. That’s no surprise, because really, when there’s money to be made on such riskless pastry arbitrage, there’s going to be more than just one person doing it! 

As we all know by know, cronuts are a trademarked croissant-donut hybrid, which Dominique Ansel Bakery debuted in New York a few weeks back. Black market prices started as high as $40 over the weekend (as we first reported, even though Fox News isn’t giving us credit), a whopping 635% markup above retail, but more affordable offers have appeared as competition grows among the scalpers. The lowest priced cronut on Craiglist is now $10, a more reasonable 83% markup from the base price (plus tax) of $5.44 per pastry.

Keep in mind that Dominique Ansel, per a receptionist, has cut the max order per customer to three cronuts, down from six. So what say you people of earth? Are scalped cronuts a BUY HOLD OR SELL at these prices?