Happy Friday! This week, I’ve been saddled by one of those hot-to-cold weather sicknesses. I went out on a cold misty morning in a little silk summer dress and that did me in. But I’m almost 100% and looking forward to the weekend. Tomorrow, D and I are leaving for PA for a hiking + poker + writing retreat trip. D is a big poker player, and every once in a while we spend the night at a casino -- he plays, I get a massage, do a little shopping, and write. It’s a pretty good deal.
Here are some things that caught my eye this week:
Smog meringues. Meringues are 90% air, making them a major flavor component. A group of scientists created smogs from London, Atlanta, and L.A. using “precursor ingredients” (those three cities represent three very different types of smog. Beijing, for example, is London-style and Mexico City is L.A.-style). Well, do they taste any good? No. As Edible Geography says, “our hope is that the meringues will serve as a kind of ‘Trojan treat,’ creating a visceral experience of disgust and fear that prompts a much larger conversation about the aesthetics and politics of urban air pollution”.
Restaurants add reservation cancellation fees to the menu. This is a hot, hot topic but nothing new (see Grub Street, Eater). As Pete Wells writes:
Whenever I give up my credit card number and am told I’ll be charged for bad behavior, I hear several messages, none of them warm and fuzzy. It says that I’m not trustworthy. It says that the restaurant sees me as a revenue source before it has had a chance to treat me like a guest. It says that a reservation isn’t an appointment with pleasure; it’s an obligation to be kept.
Though at the same time, restaurants need to safeguard themselves from over-enthusiastic diners who book and dishonor reservations willy-nilly. An empty table means lost revenue, rejecting would-be (and ready to eat) customers.
I used to work in the world of high-end reservations and can tell you that many restaurants don’t want to charge or chastise you. A place like Carbone (where there is a $50 cancellation fee) is busy every single night. You might think, what’s the big deal? If I don’t show, then someone else will take my place. Sure. But that also means that the host/ess has to juggle people around. Maybe there aren't people waiting because everyone thought you need reservations. Tables will have to be rearranged. “Guaranteed” revenue becomes “if they decide to show up” revenue. If you get a table for 2 or 4 on a hot night, at a hot time, then you took it away from other people who thought ahead to make a reservation. Restaurants wants to make people happy (while also making money) and no-shows hinder both of those goals.
And speaking of high-end restaurants, I found Ruth Reichl’s impromptu dinner at Per Se so charming. You go for a drink, then you stay for some apps, then all of a sudden you have a whole meal.
Remember that HarperCollins Bloggers Fall Preview I wrote about last week? Here’s a behind-the-scenes look from BookChickdi at some of their picks.
And finally, some house lust. This house in Missoula, Montana is STUNNING. Who needs the Hamptons?