GoodSearch, the charitable way to search

I love google, but I love having regular actions (searching! shopping! dining out!) support wonderful nonprofits. Once you sign up with GoodSearch, a nonprofit organization of your choice benefits from your everyday actions without you spending any additional time or money. It’s very easy to sign up, and satisfying to see the dollars add up. ASPCA, for instance, has earned more than $46,500! Download the toolbar now!

If you are a nonprofit organization or school that would like to benefit from GoodSearch, that’s easy too! Sign up!

To show me how a Cheesecake Factory works, he took me into the kitchen of his busiest restaurant, at Prudential Center, a shopping and convention hub. The kitchen design is the same in every restaurant, he explained. It’s laid out like a manufacturing facility, in which raw materials in the back of the plant come together as a finished product that rolls out the front. Along the back wall are the walk-in refrigerators and prep stations, where half a dozen people stood chopping and stirring and mixing. The next zone is where the cooking gets done—two parallel lines of countertop, forty-some feet long and just three shoe-lengths apart, with fifteen people pivoting in place between the stovetops and grills on the hot side and the neatly laid-out bins of fixings (sauces, garnishes, seasonings, and the like) on the cold side. The prep staff stock the pullout drawers beneath the counters with slabs of marinated meat and fish, serving-size baggies of pasta and crabmeat, steaming bowls of brown rice and mashed potatoes. Basically, the prep crew handles the parts, and the cooks do the assembly.

Atul Gawande, in an article exploring franchising the health care system. As with all of his books and articles, it is brilliantly written and presents viable arguments and examples. Well worth a read and hopefully conversation or blog comment after.

One more offshoot thought: The franchised food chains mentioned in the article aren’t exactly the most healthful. Connection to hospitals in the current state: not the healthiest food, but more franchised procurement-wise than the health care itself. With active franchising of health care, would we be able to follow in suit with spreading healthful food in hospitals, too?

Dans Le Noir – In The Dark (sensory dining experience)

Take a bite out of life’s mysteries and dine in the dark. Surprise yourself with tastes, textures, smells, and seasonings of food you’ve never noticed before. Dans Le Noir provides not only a novel experience but also possesses depth to rival the darkest oceans. Servers are visually impaired and profits benefit worthy causes like The Vision Charity.

The blind lead the blind-folded in a sensory exploration that sheds light on another way of existing. Test and learn to trust your senses and those of your guide. You may be seated with strangers (although not separated from your party), you may be unsure if you’re eating delicious duck or succulent chicken, and while your eyes may not adjust, your “blind tasting” menu will be revealed after the meal.

This sounds like an amazing experience if you’re a bit adventurous. I was wary as a vegetarian, but read that they take all food allergies and preferences as a strict directive before forming your menu. There’s a deal today for the NYC branch, and you can read more about the concept and business model on their website.

How to: Pay the Bill, in a group (no whining, no cheating!)

So you’re out to dinner with more than just two people. The bill-pay is going to be a pain, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to make it go a little more smoothly…

  • Ask everyone to bring cash ahead of time. Even if one or two people forget, it’s much easier to use 1 or 2 cards than 5 or 6.
  • With 6 or less people, it’s sometimes appropriate to pay for what you got and not split evenly. This is true when 1) there is a large differential between types of food ordered (for instance, a vegetarian salad v. a steak entree), 2) some people are drinking and others are not, and 3) it is known that someone is legitimately on a tight budget and will be ordering based on dollar amount. With more than 6 people, it’s impossible to do this well.
  • Similarly, with 6 or less people, it may be appropriate to do potions of tax and tip based on what was ordered. In general though, it’s best to just split tax and tip evening among all diners.
  • With more than 6 people, just split everything evenly. Clue everyone into this ahead of time to avoid awkwardness later. (The Awl divides the line at age 25…. I’d propose 23, but sure.)
  • Make sure a fair, tuned-in person is in charge of the bill. This person should be comfortable asking people to throw more money in and not be complacent with just making up the difference.
  • If someone is being treated: Make sure all diners know this ahead of time if it’s not necessarily intuitive. Especially with more than 6 people, divide the total+tip (20% for a group) evenly by # of diners. This is the amount per person (app). Then divide that number by (# of diners – 1). This is the added amount per person (aapp). Each paying person owes app+aapp. Always round up and don’t tell people “$25 or 30 each”….people will round down and there will be a shortage. Just say 30 each, and you’ll just end up with a nicer tip and nobody feeling justifiably overburdened.
  • Tax calculating: move the decimal point left one place. That’s 10%. Double that and you get 20%. Done. If it was really bad, take half of the 10% number and add it to 10%. There’s 15%. Done. Do not use a tip card or phone calculator. It’s poor form.

Did I miss anything? Good luck!

(Last updated 3/30/2011 @ 11:58pm)

I hosted a Nomad; here’s what he said about it.

via the Nomad (Ed’s) blog (not same as his tumblr).

The NYC Nomad in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (On Prospect Place)

Stayed

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With Jen, a fellow (younger) Tufts Jumbo who met my good friend and former host Pauline at an event.  As it was described to me, they were sitting on a comfortable couch together and someone started talking about couches. Naturally, Pauline started talking about my sometimes couchsurfing, mostly aerobedding project.   Jen was intrigued, emailed me, and about a month later I was staying at her lovely two bedroom apartment in Prospect Heights on a very comfortable pull out couch.  Her roommate Anna also welcomed me in for the week.  And it is a comfortable couch.

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Jen and Anna also had keys for me.  It’s been a while since I haven’t had them (Bensonhurst, I think) and i kind of amazes me that I’ve been able to do this without keys on a few occasions.

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Ate

Zaytoons – I’d go to this place at least once a week if I lived here.  Cheap ($5 wine) and delicious selection of middle eastern food. Anna, Jen and I went there the night I arrived.

Franny’s –  One of my top 5 dining experiences in the past 5 months.  Great bartenders, food and drinks.  A tell tale sign of an excellent restaurant is when someone who works there stops in for a bite to eat at the bar on a day off.  We were sitting next to one such person, a waitress, who insisted that we taste dish.  That probably sounds weird to people, but it wasn’t. Franny’s is that kind of place.  The bartender piqued my curiosity in grappa and let us taste some of homemade blood orange grappa.  We had a citrus salad, a penne dish with cabbage and chilies (Jen’s recommendation) and a vegetarian pizza.  It is a neighborhood spot through and through and I loved it.  They same ownership owns Brooklyn Larder, a great (if expensive) cheese shop in the nabe.  Which leads me too…

Brooklyn Larder – I brought some cheese and bread back for my hosts.  I think I may have enjoyed it more than they did.  The girl working there told me the chocolate caramel bar had a cult following.  I joined the cult.

Bark – Cool spot with nice tables, good burgers, hot dogs, and delicious Onion rings

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Bergen Bagels – Jen (like most people who love their nabe) says her neighborhood has the best bagels.  The whole wheat Pumpernickel was solid and the line flows out the door. I had fun on a Saturday watching people come and go while I ate my bagel there.  If you want to know the faces of the people who live in Prospect Heights, just go hang out there on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Worked Out

One of my co-workers told me I’m whoring myself out to gyms, which quite frankly I am fine with.  As a rule, I kind of hate the gym, but I took some great classes this week including “Chiseled” with Jen. I’m trying to figure out why I’m generally the only male who goes to these classes under his own free will. Anyway, Jen hooked me up with a 2 week trial membership which worked out because I happen to be in Prospect Park for two weeks (different hosts).  One of the guys who works there even told me about the nomadding film festival. I’m looking for someone to do a short piece for the festival if anyone is interested or knows someone that might be.

Played Catch

With Jen in Prospect Park.  She supplied the baseball and gloves, and she has a good arm!

Missed

Inexcusably, playing a board game with Jen.  She has quite the collection, and even is coming up with one of her own.  I also missed some restaurants, but I’ll save listing those until I actually leave the nabe.

A recap of week 2 in Prospect Heights with Jared and Amanda is coming, but not before I post my interview with Jen. She interviewed me too for her tumblr, and I’ll post that when she does.

Interview post of sorts coming soon. Meanwhile, do you have questions for me about hosting Ed?

Guacamole and Margaritas made by me? DELISH!

I purchased a $10 margaritas and guacamole class through LivingSocial that I took tonight with my friend Leah at Burrito Bar. SO WORTH IT.

We started with the guacamole, which we made in a mexican bowl called a molcajete. First we added jalapenos (roasted, and about a spoonful), salt (1/3 of a spoon), garlic (I failed on this! did too much! a little bit goes a long way…), and cilantro (a healthy pinch) to the bowl and grinded it together. Mashing is bad, I learned, because it breaks the bowl and doesn’t let all of the flavors blend as well. 

Next, I opened an avocado and put half in the bowl. The avocados that are a little softer and smaller with a yellowy-green inside are better for guac making. Then, we added some lime juice and cut the avocado in the bowl into smaller bits. Instead of mashing or mixing everything together, we folded all of the ingredients so that it stayed chunky. Greg, our fabulous, patient instructor and the manager of the restaurant, said that some lower grade guacs are made from frozen avocados and other additives (gross!), which is part of why it should be kept chunky.

The second half of the avocado was then sliced vertically and horizontally, and then scooped into the bowl. We added some pico de gallo (mix of tomato, onion, jalapenos, lime juice, salt, and cilantro) and voila! it was done!

The margaritas were simpler and perfect. No frills, a bit tart, and healthy (right?!). Start with a glass of ice, add 3/4 shot of tequila (blanco…you taste the agave more strongly then in mixed ones), 3/4 shot of triple sec, and a pour of fresh lime juice cut with fresh orange juice, shake (I got a little into it!), insert straw, and drink.

The atmosphere was fun (and hilarious…not everyone is able to sit still or sober in an hour long class!), the products delicious, and the skills concrete. I’m excited to try both of these for my next dinner event! You can take the class too if this sounds good; keep an eye out for a deal on LivingSocial or call Alina (their event manager) at 718-230-8646 to find out when the next classes are.