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Posts Tagged ‘buffet

“If we were capable of thinking of everything, we would still be living in Eden, rent-free with all-you-can-eat buffets and infinitely better daytime TV programming”*…

 

buffet

 

Few things epitomize America more than the all-you-can-eat buffet.

For a small fee, you’re granted unencumbered access to a wonderland of gluttony. It is a place where saucy meatballs and egg rolls share the same plate without prejudice, where a tub of chocolate pudding finds a home on the salad bar, where variety and quantity reign supreme.

“The buffet is a celebration of excess,” says Chef Matthew Britt, an assistant professor at the Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts. “It exists for those who want it all.”

But one has to wonder: How does an industry that encourages its customers to maximize consumption stay in business?

To find out, we spoke with industry experts, chefs, and buffet owners. As it turns out, it’s harder to “beat” the buffet than you might think…

Is it possible to out-eat the price you pay for a buffet?  How do these places make money?  The dollars and cents behind the meat and potatoes: “The economics of all-you-can-eat buffets.”

* Dean Koontz

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As we pile it high, we might recall that it was on this date in 1883 that A. Ashwell, of Herne Hill in South London, received a patent for the “vacant/engaged” door bolt for lavatory doors… presumably a relief to the folks who had been using the public restrooms that had been introduced in London in 1852.

lock source

 

Written by LW

February 17, 2020 at 1:01 am

“He who controls the spice controls the universe”*

 

Spices

 

Spices were among the first engines of globalization, not in the modern sense of a world engulfed by ever-larger corporations but in the ways that we began to become aware, desirous even, of cultures other than our own. Such desire, unchecked, once led to colonialism. After Dutch merchants nearly tripled the price of black pepper, the British countered in 1600 by founding the East India Company, a precursor to modern multinationals and the first step toward the Raj. In the following decades, the Dutch sought a monopoly on cloves, which once had grown nowhere but the tropical islands of Ternate and Tidore in what is today Indonesia, and then in 1652 introduced the scorched-earth policy known as extirpation, felling and burning tens of thousands of clove trees. This was both an ecological disaster and horribly effective: For more than a century, the Dutch kept supplies low and prices high, until a Frenchman (surnamed, in one of history’s inside jokes, Poivre, or “pepper”) arranged a commando operation to smuggle out a few clove-tree seedlings. Among their ultimate destinations were Zanzibar and Pemba, off the coast of East Africa, which until the mid-20th century dominated the world’s clove market.

The craving for spices still brings the risk of exploitation, both economically, as farmers in the developing world see only a sliver of the profits, and in the form of cultural appropriation. In the West, we’re prone to taking what isn’t ours and acting as if we discovered it, conveniently forgetting its history and context. Or else we reduce it to caricature, cooing over turmeric-stained golden lattes while invoking the mystic wisdom of the East. At the same time, a world without borrowing and learning from our neighbors would be pallid and parochial — a world, in effect, without spice…

From turmeric in Nicaragua to cardamom in Guatemala, nonnative ingredients are redefining trade routes and making unexpected connections across lands: “How Spices Have Made, and Unmade, Empires.”

* Frank Herbert, Dune

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As we go deep on dash, we might recall that this is National Buffet Day.  The concept of the buffet arose in mid 17th century France, when gentleman callers would arrive unexpectedly at the homes of ladies they wanted to woo.  It was popularized in 18th century France and quickly spread throughout Europe.  The all-you-can-eat buffet made its restaurant debut in 1946, when it was introduced by Vegas hotel manager Herb MacDonald.  By the mid-1960s, virtually every casino in Las Vegas sported its own variation.  Today, of course, buffets are regularly available not only in any/every Vegas casino, but also in thousands of Indian and Chinese restaurants and ubiquitous chains of “family restaurants.”

buffet source

 

 

 

 

Written by LW

January 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.”*…

 

buffet

 

There were, at one point, 305 Ponderosas (and sister buffet Bonanzas) in the US, and today there are 75 locations total — including 19 in Puerto Rico and a handful scattered in Egypt, Qatar, Taiwan, and the UAE. The Ponderosa parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, the same year as the company that owns Old Country Buffet (and four other buffet chains).

That company, Ovation Brands. filed for bankruptcy twice more by 2016, at which point USA Today noted that it had “the dubious and relatively rare distinction” of entering what finance guys like to “jokingly refer to as Chapter 33 — that is, Chapter 11 bankruptcy for a third time.” The same year, Garden Fresh Restaurants, which owns Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, filed for bankruptcy as well, citing $175 million in debt.

In 2016, Eater’s Dana Hatic blamed the fall of the buffet on America’s “newfound focus on fast casual dining [and] farm-to-table menus,” as well as “widespread attention on the health effects of obesity and overconsumption.” This makes some sense, and at the same time, it does not.The buffet is a good idea. The buffet is a symbol of the American dream. The buffet is delicious. The buffet is affordable, and a lot of us love a deal. When did our hearts grow cold toward buffets, and why?…

Meditate on the mystery of the missing comestibles at “When did America’s heart turn cold on buffet chains?

* George Carlin

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As we walk the line, we might spare a thought for Benjamin Eisenstadt; he died on this date in 1996.  After a stint running a cafeteria in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Eisenstadt became a manufacturer, first (and briefly) of tea bags, then of an invention of his own– the single-serving sugar packet.

In 1957, he began mixing powdered saccharine (previously available only in a liquid form with dextrose, and created Sweet’N Low, a no-calorie sweetener available in (his) single-serve packets, which he colored bright pink to avoid confusion with (white) sugar packets.

Eisenstadt was also the first to packet soy sauce in single-serving packets.

eisenstat source

 

Written by LW

April 8, 2019 at 1:01 am

Bless you…

 

One of the first “sneeze guards” appeared in Johnny Garneau’s American Style Smorgasbord in Monroeville 1958.

In 1959, the restaurateur and inventor Johnny Garneau patented the “Covered Food Serving Table,” later known as the “sneeze guard,” a means of protecting food on display from bacteria and other germs that may be spread by sneezing.  Today, it’s required by law that retail, self-service food bars have one—no salad bar shall be left uncovered…

At the time of his invention, he owned and ran a chain of American Style Smorgasbord restaurants in Ohio and Pennsylvania—a set price, all-you-can-eat buffet model based off of the the traditional Swedish “smorgasbord,” a celebratory meal, buffet style, with a laid-out table of food. The first example of a smorgasbord in America appeared at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Garneau’s “American Style Smorgasbord” restaurant was one of the first of many self-service restaurants that would pop up in the the United States in the ’50s.

“Being the germaphobe that he was, he couldn’t stand people going down the Smorgasbords smelling things and having their noses too close to the food,” Barbara Kelley, one of five of Garneau’s children says. “He said to his engineers, ‘We have to devise something—I don’t want these people sneezing on the food”…

The saying is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” It took a Midwestern restauranteur to realize that without something to protect them, everyone’s favorite buffet foods were defenseless from the attack of a 40 mph sneeze.

Read the full story, and peruse the patent, at “How the “Sneeze Guard” Changed Buffet Tables Forever.”

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As we reach for the hand sanitizer, we might spare a thought for Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, KCB, FRS, FRGS, MRIA; he died on this date in 1857.  A career naval officer and hydrographer, Beaufort devised, in 1806, a simple scale that coastal observers could use to report the state of the sea to the Admiralty.  Originally designed simply to describe wind effects on a fully rigged man-of-war sailing vessel, it was later extended to include descriptions of effects on land features as well.  Officially adopted in 1838 (and in use to this day), it uses numbers 0 to 12 to designate calm, light air, light breeze, gentle breeze, moderate breeze, fresh breeze, strong breeze, moderate gale, fresh gale, strong gale, whole gale, storm, and hurricane. Zero (calm) is a wind velocity of less than 1 mph (0.6 kph) and 12 (hurricane) represents a velocity of over 75 mph (120kph).

A sneeze of the sort that spooked Johnny Garneau often measures an 8 on the Beaufort Scale: “Fresh Gale.”

 source

 

Written by LW

December 17, 2013 at 1:01 am

Tempting one’s inner-civil-engineer…

Recently returned from a quick visit to the incandescent oasis that is Las Vegas, your correspondent wishes that he had discovered “The All-Inclusive All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Guide” before the trip.

A service of Eating the Road (“On a journey to find out what the American road tastes like”), the Guide is quite comprehensive:  from preparation…

…Meals leading up to the buffet have been debated for ages. My recommendations are a large dinner the night before consisting mostly of light breads and vegetables to expand the stomach. It is also advantageous to drink plenty of liquids, preferably water. This also varies greatly on what time of day your buffet meal is going to be. For a breakfast buffet your larger meal should be the lunch prior with a small dinner. The morning of I would suggest a very small meal containing some sugar in order to get your metabolism up and running. Eat nothing more throughout the day. Liquids are advised, preferably water, as almost a mandatory health concern due to the high sodium content you are about to consume…

through strategy:

Initial scouting: This takes discipline and some patience but will pay off in the end. Be sure to walk the entire length of the buffet including the dessert area. Sometimes you’ll find hidden and unexpected items. Take note of all dishes that you would like to try. With knowledge of the layout and items at handle you can now plan your attack. Some things to consider on your first go around is what items have been freshly placed out and which will be available during your subsequent trips. Make note of the costliest items as well as the most popular.

Grab a dinner plate, this is a must, always use the largest plate they offer…

To “exit strategy”:

You’ll want to be sure that you have no further commitments for at least 3 hours…

With sections on Types of Buffets, Objective, Preparation, Location, Pre-meal Setup, Strategy, Etiquette, Exit Strategy and Post Game, it’s the Baedeker of buffets!

As we consider how to pay for our repasts, we might we might  pause to honor the debut of the stock ticker, that auger of bulls and bears, which clacked for the first time on this date in New York City in 1867…  In a scenario not unknown in these times, the ticker was created by Edward Callahan, who rigged a telegraph to print stock (and gold) prices on streaming paper tape.  But only two years later, Thomas Edison (who had been, we might recall, a telegraph operator) patented a slightly modified version, closed Callahan out of the market, and made his first fortune– the one that financed his laboratory in Menlo Park… from whence the stream of inventions for which Edison is remembered, along with the accompanying stream of patent litigations that generated dominance of one market after another.

Callahan’s Stock Ticker (source: Early Office Museum)

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