Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Yelp Theory

Which people and why?

Which people and why?

I first linked to Yelp in June 2008, according to a search of “yelp” in my Gmail account.*  I apparently jumped on the bandwagon when many did:  2008 was a banner year for Yelp, the first year Yelp received more pageviews than Citysearch.  Since 2008, I, like so many others, have come to rely on Yelp as my primary source for deciding where to eat and drink.  Let me share some Yelp tips I’ve developed over the past few years.

*In case you’re wondering, this is where I linked, suggesting a decent pizza place near Madison Square Garden, where, aside from Koreatown, good food is hard to come by.

To start, never trust the star rating of a Mexican restaurant that serves margaritas.  Too often, the margarita-serving Mexican restaurant gets most of its four or five-star ratings from patrons whose number one concern is the quality, size, and cost of the restaurant’s margarita.  Too often, these patrons couldn’t care less about the food.  Or their tipsy post-margarita state makes their food assessments (of everything but the chips and salsa) unreliable.  Not all margarita-serving Mexican restaurants, of course, suffer from an inflated rating.  Run a search of the reviews:  if, say, only one-out-of-six reviews mentions the revered alcoholic drink, then the risk of inflation is mitigated.

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Joie de Vivre: Halloween Candy

On this all-important American holiday, Tim and Josh decided to dive into one of their tastiest debates: candy. So give them a break while they chew it over with Twix, avoid laying a finger on each other’s Butterfinger, and taste the rainbow. You may find that first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.

TIM: Well, it’s Halloween, Josh, and that can only mean one thing. Well, it means one thing at our age, and a different, more innocent thing when we were younger: candy. You have to hand it to whoever decided this was how Halloween would be celebrated, with little kids prancing around the neighborhood in costumes collecting mass quantities of candy. But of course, we’re greedy as kids, and there’s a definitive candy hierarchy, with certain candies frowned upon (Mary Janes, anyone?) and others received enthusiastically. So Josh, what candy were you most excited to get on Halloween as a kid, and has that changed at all since?

JOSH: Well, first, let me say that the main appeal of Halloween for me is still candy. When else can I go to CVS and have an option of purchasing more than ten bags of candy that each combine at least three different individual candies? Second, if there’s one video to link to on Halloween and candy, it’s this one. To answer your question, as a kid, I was most excited for sour candies, namely Sour Patch Kids. If you went to three houses, you’d almost be guaranteed one of those mini-Twix or Snickers bars, so chocolate bars were in high supply. But, you don’t see those mini-packs of Sour Patch Kids frequently, so, when I did stumble upon them, I tended to freak out a little. I still think sour candy is in undersupply on Halloween and Sour Patch Kids are the pinnacle of sour candy, so I’d venture to say I feel the same today as I did as a kid. Except now, I could just buy a jumbo pack of Sour Patch Kids at the store; eating them unsupervised, though, does present an issue. What about your favorite? And, do kids in New Jersey really prance around the streets?

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The Drawing Board: Corn Dogs

Why aren’t there more corn dogs? It’s a question scientists have been neglecting for years. It’s well known that we have an ample supply of corn, and you can make hot dogs out of just about anything, so what’s the hold up? I mean, sure, I’m not making any corn dogs, but then again I’m not the one complaining.

The history of corn dogs is a brief and uninteresting one. Basically, in around 1927, a guy invented them. How? Well, obviously he took a hot dog and figured out how to put corn around it. Then he got a little ahead of himself and tried it with other stuff: Continue reading

An Alternative View from the Wing (and the hotel bed)

I never watch Larry King. If I were to have a dishonorable mention for retiree of the year, King would be it. Yet, recently while staying in a hotel, I watched nearly ten minutes of Larry King. I have other more systematic preference shifts when in different contexts. On airplanes, I almost always order tomato juice despite rarely ordering it on the ground.*

*I do remember taking a flight once in which they oddly took the drink orders before the plane left the ground. After regaining my composure, I believe I opted for no drink.

This phenomenon of changing preferences with changing environments is not limited to me. A German study found that tomato juice is incredibly popular on airplanes, for example. And, apparently, Ginger Ale is also disproportionately popular on airplanes.*

*A quick Google and Google Scholar search did not reveal anything on the hotel television preference issue. There is plenty, however, on Larry King’s awfulness.

Now, a shift to some classic economic theory: revealed preference theory holds that a consumer’s preferences are revealed by their behavior, or purchasing habits. So, if a woman usually buys two apples each week rather than two oranges, the revealed preference theorist would say that she prefers the bundle of two apples.*

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This Day in Revisionist History

December 22:

“Wow, talk about déjà vu! Although I still don’t know why you’re not armed, or how you guys talked me into doing this.” – Bernhard “Bernie” Goetz, after rapidly shooting four unarmed black men in a game of paintball several hours after escaping the scene of his subway shootings.

Bernie, Jamal, Deion, Marcus, and Raymond—or the “Jive Five”, as they were known in college—were virtually inseparable. In fact, Bernie’s famous (or perhaps infamous) adventure on the no. 57 subway earlier that day (read it–this whole thing will make a lot more sense if you do) marked the first time in a week that the crew had been separated for more than a few minutes during the day. They all worked together at a bread bakery they had opened just after graduating, a popular local joint by the name of “Baggoetz”, and when a bank statement detailing an unsettled loan repayment was discovered in the back office, they were left with no choice but to send one person out in the middle of the day. Bernie volunteered, telling his best friends only half-jokingly “You know they’ll go easy on a white guy!” He hurriedly finished handing out orders to the long line of customers, apologizing for the delays. He even offered an extra loaf of sourdough to a black man seated in the corner, saying “You look like you could use some bread…here’s another.” Continue reading

Joie de Vivre: Halloween Candy

On this all-important American holiday, Tim and Josh decided to dive into one of their tastiest debates: candy. So give them a break while they chew it over with Twix, avoid laying a finger on each other’s Butterfinger, and taste the rainbow. You may find that first they’re sour, then they’re sweet.

TIM: Well, it’s Halloween, Josh, and that can only mean one thing. Well, it means one thing at our age, and a different, more innocent thing when we were younger: candy. You have to hand it to whoever decided this was how Halloween would be celebrated, with little kids prancing around the neighborhood in costumes collecting mass quantities of candy. But of course, we’re greedy as kids, and there’s a definitive candy hierarchy, with certain candies frowned upon (Mary Janes, anyone?) and others received enthusiastically. So Josh, what candy were you most excited to get on Halloween as a kid, and has that changed at all since?

JOSH: Well, first, let me say that the main appeal of Halloween for me is still candy. When else can I go to CVS and have an option of purchasing more than ten bags of candy that each combine at least three different individual candies? Second, if there’s one video to link to on Halloween and candy, it’s this one. To answer your question, as a kid, I was most excited for sour candies, namely Sour Patch Kids. If you went to three houses, you’d almost be guaranteed one of those mini-Twix or Snickers bars, so chocolate bars were in high supply. But, you don’t see those mini-packs of Sour Patch Kids frequently, so, when I did stumble upon them, I tended to freak out a little. I still think sour candy is in undersupply on Halloween and Sour Patch Kids are the pinnacle of sour candy, so I’d venture to say I feel the same today as I did as a kid. Except now, I could just buy a jumbo pack of Sour Patch Kids at the store; eating them unsupervised, though, does present an issue. What about your favorite? And, do kids in New Jersey really prance around the streets?

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Fresh Mediocrity: A Review of Pret A Manger

Pret A Manger (“Pret”) is a London-based sandwich retail chain that has been expanding in the US. There are now 24 outlets in New York and one in Washington, DC. Despite encountering many Pret outlets in England, it was the latter outlet that gave me my first experience eating one of their celebrated fresh sandwiches.

“Pret A Manger” is French for ready-to-eat. You need not have an understanding of French, though, to know that their sandwiches are made fresh. They are all lined up in paperboard containers (used instead of plastic to emphasize the freshness!) on refrigerated shelves. You should be wary about not having a sandwich decision in mind before approaching the shelf, because if you stand dormant in front of a shelf for more than two or three seconds, a Pret employee will almost certainly cut in front of you to load on some more of the fresh sandwiches. They are, of course, loaded in the front rather than the back so every customer gets the freshest sandwich available.*

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