“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Many of us have heard this quote from Adelle Davis, a famed nutritionist. Health does matter, but really eating like a king does not mean gorging the self, especially for us here at Scallywag, who take every meal and tea time with a certain royal standing. Being the proper southern food lady in these parts, I am now taking it upon myself to help you all have meals and dining experiences that border on majestic instead of mandatory, while staying in your budget. (And I know you are all on one. )
Let’s not kid ourselves, frivolously throwing money away on expensive all-hype and little-satisfaction meals is not posh anymore…even here in New York City where we make a life on dining out. Instead, it now looks careless and done for show, not with any real taste. Prime example are those who order expensive wines for the price tag, not the quality or soul of the wine. Some less expensive ones are just as charming, awe inspiring and properly paired with a meal.
Alright, enough with my regard for those who try to show off in the dining world and onto how you can live for the taste of it all… without blowing your money on, say, ingredients you cannot pronounce or a meal that leaves you making a ham sandwich at midnight. So I invite you to try these bits out, much like a sample. Take a piece, enjoy and don’t hover around the sample table. Share and share alike folks, and please no double dipping.
With more than enough food choices here in the city, there will never be a lack of hot restaurants and talked about bars or lounges. In the end, good chefs with fresh ideas will get you there, and the food has to keep you coming back. Damn good food is worth paying for, and I give many accolades to those chefs here in the city who are making it their passion and responsibility to provide innovative and conscious dishes. Any restaurant that has connects to the Green Restaurant Association or is making changes to be sustainable or organic should be considered as you know the dollars you do spend will be going to support the lifestyle and food system that will see us far past this economic down turn. I applaud those of you who even know that our food system is part of a growing environmental and social problem, and bottoms up to you as you enjoy your local beef, organic eggs and farmer’s market dinners.
Which moves me to the more central issue in this guide, eating like a king on a pauper’s paycheck. To begin, you could start cutting out take out, which cheats you of the restaurant experience if there is one anyway, and leaves you out too much cash for lunches you ate alone at your desk. Save the money from frou frou breakfast sandwiches, designer coffee drinks and grab & go sandwiches for lunch, putting it towards a higher quality dinner, perhaps with friends or a special someone. You will be able to eat at the restaurants you desire without worrying about the check. It is like how some people budget calories for a huge dinner out….just with dollars and not calories. Besides, calorie counting is outdated. Moderation is the new diet, in terms of food and money.
Moderation could lead some to feel short changed. Fear not, big eaters! Your plate can ‘runneth’ over with a host of appetizers or small plates that make your table and meal feel abundant. I also believe in the power of communal eating to bring friends and family together over food, a uniting force that matters more even after dessert. Proper folks no longer keep their forks to themselves, but the new rules have everyone passing plates, sharing bites and toasting life! (all while saving money by avoiding large one choice entrees.) Granted, this is all in my opinion, but I must say, it is a fine “food is life” opinion that has me smiling, eating and loving every day, in every way. I invite you to join me, so please take a seat with napkins in your laps; palates and hearts ready for the ride.
Other tips border on finding a meal that combines two in one, like brunch. Many restaurants will run brunch and drink specials for weekend mornings. And since you are no longer blowing money on bottles of booze in the evenings, you will be able to get up hang-over free and find your way to a cute outdoor table somewhere. Indulge in what you would not make at home, as whipping up eggs or a bowl of granola will only run you
$ .48 to a $1 in house. Of course, eating out is but a luxury still for some and cooking at home can be just as delicious and even more rewarding.
Picnics, old fashioned pot lucks and dinner parties are what foodie-extroverts are now planning, throwing and attending. Though top notch ingredients might call to you in attempts to wow guests, I encourage you to stick to basics, only sourcing expensive items as needed. Example? A good olive oil and balsamic vinegar will both see you through sweet and savory dishes, while elevating even the most mundane items. Lowly bread is anointed with a fruity extra virgin (please, organic) olive oil. Mixed seasonal greens or grilled fruit blessed with aged balsamic vinegar, which is more of a decadent syrup than some acidic dark fluid when quality.
Save by shopping seasonally and making the most of what is on special. Lucky for you, most seasonal foods also pair well together thus making it easier on your wallet and easier on those who sample your culinary creations if you not in the running for Iron Chef. Tomatoes like basil and both like to be tossed with fresh pasta (a budget favorite) and grilled chicken or shrimp. Who knew? The pasta stretches the meat and decreases not only the meal cost but also your environmental impact with a less animal heavy meal. So right there you have a group worthy summer meal that could be complete with a loaf of crusty grilled bread, bowls of fresh berries (try strawberries with the balsamic vinegar) for dessert and a bottle (or two, or three) of wine brought by guests. Alcohol has the highest price mark up when dining out. Not to mention it’s safer and you could drink more for the same amount! As my mother once said when confronted about getting overly tipsy at a bar walking distance from our house; “Honey, just drink locally.” Cocktails at home save you from having to ultimately find home with dignity intact and all possessions in hand.
Now that you all have a little more insight into how to properly dine in or dine out like royalty, eating well and living deliciously….go forth and taste dear readers. As Socrates once said, “Worthless people live only to eat and drink; people of worth eat and drink only to live.”