I've been torn as to whether I should mention this on the blog, but I feel in light of the economy that I must. I've always meant to encourage people to cook at home whenever possible, and rarely share accounts of restaurant dining or restaurant reviews, which I initially planned on doing quite often (the one review I've done is still my most often read post to date). I like to think that I can encourage everyone to make delicious and restaurant quality meals at home for a fraction of the price they'd cost at any restaurant, but recently I've had a minor change of heart, having read of not only how restaurants are suffering, but how they're even having to close their doors due to lack of reservations and profit loss.
I'm not sure how the rest of the country restaurants has been affected, but here in New York (home of an already volatile restaurant scene) we've seen dozens of closings, including high end establishments that, up until recently, were packed to the gills. This article in yesterday's New York Times informs us of some of those closings, and details many of the deals put forth by restaurants with once hard to come by reservations. The city's best chefs and restaurateurs admit to taking a different approach with potential customers, eschewing the snooty attitudes of old, and welcoming each possible diner with open arms (even if it is only out of necessity). They're also creating more affordable dishes, prix fixe menus, and lowering prices all around.
It's in light of these troubling times, and the loss of some great restaurants that I implore us all to visit our favorite establishments and take advantage of these deals. If we don't support our restaurants, where the best culinary ideas are born, their dishes will never become the inspiration for our dishes as they trickle down the food chain. After all, what begins in the restaurants eventually becomes a trend, making it into a cookbook, onto cooking shows, and eventually onto our table at home. Without a platform to create new and exciting dishes, it's not just the habitual restaurant consumer that suffers, but those of us seeking inspiration in our home kitchens. I'm not asking that we all drop our wooden spoons and go charging for take-out every night, but I would like to suggest taking one night a week, a month, or as often as you can reasonably afford to, and experience eating out and supporting your favorite local chefs and restaurants. Otherwise, the next time you plan to splurge with a night at your favorite haunt, it may be long closed.
Websites and blogs are detailing "Recession Specials" all over New York and updating on an almost daily basis. Having taken advantage of a few myself deals myself, I can tell you that they're well worth it (and this is coming from someone that's been recently laid-off and unemployed for the 3 months). I've started thinking of these mini-splurges (24 bucks for a three-course Jean-Georges meal? Sign me up!) as an investment in improving my own culinary repertoire. I can try it once in his restaurant and use it as inspiration for an affordable and delicious version that I can make at home. That's why I'll be starting a new series here on the Olive Tree called the "Recession Special Recipe". I'll take a delicious dish I've had at a restaurant recently, take it apart, and find a way to make it easy and affordable for you (and me!) at home, without compromising flavor. Look for these recipes maybe once a week, and in the mean time, please go out and support your favorite restaurants. Below I'll link you to a few sites listing where recession special deals can be found. And for those days when you're feeling frugal, keep checking back here for delicious recipes to keep money in your pocket and delicious meals on the table!
Grub Street: "The Recession is Your Friend"
Eater: Recession Specials