Lark Whole Beast Dinner, and pudding

Laura and I attended Lark’s Whole Beast Dinner on Monday, and I have to admit that I feel a little bit cheated.

I’d assumed that we would, in fact, be eating several whole beasts. In fact, we ate small bits of many different beasts. Also, while we did have pig ears, beef kidneys, and sheep sweetbreads, most of the beast parts were fairly innocuous: guincale, pork cheeks, and so on.

Which isn’t to say that the food wasn’t marvelous. I particularly loved the winterier preparations, the braised pork cheeks, the pork tongue dolce forte, and the guincale wrapped, gorgonzola-stuffed dates. The (pickled?) sheep tongue salad was also superb. But last year’s menu looks tastier, and a bit more daring, as well.

The table we sat with was great fun: Michael Hood and a bunch of other folks whose names now escape me (that’s what they get for not having blogs!) were all generous enough to share their wine with us (next year we’ll bring some to share too), and talk ranged from food to politics to more politics.

I don’t want to sell the event short — I quite enjoyed it, and I plan to attend next year — but I was definitely hoping for more. I’d have been nearly as happy (though somewhat less educated, and less likely to meet new people) by any other night at the restaurant.

Right now, I have chocolate custard baking in the oven. This is an experiment: I’ve never made any kind of pudding or custard before. But we needed some milk tonight (for a very risotto-like orzo and broccoli dish), and I had about two cups left. The New York Times had an article on chocolate pudding and while none of their recipes matched the ingredients I had on hand, one from Bittman’s How to Cook Everything did. We’ll see, in five minutes or so, if I have a tasty dessert tonight…

Sloppy Joes for Breakfast

I don’t know, sloppy joes just seem to me like an excellent breakfast food, for us protein nuts.

It’d be a little hard to get a Burger King sloppy joe, since they don’t like anything you can’t eat with one hand. Maybe a breakfast burrito joe?

Theme Cafeterias

I contract at a large company, with many cafeterias spread across its campus. Although I sometimes eat at the closest cafeteria, I often venture further afield in search of novelty. There is, however, precious little novelty to be found.

One could quite reasonably increase the novelty available by making “theme cafeterias.” It would be nice if there was an all-vegetarian cafeteria, for people who feel that other cafeterias don’t have enough veggie options, or who object to their grill items being prepared on a grill that’s also had meat stuff prepared on it. A Chinese or Mexican themed cafeteria might see additional business, and be worth an extra walk.

Of course, you could go overboard on themes that have nothing to do with the food itself: the nudist cafeteria, the ‘pirate galleon’ cafeteria, the ‘dinosaurs!’ cafeteria, and so on. Or you could have cafeterias themed on newly-updated products: In honor of its release, we could have the Windows Vista cafeteria for a week…

Fast Food Ringtone Contest

A decade ago or more, I seem to remember that Burger King had an ad campaign that featured a normal businessman-looking fellow. Patrons at Burger Kings all across the country were to be on the lookout for the guy, and whoever saw him first in a given franchise won some kind of prize. There was a big hullabaloo about it, and it seemed to be very successful.

This suggested to me a new ad campaign. First, they’d need a really catchy jingle. A new song, instantly recognizable, that they could play all over the place until everyone knew it meant ‘Burger King,’ or whatever chain took this idea and ran with it.

Then they could put ringtones on their Web site. For all kinds of cell phones. And they could give them away for free.

And then they could have a ‘secret shopper’ fellow, an anonymous man (face blanked out in the commercials, as though he was in the Witness Protection Program) who could go to major metropolitan areas or big suburban areas full of teenagers (the people most likely to download ringtones, I suspect), and who would give a cash prize to the first person in that area whose cell phone he heard with that ringtone.

Any time a phone using the tone went off, everyone in the area would think ‘Burger King’ (or whoever), and would look around to see if the secret shopper was watching.

The contest is just a gimmick; it’s the free ringtone advertising the product far and wide that’s the real win.


A happy meal with moebius strip fries (it should be easy to cut potatoes into rings, and to shape the rings to have a ‘twist’ look to them) and klein bottle burgers. Hey, it makes me laugh, and it’s a Friday.

American Dim Sum

or American Tapas, if you prefer. Restaurants that serve upscale pub grub in teensy portions at reasonable prices, so that everybody can try a little bit of many different dishes.

I’m sure that such places exist, but I don’t think the style of food has been named.

Thai Fast Food

When I lived in Baltimore, one of my favorite restaurants was Thairish (pronounced like ‘Thai’ and ‘Irish’ elided into a single word — the owner is Thai, and his wife is Irish, as I understand it). Thairish’s formula was simple: they had a vegetable mixture. They had shrimp, chicken, and tofu. You could get the vegetables and one of the protein sources with your choice of six or so sauces — panang, masaman, and others — over rice. (They also had Pad Thai and a yummy Tom Kah Gai, and all right spring rolls, but the curries were the heart of the menu.)

I’ve always thought that this would be an excellent basis for a chain fast-food restaurant. The only problem is that there’s really nothing you can eat one-handed while driving. The cheater’s solution would be to make it the sort of fast food where sitting down is mandatory, situate it in shopping malls, and be done. But could you make a sort of cone out of brown rice, and quickly fry it so that it behaves something like a tortilla? You could certainly offer bowls for people who don’t want the extra calories, or who want a more traditional experience, but by competing with drive-thru fast-food you open up whole new markets.

There might still be somewhere in Middle America where Thai food is too exotic, or too spicy. Thairish’s mild sauces are lovely and wonderful, but you could also use the spice in a marketing campaign, convincing America’s teens to out-macho each other with the spicy dishes…