Tag Archives: Dining

House Rules: Credit Card Roulette

The Chop is not typically given over to gambling. We used to frequent Pimlico when the horses were running, and we’re loathe to back out of a bar bet if we’re absolutely sure that it was Paul Rodriguez who co-starred in DC Cab and not George Lopez. Aside from that though, we tend to eschew games of chance believing the odds are always in favor of the house.

So it may be a bit uncharacteristic of us to come out and endorse credit card roulette, but endorse it we do, and heartily.

CCR is great for fancy restaurants. Just make sure you don't eat like a horse...

For the uninitiated, credit card roulette is a game played by a group of friends out dining or drinking. When the bill comes, all parties at the table produce a credit card, which cards are then shuffled and one is picked at random, usually by a waiter or busboy. The owner of the card picked is then gracious enough to pick up the entire check, while everyone else’s card finds its way back into their wallets unswiped.

Credit card roulette is not new, per se, as the earliest reference to it we found in a quick Google search was 2006. It is however new enough that it has yet to gain much in the way of popularity. Despite a few mentions here and there on TV and in the movies and print media, many people have still never heard of it, and those who do know about it often balk. With the great recession taking hold in mid-2007, most people out there were lucky to be eating at all, let alone in restaurants, and that’s to say nothing of picking up the whole table’s bill. We’re slowly crawling out of that mire though, and we hope that 2011 will be the year that CCR really takes off as a social phenomenon.

Granted, it’s not for everyone. For those who go out often enough though, and who tend to go out with the same groups of friends on a regular basis, the rewards easily outweigh the risks. Hell, we endorse paying the bill out of sheer generosity if you can swing it. The reaction to a surprise check pick-up can range anywhere from genuine gratitude to outright awe. If you’ve never felt this from your guests (and at this point they are your guests), you owe it to yourself at least once. Even as a winner (loser) of credit card roulette though, a hearty round of thanks and appreciation are still your due.

Another great aspect of this game though, and the main reason we endorse it with so much gusto is because of the social bonds it can create and nurture. If nothing else, it’s an inducement for the loser to invite everyone else back out for another meal in the hopes of getting back to breaking even. After a few meals are exchanged and it all evens out (and maybe a few new marks get to pay once in a while) the whole thing becomes more of a gentlemen’s society and rotating supper club than anything else. And hey, who doesn’t like a free meal once in a while.

What about you? Have you played credit card roulette before? Won? Lost? Was the loser a sport or did they get all huffy about it. would you try it again? Let us know in the comments.

2 Comments

Filed under House Rules

House Rules: Servers and Bartenders, Put Away Your Cell Phones.

We don’t usually embrace curmudgeonly rants on this blog. Even though we’ve got a category for rants, only a couple of those entries could actually properly qualify as one, and even so they’re not the sort of rants that are full of expletives and exclamations.

It is Baltimore Restaurant Week though, and while we were talking about restaurants yesterday it got us to thinking. We have just one simple idea to impart to you today: waiters and waitresses need to put away their goddamn cell phones while they’re on shift.

OMG! It's my BFF on BBM!

We understand that servers are people, and that most people are assholes about their phones. Since we bought a Blackberry we’re on it all the time. We also understand that servers are not defined by their jobs and that they have more interesting things to do than to bring us extra mayo and a free refill. We get it. We know that there’s some pretty cool parties going on tonight, and that you’re only doing this shit until you get a break in your field and that degree starts paying out like a slot machine. Besides, it only takes a second to look at your phone so what’s the big deal, right? Yes we know that. But we also know this:

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” -Abraham Lincoln

It’s hard to argue with Honest Abe’s logic, and whether you’re in a white tablecloth Michelin starred restaurant or a greasy diner, a certain amount of professionalism is called for. If you came to the table to take our order and we brought out a cell phone and checked our email, that would be pretty rude, and there aren’t many servers that we know of who would bear it with a smile.

We’ve even noticed a rash of phone-checking by servers in restaurants whose policies forbid cell phone use by patrons.

Every time we’re eating or drinking and we see a server at the waitstand, cash register, or end of the bar checking his or her phone, it’s just, to us anyway, a great reminder that our table is not really a priority, and that that person would much rather be somewhere else doing something else with someone else.

Just as most restaurant employees are relegated to smoke outside the back door, kind of near the dumpster, so should the nasty habits of twitter, facebook, and IM be relegated to out-of-sight areas of the building, or simply discontinued entirely. A server who’s not preoccupied with phone messages is a more efficient and better-tipped server.

Leave a comment

Filed under House Rules

Holiday Fare: The Chop’s Roasted Kale Greens Recipe

This is about as far as you can get from a food blog, but December is a pretty slow month for public events, and you can only post so many cocktail recipes before the whole city starts to think you’re kind of a drunk.

We’re heading up to Mom and Pop Chop’s house for our annual Christmas Eve party and they’ve requested we bring a vegetable side dish. Much as we cringe at the idea of being a food blogger, we do believe that eating well is integral to living well. We do some pretty damn good cooking here at the Chophouse, even if it doesn’t show up in the blog. So just this once, just to prove that we can, we’ll show you what we’re bringing along tonight.

2011 Will be the year of the kale. You heard it here first.

Roasted Kale Greens

  • A bunch of kale.
  • An onion
  • A red bell pepper
  • 3 oz. Olive Oil
  • 1 oz. Champagne vinegar
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 1/2 oz. water
  • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper

First of all, all those measurements are guesses. So are the cooking times. Another reason we’re not too keen on writing recipes is because we like to play it by ear in the kitchen, cook on the fly and all of that. Anyway, cut the pepper in half and 86 the seeds. Slice it and the onion. Coat them both in olive oil and roast them at 450° until they look nice and roasty.

In the meantime chop the kale into pieces, getting rid of most of the stems and coat in evenly in a mixing bowl with olive oil. In another bowl mix up your vinegar, sugar, water, salt and pepper. Once the onion and pepper are roasted mix them in with the kale and move it all into baking dish. Lace it lightly with that seasoned vinegar and roast the whole mess at 400° until the edges of the leaves start to blacken, shouldn’t be too much more than about 10 minutes.

2 Comments

Filed under A Day in the Life of the Chop

Foodie Culture Leaves a Bad Taste on Baltimore Palates

Brace yourselves Baltimore, for the Chop is about to take another potentially unpopular position. Today we’re coming out against food.

Did you know that your own humble Chop has been a vegetarian lo these 15 years? Of course you didn’t. We never mentioned it because we’re acutely aware that no one cares what we’re eating. And by that same token, the Chop doesn’t care what anyone else is eating, which leads to much eye-rolling because in 2010 everyone is anxious to tell you exactly what they’re eating.

We can’t hardly get through the day anymore without getting 20+ recommendations on what to eat. And you know what they say, opinions are like assholes… they leave a bad taste in your mouth. All kidding aside though, food is a lot like music in that it’s something which is consumed by everyone you know every day. Everyone has opinions on it, and everyone thinks their opinion is well-informed and superior, even if it’s not.

People who talk at length about what they’ve eaten or photograph their food for the internet are merely showing off. Showing off is distinctly un-Baltimore.

For better or worse, the internet, cable TV and the general proliferation of information have largely erased what was once thought of as the mainstream. In the new century we’re all renaissance men, and in the same way that people are no longer satisfied with lowest-common-denominator generic rock ‘n roll, Swanson dinners and blue plate specials have also become relics of the last century. Just as iTunes and Last.fm can build you personalized playlists of niche artists, there’s now an endless drone of voices telling you where, what and how you should eat.

Something the foodie movement and food industry have been able to do very successfully is to make people believe the myth that eating well equates to living well. It does not. Most of your great starving artists were just that… starving. Looking back at some of the more revered persons of history (Jesus Christ, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela) they didn’t eat very well at all. Any life worth living has been sustained by food, not centered on it. The TV ideals of sophisticated dinner parties, downtown tasting menus and “authenticity” are merely the by-products of a happy life. You can’t eat your way to happiness.

It’s gotten to the point where the Chop can no longer watch Food Network or the Travel Channel. Can’t thumb through domestic magazines or even read food blogs anymore. It’s a shame, because there are a lot of really great food and restaurant blogs based in Baltimore. It’s just such a crowded niche that it quickly becomes an echo chamber. In someplace like NYC or SF, it may well be different but here there are only so many restaurants, and they’re all known quantities. New ones make or break their names in no time, and they do it the old fashioned way, by word of mouth. After all, a friend’s opinion will always trump a blogger’s.

Something the foodie movement and food industry have been able to do very successfully is to make people believe the myth that eating well equates to living well. It does not.

Just as we’ve turned 30 and reached a sort of ‘musical maturity’ where taste is refined, the old favorites are relied upon heavily, and new artists need to prove themselves substantial to receive much attention, so it is with food. There’s just no pressing need to try every new restaurant, to hit the farmers’ market every weekend, to seek out exotic ingredients or to wow ’em at dinner parties. We just eat what we like.

Speaking of wowing ’em at the dinner parties, that might be the thing that bothers most about foodie culture. People who talk at length about what they’ve eaten or photograph their food for the internet are merely showing off. Showing off is distinctly un-Baltimore. It runs contrary to the entire ethos of this city, where (historically) we all live in rowhouses, go to work together, cheer our teams together, and eat our crabs (or bull-and-oysters, or pancake suppers, or fried chicken, silver queen and tomatoes) together. This rush toward SOLE food is kind of akin to the 6 year old who demands something different from what the family’s eating at dinner.

Which is silly, because the best food we’ve ever had comes literally from our grandmothers’ kitchens. Recipes from Mrs. Kittering and the Junior League are every bit as delicious when you make them now as they were when they were made decades ago.

Anyone who really wants to eat well is encouraged to skip the trendy restaurants, and try the basement of the nearest Methodist Church instead.

Share

3 Comments

Filed under Chop Rants!