Dining out in a down economy

In today's economic climate with the soaring prices of fuel and food going through the roof, with no relief in sight, I thought it was a good time to share some ideas about dining out at your favorite restaurants. It is no surprise that as a direct result from the cost of fuel that dining out is becoming more and more of an economic strain on our pocketbooks.

Gas is intertwined with the daily cost of food. It is involved in planting, harvesting and the transporting to market of all food sources. Any import item is subject to the weakened dollar and to almost all foreign currencies. Add to that the value of American products to be exported because of the weakened dollar is another factor in the cost of food.

It is not only my opinion, but that of analysts, that because of the demand on grains (that are used to feed live stock and chickens, etc.), for the production of ethanol and with the devastation of the Midwest due to the elements, that the cost of beef, pork and chicken could reach a record high by the end of summer. So not only will it be more expensive to eat at your favorite restaurant but also it is going to affect your bottom line because of the impact of just going to the store and buying groceries. I am not going to talk to the political reasons for all of this but I am going to give tips of how to make your dollars stretch.

When selecting a restaurant of your choice look at the menu with your guests. Karen and I have found and actually dine this way more often than not that a series of appetizers/small plates/tapas is a great way to dine. We like to start with a couple of small plates and then have a salad. Then we will have either a dessert or another small plate depending on how we feel after the salad.

Another thing that is useful is agreeing on an entree and splitting it between the two of you. Most restaurants will charge for the process of splitting the meal. For the most part you then get a plate already split and presented in an appetizing way along with the day's vegetables and whatever side dish goes with the entree. In most cases the chef is breaking even on the cost they charge for a split and if you added it all together and put it on one plate you will find that this is a good value.

Another idea that Karen and I find appealing dining out is with a restaurant that has either a great wine by the glass program or even half bottles. When ordering various small plates you can order small pours or split glasses of wine with each course. Usually this equates to about a three ounce pour for each of you. This gives you versatility while matching food with wine. A lot of times we look at the wine list and order a half bottle of something white and a half bottle of something red.

I have also found that if you could schedule a late lunch somewhere between 2 and 3 you receive value in the lunch menu versus dinner menus. Many fine dining or casual upscale restaurants have many entree-style items that are great for a mid-afternoon dining experience. In fact in most European countries the mid-afternoon meal is the largest of the day. Later at night you can have a small snack at home to finish off a perfect day. After all, the whole idea of dining out is twofold. One, and the most important, is to spend quality time for just the two of you or with your friends and family and of course the obvious is eating great food.

I think you will find that these are some good hints to help shave or stretch your dining dollars. Karen and I hope you use these ideas with your dining options. I can tell you many of our customers have instituted these and are enjoying it.

As always enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!!

- Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele's. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City since 1980. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur.


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