He gave me a lot of additional background on the costs of the dinner. As a result, I no longer think the dinner is a rip-off. Expensive, yes. But the margin the restaurants are making on it is very, very fair. No one will be buying a yacht with the profits, in other words.
So what does $1500 include?
The food, of course, which any moron could expect to include top-notch caviar and other expensive ingredients. It also includes wine pairings, many of which will be vintage champagnes and other library wines.
So far, many of you might have made reasonable guesses that those things would be included.
There is also the cost of the books, both over $100, the tax and tip.
What you might not know, and I certainly did not, was that, in the case of the Per Se and TFL dinners, Alinea will be flying eight chefs to the host city. Though I did not hear from the Keller camp, nor did I ask, presumably they are flying a similar number of folks to and fro. So the travel costs factor in.
All in, that takes the hard costs up to such a number that $1500 is a fair price.
Beyond that, Mr. Kokonas shared his thoughts on charity events. Many of them don't live up to the "charitable" idea they advertise but are merely excuses for wanton spending and exorbitant price tags, something he abhors. Can't disagree with him there -- adding a charity to the event might be good PR but a hollow gesture is a hollow gesture.
I'm glad that I am informed and can now make a judgment about this dinner with all the facts. (It's not worth it to me personally, but nor is it offensive any more.) I hereby rescind my personal ban on having dinner at a Keller or Achatz restaurant in the future (um, if they would have me -- I may make the reservation in another name, ahem).
More than that, I really appreciate that Mr. Kokonas emailed to share Alinea's side of the story. He could easily have dismissed me as another idiot blogger who doesn't know what she's talking about. (Um, which I was in this case, though that's not usually true and, in my own defense, I have never run a restaurant and I suck at business-y things so estimating these prices was, for me, not possible.)
I do worry that many people have had and will have a similar reaction as I did, and I wish there was some way Alinea and TFL could address that. This post may reach a few people, so that's a start.
As a side note, it's been interesting to hear different view points on the dinner. Some friends, like me, were shocked at the thought. Many will remain so, even with the explanation. I've heard from people who think, regardless of the hard costs, that it's a fair price for well-made food from the best artisanal sources. Others have said that, hey, if the customer values it, ditto.
Anyway, I wish everyone who can attend bon appetit.
I just put Jeff on a plane bound for Madison, Wisconsin, and the University there, where a man named Yuri Danilov is conducting clinical research into brain plasticity. The hope is that his treatment, which uses the tongue to conduct messages to damaged brains, will help Jeff's unrelenting vertigo lessen or even disappear. And since migraines and vertigo may be linked, there is some small hope that his migraines might also lessen.
I have been working overtime not to kindle much hope for this treatment because I do not know how to bear the disappointment of him coming home no better off, with no hope for recovery other than time, which I can tell you is anything but sweet.
But in the last few days I have found myself feeling cautiously optimistic; I've even let myself imagine once or twice what it might be like to get That Call from him, That Call where he says, "I'm not dizzy! For the first time in two and a half years, I am awake and I don't feel like my head is spinning."
Then I have to stop imagining this magic moment because otherwise I cry too hard.
So for now I shall return to not thinking about it too much. Instead, I will think about the copious amounts of bourbon I plan to drink this weekend in Santa Cruz with my girlfriends, and about the beach, and about not having to wake up at 5 a.m. to get on email for work.
In a semi-drunken haze yesterday afternoon, I bought six new kitchen chairs. (I'd been planning to for weeks, so it wasn't as impulsive as it sounds.) They're molded plastic Eames chairs, in lime green, and are called Eiffel chairs because of the metal base. Trivia: first created in 1948, these were the first ever industrially manufactured plastic chairs. I'm planning to pair them with our wood plank table for some much needed color in the kitchen. Next up: Jeff's office. It's a bigger train wreck than Lindsay Lohan.
** Since so many of you seemed to enjoy my little dinner-by-scavenger hunt game a few weeks back, I thought I'd offer up a recipe it inspired last night. I'd been cooking pork all day and got home too tired to shop or cook anything terribly special, but I was hungry so I pulled together a quick pasta with roasted cauliflower, fresh corn, and a traditional pesto. Mmm. I'd make it again for sure.
** On to the title of this post...yes, my sister has started her own blog. The Single Gal's Guide to Rheumatoid Arthritis pretty much tells you what it's about. I've been enjoying the sometimes wrenching, sometimes funny narrative of how she discovered she has RA and what it's like to live with a chronic illness (like I don't know, right?). My favorite part is that the photo she's chosen to display is of some outrageously high red feathered heels that she can barely wear when her RA acts up; I think that act of defiance says a lot about her spirit and how she's approaching her condition.
** Speaking of chronic illness, Jeff got into a clinical trial for vertigo this week! He'll be flying out to University of Wisconsin/Madison in late July to get fitted with a BrainPort and see if it will help with the unrelenting, seemingly permanent vertigo he lives with. We're both actively campaigning against high hopes since there is no evidence that it will help someone with his sort of brain damage, but it's worth a shot. The down side: a week's worth of migraines will surely follow the airplane ride, and I can't go with him. The up side: he might come home feeling right-headed for the first time in two and a half years.
Um, I'm not actually moving to Dublin. Seems like the title of my last post confused a few people. I just really really loved the movie Once, even though I bawled for about an hour when it was over. I swear it was the saddest movie I have ever seen. But it was worth it for the incredible soundtrack. Wow.
Jeff has been out of town all week and so I've been playing a little game. That I find this game so incredibly fascinating and so much fun gives you some small glimpse into my twisted mind. Essentially, I decided that once he left the house Monday morning, I was not allowed to go grocery shopping. I had to survive on whatever we already had in the house, for 4 days, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The two exceptions were Tuesday morning breakfast, which our office provides each week, and Tuesday night for dinner, when I'd already agreed to meet a friend for sushi.
Oh, and I decided this as I was driving back from taking him to the airport, so it's not like I'd stocked the fridge with food. In fact, you'd have sworn the cupboard was just about bare if you had peeked inside.
I'm almost at the end of the game and I'm pretty much batting a thousand. One night's dinner was bacon and eggs and a small green salad; another night I made rice and beans with hell-quenching amounts of hot sauce, and tonight I'm contemplating veggie burgers (frozen, not homemade) or Indian food.
To be honest, I thought my little game would provide nothing more than a bit of amusement, a dash of intellectual and creative stimulation, and, it must be said, an excellent way to coddle my own laziness.
But when I wrote to my little brother about the experiment, he said something that was so rooted in truth, on so many levels, that it stopped me in my tracks. And I've been thinking about it a lot ever since.
"It is funny how much food we have in our house when we say we have none."