You look good, Manhattan

manhattanOh, New York, you beauty. Sometimes the city is a real kick in the guts, and sometimes it is a gilded wonder full of love, flower crowns, good music, old friends, and truffled egg toasts. Guess which one it is this week?

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Broke Ass Emily Post: The $100 Dinner

Whew! Thank you for all of the posts and comments on the matter of the $100 dinner (if you missed the initial argument, check it out here). From the responses, it appears as though the entire 1% is forcing everyone I know to drop a cool hundo on boozy Manhattan dinners against their will, and it also seems, regardless of tax bracket, that pretty much everyone feels a certain ambivalence at check time. I am not alone. The problem with the $100 dinner boils down to this: at best, it is easier just to split up a bill evenly, at worst it’s a microcosm of judgment over the life choices of the broke (musician, writer, yoga teacher, butcher, baker, occupier etc.) vs. those of the well heeled (people who chose to be a “banker” on the Oregon Trail). As Hilty so perfectly put it: I didn’t want to bring it up at the table that I was the only one without a well-paying job. So. What to do when the check drops? A collective of like minded souls gave me some great suggestions:

– Always order the most expensive and delicious thing on the menu at a group dinner, that way at least you will have enjoyed the meal you’re paying for.
– Let them know you’re no longer subsidizing their Kobe steak or Caspian Sea caviar.
– Eat absolutely nothing and have one glass of wine. That way you can simply say, “I only had one glass of wine”. No spending, no paying. You could even (sadly) leave early and leave cash for your drink just to be on the safe side.
– Go back to the bathroom and make a break for it?
– And the most popular: Don’t be afraid to grab that thing and do the arithmetic!

Last week I decided to test the waters, put all this talk into action. A group of us went to The Fat Radish, the exact little studied and purposefully casual kind of hole in the wall where these things always seem to go down. Subway tiles, distressed brick, old mirrors, expansive expensive cocktail list with funny names, reclaimed wood tables, bartender with an accent, edison lightbulbs… you know the drill. It was a great crew of girls… ladies…uh… women. And not a bunch of stuffy banker types either- all of us work in one creative field or another- a gallerist, a yogi, an artist- all incredibly lovely, the exact right mix of gorgeous and profane you always hope will fill your table when you first move to New York City. We were kindred spirits. But when the oysters started coming and the cocktails kept raining down, I knew I was going to have to step it up in the stink making department. If a stink was required, a stink I would make.I had a big delicious kale salad, two yummy beers, and when the bill came I snatched it right up, grabbed a pen out of my purse, did my math (I forgot: I am slooow at math), wrote my name and $33 on the back of the bill (yes, that’s how much a kale salad and two beers costs you in lower Manhattan), put my card down and handed it to the person next to me.

She said “I’m so glad you just did that”.

The girl who ordered the oysters and the vodkas said “Aww, Look at that”, referring to my writing my name on the back of the check, “That’s so cute”, and plunked down $90 cash.

The girl across from her said “Thanks for figuring the check out”.

The waiter came and everyone lived happily ever after.

So, I guess the moral of the story is: Only a jerk would be a jerk about splitting the check, and there’s no shame in divvying it up. If someone has a problem with that, then I guess you’ve just paid $100 to know that you don’t have to be friends with that person anymore. A bargain.

Love,

Broke Ass Emily Post

Thanks to Rav, Hilty, Todd, Brittany, Janelle, Mels, Carrie, Andrew, Sara, Irina, and Sally for the advice and moral support. Let’s all go out to a big dinner together sometime soon.

Fat Radish images from here.

Happy Weekend, Happy Chinese New Year!

This week marks Chinese Lunar New Year, officially kicking off the year of the dragon! This year there are two parades in Manhattan’s Chinatown, one happened this past Monday, January 23rd DRAGONYEAR, and the second is coming up this Sunday the 29th. On Monday we started the celebration by getting down to Mott street early enough to stake our claim to a prime dim sum and dragon-dance-watching spot, eating pork buns, chicken feet, and delightful garlicky greens while the clatter of drums and the din of cymbals made sure that any evil omens and bad spirits lurking around got the hell out of there. The dragons dance up and down the streets, coming into open businesses to collect money to ensure luck and well-being. This one was wearing a shower cap because it was drizzling and, I guess, like me, dragons are sensitive to humidity ruining their hair. I think he looks pretty great.This paper represents what we ordered over three hours for lunch. Somewhere in those hieroglyphics are the aforementioned pork buns and chicken feet, shrimp dumplings, pork dumplings, vegetable dumplings, scallion dumplings, doughnut noodles (!), spicy squid, Chinese broccoli, garlicky bok choi, bean curd wraps, chili oil, Chinese winter sausage, fried shrimp with bacon, fish balls, sweet custards, sticky rice in lotus leaves, multiple coke classics, and eleven pots of tea- all ordered in Aunt Sheila’s perfectly wonderful Upper-East-by-way-of-Bensonhurst accented cantonese. She’ll tell you “I don’t speak cantonese, I only speak Dim Sum”. Repeat after me: Josh-eeuw-Baow (BBQ pork bun). That’s all you need to know.
And, of course, it was only $15 per person for the feast.Join in the festivities for yourselves this coming Sunday, January 29th, here’s the info:

13th Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival
11:30 a.m. – 4 pm, Sunday, January 29, 2012
Place: Canal Street South

The parade usually winds throughout Chinatown along Mott, Canal, and Bayard streets, and along East Broadway. Gung hay fat choy!