In keeping with tradition for past few years (2014, 2013), I have tracked every single meal consumed in 2015. The infographic below is possible thanks to data organization by Steven Chang and design by Tiffany Jen.
My 2015 goals were to decrease overall spending, eat different cuisines besides American and Japanese, and develop more appreciation for each meal since they will be fewer and further between.
Top 5 Most Visited
1) Gourmet Garage - With a crushingly long winter, I loaded up on soups at the Garage for most of my lunches in Nov and December. Love their Chicken Dumpling and chicken noodle soup.
2) Chef's Club - This restaurant was my kryponite, single-handedly responsible for $2100, or roughly, 9% of my total expenditures.
- 21 visits from Feb to Dec 2015
- 9 Chefs Club studio dinners
- 2 Dining Room Takeovers
- 1 Anniversary Party
- I hosted my birthday dinner with 30 friends. Epic pizza party with pork shoulder and Carbonara pizza as highlights
- With guest chefs doing a pop-up every month, it's like going to a "new" restaurant every time and the service and ambiance are always top-notch.
3) Joe's Shanghai - Lots of seamless orders on late nights. I lived an avenue away so at a press of a button, I could have decent soup dumplings and their excellent cabbage with dried shrimp in my mouth in < 15 min.
4) Arcade Bakery - A perennial favorite for lunch. Pizza with crispy crust and next level pepperoni, whiskey pecan babkas, and Counter Culture coffee ensconced within a smartly-designed office lobby. My favorite pastry there is the lemon sugar brioche. Get it.
5) Sobaya - Ah yes, the only stalwart restaurant on this list for 3 years in a row. I still get my hair cut in east village every 3 weeks which means I will continue to make the 1 block journey to inhale curry soba, eel over rice, and sliced salmon sashimi. I have a feeling that Sobaya will be replaced by nearby competitor Ise where I just had the best duck soba of my life last week.
Top Five Cuisine Spend
Like last year, American and Japanese cuisines topped the list. These two categories accounted for 68.8% of my total expenditures. I consciously tried to branch out with Laotian (Khe-Yo has great fish and a fantastic rendition of pho) and Mexican (Tehuitzingo has cheap and delicious al pastor tacos!).
Outside of NY, I had an intense Israeli feast in Philly at Zahav, where we devoured the most tender and fatty lamb shoulder. Another standout meal in Philly was Vedge, where I experienced some of the most flavorful vegetarian dishes of my life.
- 2013 - ate out 203 times at 132 unique restaurants.
- 2014 - ate out 569 times at 319 unique restaurants.
- 2015 - ate out 793 times at 399 unique restaurants.
Failed my biggest goal. Not only did I eat out more, I ate out at more restaurants. My only "win" was that I ate out at less Michelin-starred restaurants (12 stars vs last year's 29 stars)
- 2014 - spent $20,463.
- 2015 - spent $24,134, an increase of 20%
- Most expensive month was December ($3300.36) due to some big dinners at Sushi Azabu, Tanoshi, Hot Kitchen, Inn at Poundridge, and Contra (NYE dinner).
- Least expensive month was January ($665.89) largely because I was not in NYC. (Ate out 14 times in NYC and 20 times outside NYC)
Credit card roulette
- Another category I started tracking was the amount comped. Any meal that was paid for by my friends, company, or gifted by a restaurant went into this column that totaled $4,502 this year. Comps are great but playing CCR (credit card roulette) pushes it to the next level. If you have a friend or group of friends that you eat with regularly, I highly recommend it. When the check comes at the end of the meal, participants hand their credit card to one person who shuffles and then have the waiter pick a card to pay. For more of a sweat, you can have the waiter pick cards one by one until the last card loses and pays. My friends and I eschew these traditional modes and prefer making up more interesting bets.
Here are a few categories we've used:
- DICE - We downloaded a dice app and took turns rolling. Highest sum after 3 rounds determines winner
- GENDER - Gender of the next person entering the restaurant
- ODD/EVEN - How many letters are in our server's name, # of doughnut flavors at Dough by the time we reach the register, # of stamps on the dimsum bill at Golden Unicorn
- ROSHAMBO - first to 3 victories is the winner
- HIGHEST SUM - # of fries received at Burger and Lobster. (Answer 60+), adding up the numbers on the slip of paper in a fortune cookie
- COMBO - This is advanced as in there are multiple games at play. Maximum satisfaction and fun but usually difficult to structure fairly. A recent example occurred when I went to Nishi with Sam and Sohee. We broke protocol and made the bet in the beginning of the meal: guessing Sohee's favorite dish out of maybe 5-6 that we ordered. Sam and I stared at Sohee every time a new dish arrived and to her credit, she chewed with perfect poker face, giving off nothing. We couldn't tell if she hated/loved the dish. Roshambo determined who would pick. Sam won two times in a row and got to guess twice (scallops and the sujebi)- a massive advantage that was neutralized when he whiffed on both. Esp sweet since I had the same two guesses...I finally win the 3rd pick and correctly guessed the side dish of sweet potatoes and Sam paid for the David Chang-sized check. Win.
WHERE I ATE
My gastronomic adventures abroad included Singapore and Morocco. While I had some expensive meals in Singapore, the most memorable were the cheap street food from the hawker centers. Hainanese chicken over rice, fried carrot cakes, and stingray washed down with sugarcane juice and iced Milo were our staples. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much variation in Morocco. Besides the outlier of sheep testicles, the one constant dish wherever we went was tagine. Chicken tagine. Lamb tagine. Don’t get me wrong – they were delicious….simmering with spices, dates, nuts and full of flavor. But after having it for lunch and dinner every day triggered taste fatigue quickly. Yes, soba and sushi withdrawal is real.
The one thing I’m looking forward to in 2016 is my 2 week trip to Italy. I haven’t planned specifics but will probably book a food tour with Katie Parla in Rome. I’m currently going solo so if any of you readers want to meet me at some point, by all means, bring stretchy pantsand let’s do some damage.
Will aim to spend less than $19k in 2016 which is going to be a difficult goal. As of this time last year, I had spent $3121.51. This year, I'm already up to $5835.84. Crap. Not a good start.
My next post will include a list of every single restaurant I went to as well as a summary on my top 10 dishes of 2015.