Nuts to restaurant wine prices – a $15 wine dinner you can make at home, even if you don’t do much cooking.
The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t eat out much anymore, given the silly prices of Dallas restaurant meals, the uneven quality of the food and service, and, of course, the stupid markups for their mediocre wine.
This approach has annoyed more than a few of my friends, who like to eat out and aren’t as fussy (or as stubborn or cranky) as I am. “Come on, Jeff, it can’t be that bad,” they say. And them I invite them to the house for the $15 wine dinner challenge.
The challenge: I’ll make them my legendary arroz con pollo (the secret of which is leftover Chinese takeout rice) and an appetizer, plus two cheap wines of my choosing. If they don’t think that my dinner is a better value – a much better value – than the $100 a person budget busters that the foodies wax poetic about, then I’ll buy them one of those dinners.
So far, so good. Most recently, it was socca, the French chickpea flour pancake garnished with yogurt and tomatillo salsa and served with Bogle’s sauvignon blanc, followed by the arroz con pollo plus home-made guacamole, paired with Aldi’s $5 Vina Fuerte. Everyone was happy, and of course they were all surprised that they liked the wine as much as they did since it was so cheap.
My success with the $15 wine dinner challenge is not as much a testament to my cooking skill as it is to the foolishness of Dallas restaurants, who consider hip more important than quality and value. Consider this, from a news release for a high-end restaurant set to open here: It “will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner items like seasonal salads, rice bowls and homemade soups made with locally-sourced proteins and produce, and a curated bar will serve craft beer, cocktails and wine.” Talk about restaurant-speak; a curated bar, indeed. Somewhere, Richard Hainey is spitting fire.
Or as a friend of mine who is in the wine business said the last time we talked about this: “I go out to dinner to have a good time, not to spend a lot of money for food that isn’t as good as what I can make at home.”
Which is something that I wish more people understood. The food and wine – and the prices – would get a lot better.