April 19, 2009

Splitting will make a whole healthy

Every health professional is encouraging Americans to eat less when dining out. One strategy is to split an entrée. For one thing most restaurant entrées are too many calories for a healthy meal. Many other sites are encouraging splitting meals to save money, but my passion is not putting restaurants out of business.

However, I do believe healthy food, healthy portions at the right price, and local ingredients will be the foundation of economically healthy restaurants in the future. 

Freep.com reports a mixed bag in Detroit when it comes to splitting entrées. Some restaurants charge $10 and $5 to split. Others allow you to split at the table for free. In some places, they might try to embarass you into NOT splitting.

Last night we split the entrée at our favorite Italian restaurant. The waitstaff brought two extra plates, and of course, for its best customer, the restaurant did not charge any fee. (They have also waived any corkage charges in these economic times.)

I would encourage us all to speak up to the management if you think splitting entrées should be encouraged. And let's all eat the RightSize of food at our favorite restaurant.

I still remember the night my family and I were seated near a frail-looking elderly couple at an Italian restaurant in West Bloomfield, and the man told the waiter he and his wife would like one entrée to share.

In a disapproving voice loud enough to be heard several tables away, the waiter said something like, "Well, you'll have to pay a $5 split plate charge."

From his tone, I didn't think the waiter thought they were hard of hearing. I thought he was trying to embarrass them.

"What we are seeing, rather than more shared plates, are more people ordering petite entrées" -- regular menu items offered in a reduced size, said owner Jim Kokas of Opus One in Detroit.

But if diners still want to share an entrée, there's a $10 charge, which is clearly stated on the menu, as it should be.

The fee exists, he says, because his kitchen gives each person a half portion of meat or fish but a full measure of vegetables and starch, so it's serving more food. And there are other, less-obvious costs in serving two people rather than one: bread and butter for two, washing china and glasses for two, laundering napkins for two and so on.

Most restaurants, including Opus One, don't charge extra if a waiter splits a dish such as a salad or appetizer for the guests at their table. more...

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