The Hungry Man Eats

Monthly Archives: July 2014

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Red Lobster: Food Looks Fancier When Stacked

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Does the picture of the Crab Bake above from Red Lobster make your mouth water? If not, then perhaps the discussion to come about Red Lobster will not be your thing, go read my review on my other site about the Italiano Burger from Olive Garden instead…

Those of you in the know have probably heard by now that Darden Restaurants, best known as the parent company of such sit down casual restaurants such as, the Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse has sold off the Red Lobster chain of restaurants. Red Lobster had been considered the weak link in Darden’s restaurant operations and supposedly Darden will be in a better position now that the sale is complete.

The new CEO Kim Lopdrup had some interesting things to say:

  • He is of the opinion that Red Lobster is still viewed as “fine dining for the middle class”.
  • About the new presentation of their plated dishes: “The food arranged in a way that’s more like you’d see at a fine-dining restaurant,” Lopdrup said. “The seafood is the star.”(Check out the link to the news story for pics of the food plating)
  • “At the end of the day, people are not going to go a Chipotle for their anniversary or their birthday.”
  • The number of non-seafood items will be reduced from the current quarter of menu items, to more like 10-15% of the menu.
  • They will do away with some of the recent promotions they have had that made their food look cheap (but still keep beloved promotions such as Crabfest and endless shrimp)

As a longtime patron of Red Lobster, what does the Hungry Man think?

  • If by fine dining for the middle class means decent quality seafood that does not cost an arm and a leg (or a fin and a flipper) but still has steak available, then yes. But one of the complaints I heard while these discussions were ongoing about whether to spin off Red Lobster was that Red lobster was too pricy for less affluent people, too low-class for the rich and no longer the first choice for the middle class. The dining out landscape has changed dramatically in the past 20 years, the bar has been raised on people’s expectations and Red Lobster is still partying like it is 1994.
  • This point was the one that amused me and spurred me to write this up. Spread out it looks like a bigger plate of food, but it sure looks fancier stacked like that… The key point though for me is that your food will stay warmer longer that way and we all know how quickly seafood cools off.
  • You are correct sir. Places like Chipotle and Panera are the industry darlings currently, but they are not good choices for actually going out somewhere to eat for a sit down experience. They call them fast casual restaurants because you order and grab your food like it was fast food, but if you are eating in at a place like Panera, your food is given to you on real plates with silverware, no server to tip. Chipotle however is basically glorified fast food, and their restaurants, if you have the misfortune to actually have to eat in one are loud, crowded and have a worse ambiance then my high school cafeteria. The quality of the food is the only thing Chipotle has going for them, and it is good food. But neither one is a good place to go out with the family, or trying to impress someone on a first date, compared to Red Lobster at least.
  • If you call your restaurant Red Lobster, then seafood should be the focus, diverting your time and attention to the people who did not come to Red Lobster to eat seafood is folly. Rather than having a quarter of your menu filled with middling non seafood offerings, make those 10-15% you do keep the very best non-seafood items you have, goodbye Parmesan Crusted Chicken Alfredo…
  • Pricing of your dishes is important, price something too high and nobody will buy it, it is overpriced. Price it just right and people will buy it. Have a coupon for two bucks off of said dish and people will believe they got a good deal, but price and promote something too low and people will believe they are getting a low quality item. People would rather have a deal than cheap food.

I wish Red Lobster the best of luck and call me old fashioned, but given the choice of Chipotle, Panera and Red Lobster as places to eat, I would rather pay more and enjoy a decent sit down meal at Red Lobster.

Nothing Good Comes From Eating Lots of Food at the Hospital

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     Normally, the Hungry Man is more than happy to eat out, and the chance to eat out at a restaurant multiple times in a row would be a great opportunity to try multiple things on the menu. You know how it is, you find something you like but you also find two or three other dishes that you would have been happy to try out.

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      Unfortunately when the restaurant in question is the junior board café at the hospital, and your reason for eating there repeatedly is because a loved one is in the hospital where said café is located, you would rather be eating anywhere else in the world. Or you would prefer going hungry for that matter as long as it meant you had no reason to need to be there let alone there long enough for 10 meals.
      It all starts off well enough on the first full day, there were some reasons to be optimistic as well as some reasons to be pessimistic, but the morning is brutal and the coffee they served did little to help matters as it only makes you jumpy on top of the tired nervousness you already have. By the time you realize you are hungry and join your mom in the café for the first of the ten meals is has slipped past 11a.m. and it is actually lunch. The ham and cheese wrap (pictured above) tastes good and makes the hunger you felt, but had no appetite to try to resolve go away. You are pleased with the generous side of plain potato chips. About 7 hours later, dinner occurs and the club sandwich is almost as good as the wrap you had for lunch (-1 point for their club sandwiches being “traditional”, and thus lacking cheese).
      Day 2 takes you offsite for lunch with some family friends, the afternoon is beautiful so you eat outside and enjoy one of the best club sandwiches and potato salad combos you have ever had. It probably tastes so good because A: It is a balmy 80 degrees outside rather than the chill 68 at the hospital, and B: it makes you feel like things are normal for about 80 minutes of your life before reality comes crashing back in. The cheeseburger and fries are recommended by your brother, so you do so with the works. You realize that the pickle slices they have been serving with everything are surprisingly delicious.
      Day 3 is starts crappy but ends on a high note, the first conclusive test for whether your dad is going to have a smooth recovery comes back looking poorly, although the body is bouncing back as well as could be expected from the massive heart attack which struck late afternoon on the 4th of July, it appears that the brain has been damaged, possibly badly. Your ham and cheese wrap for lunch is missing the cheese, but it really doesn’t matter. Dinner is another club sandwich (pictured below), this time on wheat in the main cafeteria as your niece insisted on dining there (with lots of chips both meals). Your dinner sits well as it appears that your dad may be responding to basic commands and he has been receiving nutrition.

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       Day 4 erases much of the positivity of the day before, a setback has occurred and there will be no new scan today, sedation is the only activity for the day. The thrill of possibly eating your way through the menu has given way to the comfort of the familiar, a ham and cheese wrap at lunch and a club sandwich for dinner. You are beginning to get tired of all the chips, and even if you combined all of the chips you have consumed so far into one big chip, it would not be as big as the one that is now on your shoulder given your frustration over how things are going. But at least you did not bite off the tip of the plastic sword that held your club sandwich quarter together like you did the night before and have to spit out the whole bite because you could not distinguish the sword tip from the crisp bacon and did not want to make a mess in front of your brother’s in-laws.
       Day 5 was not a good day either as we began to come to terms with the reality that the brain damage was severe as the second EEG showed. At that point my dad’s brain function was in the lowest quartile of activity, and unless the next day showed improvement, there was no waking up from this, either my dad to awareness or me from the nightmare I had been living from 5:27 p.m. July 4th. Ham and cheese wrap for lunch (but you knew that already didn’t you…) and a cheeseburger for dinner, meal number 10 as it was, but this time with bacon added because bacon makes everything better, right?
      Day 6 was unfolding as I was back home for two days to work some and regain some sanity. It became the second worst day of my life as the news was indeed bad, there was no improvement in brain function and basically no hope. Baked four cheese ziti leftovers from the Olive Garden were lunch, my parents had been there the previous week and my mom hates leftovers, they were for my dad to eat, but that was my job now it seemed. A salami and cheese sandwich was dinner as passing out from hunger on the drive back and wrecking would be a lousy way to get back to the hospital to see my dad for the last time ever as palliative care would commence after my visit.
      Day 7, the worst day. There was no meal 11 for lunch, no ham and cheese wrap to be consumed. No chance to review the hospital food with my dad as he recovered as I had hoped. My dad passed away peacefully at 5:56 a.m. Friday July 11th. There will always be an empty place at the dinner table that can never ever be filled.

 

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