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More Than My Portion

November 9, 2015

Maybe it’s the season, but I’ve been on a bit of an eating bender lately. Fortunately, I monitor the scale very carefully, and so far I haven’t been seeing the ill effects.

When I trimmed up the pork shoulder recently for Tonno del Chianti, I took the scraps and cooked them down in a heavy pot. At the time I was just goofing around, but when the mass ended up taking form, I realized I had inadvertently made a batch of pork rillettes. So naturally, I ate them for breakfast one day this past weekend.

Yes, I’ve been enjoying more than my fair share of grassfed butter, avocados, and other high fat foods. With that context in mind, yesterday I took Little Miss Fussy out for lunch. But in an effort to make sure we had room for dessert, I was inspired to try a momentary experiment with moderation.

This was La Mexicana. We both have our regular orders. Hers is simply a bean burrito with cheese. No meat. No rice. No salsa. Nothing. Just beans and cheese. Mine is a carnitas torta with everything and extra pickled jalapenos.

Neither of us has tired of these favorites. It’s just that when we are done with our food, we have no room left for anything else. At one point, the two kids were splitting one bean and cheese burrito between them. In those days of yore, we once were able to split an order of tres leches for dessert.

It’s the best version of the cake I’ve found out here.

Anyway, LMF and I have been missing this sweetened condensed milk soaked cake, so yesterday I had a clever idea. Instead of each getting our own entree, why don’t we just order one and split it. Then, we should have plenty of room for dessert.

The strategy was totally sound. It was the execution that was flawed. And it was my mistake. I opted for the Tlayuda, which is sometimes called a “Mexican pizza,” which it’s not. A large, baked flour tortilla is spread with beans, topped with cheese, and covered with meat. I customized ours with carne asada, chorizo, and carnitas (instead of the al pastor that typically comes on it).

The problem is that it’s huge. Even though we were both hungry, and we were splitting it, it was a gut busting experience. Still, we persevered, and then proceeded to make it through the dessert.

While we were there, I witnessed a couple other tables of adults order the Tlayuda. But on those tables, it was one of multiple dishes.

My intent here isn’t to single out La Mexicana for oversized portion sizes. This is an epidemic that spans all kinds of restaurants not just in the Capital Region, but across the land. Sure, we’ve got Italian Delis where the standard sandwich could be lunch for a family of four. And I’ve never forgotten the half sized order of risotto that provided me with three meals worth of food.

I’m actually thankful that I no longer like the burgers at Five Guys, because now I can go there with a clear conscience and just order the fries. And I’m equally happy that there are burger places where I don’t care for the fries, so I can skip the deep fried side and more easily absorb the fat and calories from the ground beef itself.

One problem that plagues some of our fancier restaurants is that most appetizer portions are plenty of food for a hungry adult. Maybe you could order one appetizer to start, and another one as a second course, but I suspect most people who chew their food, and put their fork down in between bites, would find themselves too full to order dessert. Full sized entree portions feel more like a task that must be completed, than the culinary pleasure they were intended to be, unless of course you are splitting them with someone else.

And this is coming from a guy who loves to eat a lot of food. The problem, I find, is that when going out to restaurants, I simply can’t. There’s just much too much of it.

I am reminded of my breakfast with Constantine at the Americana Diner in New Jersey, when he showed me his leftover packing station. He was able to reduce it to just one shelf, with a couple of boxes, by trimming down portion sizes.

Sure, some people might enjoy leftovers. But even back in my bachelor days, my refrigerator was where leftovers went to die. For as many people who turn their leftover meals into food for the week, there are just as many who eventually will throw it away, but only after creating more waste thanks to the takeout containers and plastic bags.

I’d love to pop into Cafe Capriccio for an order of greens and beans. But I don’t want to eat at the bar, and it would feel strange to sit down at a table and fill myself up on just an appetizer. If there were better transit, I’d happily split a bottle of wine, eat the same app, and maybe stick around for dessert. However, I can’t split a bottle of wine and drive home. Nor could my dinner companion.

It’s frustrating. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. So, I’ll just keep on banging this drum until more places follow the lead of places like Peck’s Arcade and adopt smaller portions and create an environment where a flexible eating style is the norm.

In the meanwhile, I’ll keep going out with groups of people so that I can enjoy tastes of as many sharable dishes as we can shove down our pie holes. That’s a much better way to eat, as long as you can organize a posse.

And then if there’s still room, you can head out to Ayelada for dessert afterwards. Because as much as I don’t care for most frozen yogurt, this place is a gem.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2015 10:51 am

    Wait. Hold on… Are you trying to say that American restaurants have a problem with large portion sizes?

  2. November 9, 2015 9:19 pm

    I never order fries at Five Guys, it’s just too much.

    But order fries instead of a burger? BLASPHEMER!

    • November 10, 2015 11:05 am

      EVERY burger I’ve bitten into at Five Guys over the past year has had some hard bits in the patty. I’m done. Plus I’ve discovered their vegetable sandwich, which I enjoy largely because I’m such a fan of their buns.

      I’d eat pretty much anything on one of those buns, except burgers with hard pieces of bone, tendon, or cartilage.

      • November 11, 2015 8:14 pm

        I think you realize my comment was tongue in cheek, and not intended to be offensive. (My wife thought it was, so she encouraged me to add a disclaimer).

        Admittedly, I don’t eat nearly that often at 5 Guys anymore, mostly because as delicious as the burgers are, they are gut bombs. Also, there are so many great burger joints in the area now, and 5 Guys is just one of many.

        I plan to head over for a burger soon, it’s been awhile. And you can be sure that my senses will be on high alert for any of the issues you’ve encountered. But I’ve not seen them myself, yet.

  3. November 11, 2015 8:24 pm

    I feel the same about overly large portions. I do enjoy eating a lot of food, and am learning to stop doing that. But what I really dislike about overly large portions is carrying around a stupid bag of food after I’ve had my dinner. I don’t want two dinners. It’s never as good the next day – lots of times it’s just awful. I want one dinner that is lovely and I can be done with it and move on. I am encouraged by seeing more and more small/large portion sizes on local menus. This is moving in the right direction. I’ve also found that questioning the wait staff regarding the sizes of the portions is important in managing to get a realistically sized dinner. Heck, if a restaurant wants to make its portions so ridiculously sized that everyone is only eating appetizers they deserve their own fate.

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