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Worth a Princely Sum

March 22, 2018

Perhaps the hardest thing about my job these days is that the line between work and fun is so blurry. I know. Cry me a river. The upsides are easy to see. The downsides are likely less obvious.

For example, if there’s something fun coming up on the horizon—but it’s not related to work—all of a sudden it’s extra hard for that event to make it onto the calendar. There’s only so much cavorting a husband and father of two can do without his family. Apparently, they like having me around every now and again.

That said, they also like having me gone on occasion. And that’s fair. The feeling is mutual.

This Sunday not only can I not attend the last Family Meal put on by Josh Coletto and Michael Lapi, but on the other side of the fence I’ve been actively promoting a competing event. Sorry gents. The timing stinks.

But that other event is much much smaller, and there will be similar outings in the future. This Troy dinner sounds fantastic, and nothing would make me happier than to see Josh and Michael pack the house and sell out of tickets on their final family meal. So today, I’m going to encourage the readers of the FLB who aren’t active Yelpers to get a seat at this very special table. And I’m going to do that the best way I know how—by trying to make an expensive night out seem well worth the price of admission.

For most people, dropping a hundred bucks per head on dinner isn’t an everyday occurrence.

I’ve never calculated what my average dinner costs. It would be an interesting experiment. But we eat multiple vegetarian meals a week, and when we do eat meat, it’s generally in small quantities. Those lamb necks I recently braised were there in a supporting role for the chana masala and the dal. Additionally, I’ve been trying to reduce my own portion sizes at home, to compensate for how much I’ve been eating out on the job.

So maybe my typical dinner costs a dollar or two in food ingredients purchased at retail?
Or, about the half the cost of the can of craft beer that I might be drinking with the meal.

Is this Family Meal going to be 50 times as good? Just look at this menu.

The Family meal will actually be infinitely better, because Josh and Michael are making things that I wouldn’t even begin to attempt from my home kitchen, using ridiculously good ingredients from local farms that would take days just to gather, and that take more time than I would ever spend preparing a meal. And remember, this is coming from a guy who thinks nothing about slow three hour simmers.

In some ways, that $100 price tag is deceptive too. Because that’s inclusive of tax and service. Which isn’t to say you couldn’t leave more for service, but it’s not necessary. So that means, the price of the food and beverage for this four course meal is $78.

If you wanted to try and break it down into courses and drinks, you could find value that way too. Your back of the napkin calculations might vary, but even with a $15 allotment for beers and coffee, $15 for charcuterie, $15 for that warm salad with duck rillettes, $30 for the main spread of roast chickens, ribs, and polenta, and $10 for winter pies and cookies, you’re already at $85.

But there’s something else that’s going on with dinners like these that you don’t get at very many sit down restaurant experiences, in these parts, or elsewhere.

You have chefs cooking with passion, and a menu designed for just one night.

Even at some of the world’s finest restaurants, people are surprised to learn the back of the house can feel a lot like a McDonald’s. Part of that is that when people are paying a lot of money for a celebrity chef’s signature dish, they want it to look exactly like the ones they have seen on Instagram.

To get that level of consistency, everything is made in advance, and simply assembled to order. A spoonful of sauce from bucket A, a seared protein from the grill station, a garnish from bucket B, and a drizzle of sauce from bottle 3. I’ve met talented cooks in top kitchens who had to get out because the soullessness of it all was driving them mad.

Michael and Josh are being very smart about the kinds of foods they are preparing for this family meal. They all work well when served in quantity. And as far as I’m concerned, this is the tastiest looking menu yet. Seriously. Every course piques my desire. That almost never happens. Especially for me.

Plus, you’re not just buying dinner. You are buying a seat at the table, both literally and figuratively. This is a family style meal, and by attending you are also going to meet other people who care about food. Take my word for it, those are good people to know. Not to mention the fact they often have some great food stories to share. But this is also a meal that is built upon local ingredients, from small farms, and treated with respect. So you’re also buying into an ethos and supporting the notion of what good food should be.

There are only so many seats at these tables. And once this meal happens, it will never happen again. I do hope you can make it. I’m bummed to be missing it. But I’m thrilled that Josh and Michael have been bringing meals like this to the Capital Region. Even if I am promoting a competing event. Tickets are here. While they last.

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