Jun 132013
 

A midtown Manhattan restaurant called Sushi Yasuda no longer accepts tips. They claim this gives the dining experience a more authentic and relaxed feeling to mimic restaurants in Japan. Customers can enjoy their food and don’t have to do math and calculations at the end of the their meal. Instead of gratuity, the co-owner explains that they have increased the price of the items on their menu by 15%, essentially building the cost into the food which allows them to pay their waitstaff a higher salary than other restaurants do. panda_restaurant_spoof_when_food_bill_comes_expensive_surprised, tips

When patrons receive their final bill, it reads near the bottom “Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda’s service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted.” The waitstaff gets paid a salary from day one and even receive a generous benefits package including vacation and paid sick days, which is apparently pretty rare in the food services industry :D Reducing the reliance on tips to provide the employees with a living wage is common practice not just in Japan, but in other parts of the world as well. However would restaurants lose business if they add a price premium to their food? The final amount that the customer pays shouldn’t change but maybe it’s a psychological thing. I’ve never worked in a restaurant before so if I were a waiter I’m not sure if I would prefer this compensation method or the traditional North American way of tipping. I’ve heard that in Europe they round up to the nearest Euro. I think every culture is different :)

Here are what some people on the internet had to say about the story:

“Concerning compensation in Japan, serving is considered respectable employment and deserving of fair compensation. The issue is not with the tipping, but with the social attitudes around the service industry in North America.” 

“As a former server I applaud this. If the service sector were uniformly unionized, all servers would have this kind of stability.”

“What if the service sucks? I like having the choice to pay more for attentive waiters and less for a poor service.”

“This is how every restaurant in NZ is…I love it! It frees up waiters to attend to ANY table – not just the ones in their section”

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Random Useless Fact: According to some studies, boys on average are more expensive to raise than girls.

neglectful_parents

 

Apr 082013
 

With the cost of food going up each year it’s becoming harder these days to eat healthy on a budget. Well here’s something nutritious and easy to make that can serve a small group of friends and doesn’t cost a lot of money :0) A guacamole dip can be eaten any time and is vegetarian friendly :) All you need are some onions, tomato, and of course avocado. You’ll also need something to dip with. In my case I’ll be using a regular baked bun. You can also bake your own rolls, or use whatever kind of chips you like.

13_04_guacalome1

There’s no specific formula or need for a measuring cup. I’m using 1 avo and 1 tomato. But some people like to use 2 avos to a tomato, it’s up to your personal taste.

Instructions:
1) Slice and toast the bread in the oven for 5 to 10 min
2) Meanwhile, pit and peel the avocado and chop up everything else
3) Mash all the dip ingredients together with a fork, eh Voila, bon appétit (^◇^)

13_04_guacalome2

A simple healthy snack that only costs a couple dollars if you know where to shop for the ingredients and can be prepared in under 10 minutes. Just add salt and pepper to taste and serve :)

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Random Useless Fact: There are more monkeys living in India (50 million) than people living in Canada (35 million)

Feb 032013
 

One of my personal resolutions for this year is to eat healthier. Not only is it better for the body, but a healthier diet is also more affordable. Last year I posted how to save money by just shopping at ethnic grocery stores instead of big supermarkets. You can buy a bag of groceries for under $6 if you know where to look. Furthermore I find that I can cut my grocery bill by 25% or more by limiting the amount of processed or refined foods when I do my shopping. Not to mention pre-packaged or prepared foods are full of empty calories. One thing I like to do at least once a week is make a smoothie.

13_02_smoothieprep, smoothie

They’re simple to prepare, extremely nutritious, and very wallet friendly. There’s literally hundreds of recipes on the internet you can find for smoothies, so I’ll just show one I made the other day as an example. I used some raspberries for their anti-oxidant properties plus they’re full of vitamins and minerals. Next I used some blueberries because they contain vitamin K, manganese, potassium, dissolves bad cholesterol, and apparently even help to reduce belly fat. The yogurt is optional, but I like it for the dairy, protein, and fiber content. And finally half a cup of juice (or water) to keep the consistency nice and smooth.

 

 

13_02_smoothieglass, smoothie in a glass

Blend everything together et voila :D  Each serving is less than a dollar. Drink some in the morning and you won’t even need to make breakfast. You can use ingredients that’s local and cheap. For example there’s a blueberry farm literally not even 30 minutes drive from my home. You can go pick them in the field yourself in the summer for cheaper than retail prices, then freeze them and make blueberry smoothies all year round :0) Food is one of our biggest expenses next to housing. By keeping our cost for groceries down, we can very easily save a lot more money than trying to scrimp on other things like hydro, transportation, or internet. The more savings we have the more we can invest and get closer to financial freedom (^_^) Depending on where you live you can set your own budget, but in Vancouver, I eat quite comfortably on a $100 monthly grocery budget :D

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Random Useless Fact: Near a West Vancouver elementary school a picture of a young girl chasing a ball is painted on the road. The optical illusion is being used to have drivers slow down near schools.

13_02_girlballdriving, pink ball is same color as my smoothie

Jan 212013
 

A couple weeks ago I got a nice surprise in the mail when I received a check from my real estate lawyer. The price they quoted me to do the farmland transaction last year was too much and there was apparently a balance left in my account which they’ve returned to me. I thought the invoice they billed me for earlier included the final fees, but I suppose that was just an estimate? Anyway, I’ve heard lawyers are greedy, but these guys seem to be pretty honest :D The amount isn’t a whole lot, but it’s enough to treat myself to something nice. I love seafood :) and living in Vancouver, I’ve had my fair share of it :D But one item I haven’t had yet was sturgeon roe.

first time eating caviar

first time eating caviar

A sturgeon is a type of fish and roe is a fancy name for fish eggs. There are 26 species of sturgeons in the world, but only 3 live in the Caspian sea, and it’s the roes from these particular sturgeons that have been the historical sources for fine Caspian caviar. And that is what I decided to spend my newly discovered money on. Sturgeon roe has been considered a source of great nutrients and has been known to maintain a woman’s beauty and provide stamina to men (if you know what I mean ;).) In ancient Rome it was regarded as such a delicacy that it was presented among garlands of flowers to only wealthy and powerful patricians (ie: aristocrats and noblemen.)  There are a number of places to find this highly prized roe, but in Vancouver if you want the freshest and best quality foods, there’s only one place to go :0)

first time eating caviar

Found a seafood store that sells sturgeon roe in the public market.

first time eating caviar, seafood city store

different sturgeons produce different caviarsThe largest of the 3 sturgeons swimming in the Caspian sea is the beluga, which can live for over 100 years and grow to become 2,000 pounds, or over 900 kg. That’s a pretty big fish eh (o_O) Its eggs are so special beluga caviar is sold for $8,000 to $12,000 per kilogram today. I could have bought this at the seafood store last week, but I decided it was too expensive, and opted for the much more affordable Asetra roe instead which is roughly only $4,000 per kilogram. In the end I only bought 30 grams of the stuff. The clerk was really friendly and even packaged the goods with ice cubes to keep it cool. I think by weight, this Asetra roe is probably the most expensive food I’ve ever bought. I think it’s worth it though, and the price of the caviar turned out to be the same as the rebate cheque I received so maybe it was meant to be ;)

caviar should be kept cool at all times

There are many different ways you can prepare caviar. If you want to keep it simple, all you need are some blinis or some other kind of good quality bread (cut into slices) and some Crème Fraîche which you can find beside the sour cream at your local specialty food store, or higher end grocery store. Give the bread a toast in the oven, plop on some crème fraîche and caviar, and then you are ready to eat like royalty \(^_^)/ 30 grams of roe makes about 10 to 12 of these canapés if you use the amounts I did (very bottom picture)

simple way to eat caviar

It tasted pretty good. Like rich fish eggs with a hint of sea salt. Not as crunchy as salmon roe, but more creamy, salty, and nutty. It was definitely a unique taste and I enjoyed it, but it was not a particularly memorable flavor at least for me. I’m not a big foodie, but I do think it’s okay to splurge on something gourmet once in awhile :D

Jan 142013
 

The United States has a strategic petroleum reserve maintained by the US Department of Energy. It contains millions of liters of oil in order to prevent an oil shortage during unstable times. We don’t have such a thing in Canada :( but we do have something called a strategic maple syrup reserve :D, managed by the maple syrup federation of Quebec, who else. Our reserve which contains millions of liters of maple syrup ensures the industry has enough supply to meet demand during a year of low maple syrup production. According to the federation, Quebec produces about 71% of the world’s maple syrup supply. Don’t mess with Canada. We’ll sweeten you to death :P

It might seem like a sappy thing to have, but our maple syrup reserve is serious business. A barrel of oil is only worth $100 now. But a barrel of maple syrup is worth $1,800. This sticky stuff is like liquid gold :0)  And with about 10,000 people employed in the maple syrup industry, it’s an important part of our economy.

13_01_maple_syrupBut between August 2011 and July 2012, thieves made off with 9,600 barrels of maple syrup valued at $18 million, from a warehouse belonging to the maple syrup federation. The security people doing routine checks of the warehouses must have been real saps. How could it take them so long to realize they were being pilfered. Once the news got out, more than 40 search warrants were executed in New Brunswick, Ontario and in the United States. Thankfully the police managed to catch a handful of the sticky fingered culprits and recover most of the stolen maple syrup :) So far 18 people have been arrested. One of them used to be a financial adviser. Maybe he should have just stuck to his day job (^_-) I hope the charges of theft and fraud will stick for these criminals because that’s what they deserve for trying to steal our national treasure ಠ益ಠ

But some of the stolen goods may have already made it onto the streets. I you see any sketchy guys in long coats hustling maple syrup, make sure you report it to the maple syrup of federation of Quebec ;)