Gluten-Free at The French Laundry; Dating for Dinner; Female vs. Male Chefs; Restaurants Seek Rx for Dining ADD; Cheers to Sommeliers, Jeers to Corkage

Sadly, Balzac was born a generation too soon to compete in the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Dining and restaurant news…

* Hold the wheat. You can dine gluten-free at The French Laundry and it is, obviously, still really, really good. [CarolFensterCooks.com]

* The war on dining ADD. It’s being waged at many restaurants, particularly in Dallas. [City of Fate]

* The difference between female and male chefs. Some folks think there is one. I’m not sure because there aren’t enough female chefs out there. Restaurant owners, please remedy this. Thank you. [Eating Our Words]

* The new rock stars. Chefs have had their moment. Farmers, too. Now, sommeliers are stepping into the spotlight. [NBC New York]

* Does your restaurant have game? No, not like wild game! Think game like Farmville. [Mashable]

* It may not pay to dine out. But it costs less than eating at home, so maybe it kind of does? [Examiner]

* Balzac, the first competitive eater? Honoré de Balzac could really pack it away, even in prison. [Wall Street Journal]

* Where do food trends come from? Wild speculation and wishful thinking? No, seriously, a food trendologist has some answers (but not really). [CHOW]

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At Some Restaurants, BYOB Really Is Free

byobMost fine-dining establishments will allow you to bring your own bottle of wine to accompany a meal – but diners usually have to pay a corkage fee, which can range from $15 to $60 (and up). Recently, though, some savvy restaurateurs have reduced or waived corkage fees altogether on certain evenings. In Manhattan, for example, the Bar Room at the Modern offers “sommelier-free Sundays” and at Alto there’s never a fee. Similarly, in Minneapolis, FireLake Grill House waives corkage on Sundays while Manny’s Steakhouse has dropped its $25 charge.

Bringing your own wine can, obviously, save money, but it can also enhance the dining experience. It brings up opportunities to engage the sommelier or server, sharing a sip with her and, perhaps, getting some unique tips on dishes that would complement what you’re drinking.

If you’re thinking of bringing in a bottle, call the restaurant to confirm their policy and fee, (if there is one). Try to bring something special – not just a run-of-the-mill red to save money, but, rather, a bottle you’ve been saving or one that isn’t on the restaurant’s wine list. Also, stick to wine; not Coke.

How often do you bring your own wine when you dine out? Do waived or reduced corkage fees make you more likely to visit a restaurant?