Nifty Google Food Trick, Free Coffee and Communal Tables — Yea or Nay?

Free Coffee

Who Needs Privacy? Whether you adore eating with strangers or abhor it, communal tables that compel you to do just that are increasingly common in restaurants. They've come "full circle from the utilitarian cafeteria to the gourmet dining room and back to mainstream casual fast food restaurants and cafes," writes Adee Braun in The Atlantic. Restaurant owners like them because they allow for more diners and create a sense of shared energy. But, warns Adee, "Diners and drinkers will only tolerate being squished around a table with strangers if they can choose from this menu of situations: a) if booze is involved, b) if there is interesting food to entertain them or c) if it's entirely acceptable to ignore their tablemates." What do you think about sharing elbow space with strangers in restaurants? [ The Atlantic]

Search Trick Helps You Compare and Contrast: Want to compare apples and oranges, or pasta and rice, or ice cream and chocolate chip cookies? Google has a search feature that lets you do side-by-side comparisons of the calories, carbs and sugars in, as well as other nutritional information about, almost any two foods you type in preceded by "compare" and separated by "and" — or in some cases, without the "compare" and simply separated by "vs." A Redditor discovered the nifty search trick and shared the news a few weeks ago, prompting one commenter to remark that celery vs. cake yields no chart. If you have to ask. [ Reddit via NPR's The Salt]

Of Everlasting Gobstoppers and Oompa-Loompas: This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the treat-celebrating children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The author's grandson, Luke Kelly, says Roald was "a massive chocolate lover" who shared sweets after every meal and (if you're a dentist, stop reading) kept a "glass jar of wine gums" (aka gumdrops) next to his bed "so he'd be able to reach his hand in and get sweets in the middle of the night." What's more, Luke recalls in an interview with USA Today, his grandfather "used to say children should be taught the dates of the inventions of great chocolate bars instead of the dates of kings and queens." And you thought you had a sweet tooth! [ USA Today]

Awards Season Continues: Food & Wine has named its best new chefs for 2014: Justin Yu of Houston's Oxheart; Cara Stadler of Tao Yuan, in Brunswick, Maine; Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quinonez Denton of Ox, in Portland, Ore.; Matthew Accarrino of San Francisco's SPQR; Paul Qui of Qui, in Austin; Eli Kulp of Philadelphia's Fork; Ari Taymor of Alma, in Los Angeles; Dave Beran of Chicago's Next; Matt McCallister of FT33, in Dallas; and Walker Stern and Joe Ogrodnek of the Brooklyn eatery Dover. Congrats to all. [ Eater]

In Other Food News: Chick-fil-A has fewer than half as many locations as KFC, is closed on Sundays and has endured controversy, but the fast food chicken chain zoomed past competitor KFC in sales volume for 2013, besting its bigger rival by $800 million, which is a lot of chicken. [ Bloomberg Businessweek] A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health concludes that the five servings of fruit and vegetables a day recommended by the World Health Organization isn't enough and that seven servings are way better for improving overall health. [ Los Angeles Times] McDonald's is offering free small cups of coffee during breakfast hours nationwide from March 31 to April 13, a move that some see as a strategic maneuver in the fast-food breakfast wars (cough, waffle taco, cough). [ AP News]

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