What’s Your Beer Trading At?

No, seriously.

At this restaurant, you won’t find fixed prices for the beer of your choice. Yes, you will have a menu, but only with the types of beers that are offered.

The concept of a beer exchange that mimics the workings of a stock exchange is perhaps the most innovative and unique thing I’ve heard in a while.  How the beers are priced is based on the simple model of supply and demand. When more people order the same beer, the price of it will naturally rise. Likewise, the price will adjust downwards on beers that are purchased less frequently. The timing of the day as well as the day of the week are also two important factors that largely affect the cost of the beer. A beer that is bought on a Saturday night instead of on a Wednesday afternoon will obviously differ by a higher margin.

So what kinds of beers are sold, you ask?

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To segway into your question, I will first tell you where you can find this beer exchange.

In the United States, a new one that will be opened next week is The New York Beer Company. Located in Manhattan, it can sit up to 300 people with offerings of 40 kinds of drafts, 50 types of bottles, and convenient entrees ranging from pizza to steak. Here, you will be able to find your most common Guinness and Budweiser, as well as local exotic ones like the Brooklyn Local 1, Coney Island Lager, and Ithaca Flower Power IPA. Talk about state pride.

One cool feature is that the website allows you to click on a beer and then shows you its price and point of origination. For instance, Empire Cream Ale from Syracuse, NY can currently be bought at $6.50. Most are priced at $6.50. A more expensive one I found was Delirium Tremens, from Belgium for $10.

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However, the U.S. isn’t the only place with such a system. In Barcelona, there is the Dow Jones Bar that has been in existence since 1995. It’s very popular due to its ability to attract international customers every day and retain a loyalty customer base simultaneously with this system. They offer drinks that are more known worldwide as opposed to The New York Beer Company. You not only have beer, but also mojito, Bloody Mary, Absolut, and more.

And whenever you click on the website, the home page is a table with all of the drinks (even in ticker mode, i.e. WHRUSSIAN for White Russian), the prices they are currently trading at, and a green or red arrow beside it depending on whether it went up or down during closing time.

That’s not all. As a customer puts it: “every 30 minutes or so the stock market suffers and drink prices go down by 30-50%.”

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Thus, customers do not have to worry about highly inflated prices (nor deflated prices, unfortunately), otherwise prices could get really out of hand. The system incorporates a maximum price—which when reached—will trigger the price to crash and drop similar to a market surprise. At The New York Beer Company, beers are typically capped at a price range of $4 to $8.

At the end of the day, the bar will push a button that resets all prices for the next business day.

Whether you’re someone who follows the market all day, this place sounds too good to pass up. It’s like reliving your college days, except in a visibly more sophisticated and clever manner.

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I want to be him too

From finance to food, this guy is my role model.

Ahmass Fakahany, previously co-president of Merrill Lynch, has always been a foodie. He established a niche for himself by building a wine collection for the company.  The wines were mostly bought for himself, but it greatly reduced costs for Merrill whenever Mr. Fakahany brought wine to board dinners.

Unfortunately, his wine collection was sold off when Merrill Lynch got bought out by Bank of America because it was deemed “excessive.”

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Even in the dining room, Mr. Fakahany was the go-to guy for food-related issues. People would ask him to help spice up a plain salad or entrée.

So how and why did Mr. Fakahany switch into the restaurant business?

When Stanley O’neal, the former CEO of Merrill resigned, Mr. Fakahany knew it was over. His resignation making his 21 years at the company officially went into effect as of February 1st, 2008.

Though he obviously received other offers, he decided to exit the banking business once and for all.

His first restaurant investment took place in 2006, when he rode in the same elevator with chef Michael White. They were already acquaintances, but Mr. White wanted to open a restaurant of his own, and mentioned to Mr. Fakahany during the elevator ride that he had found 10 to 15 supporters.

Mr. Fakahany offered to fully support him without any other partners.

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Now, after a series of events, both men work together at Altamarea, one of the fastest growing restaurants in New York.

What’s most interesting to me is how Mr. Fakahany operates the business. Many of his implementations are akin to those of a businessman.

For instance, he offers deferred cash bonuses to some managers to instill loyalty and retain the good staff. Recently, he exchanged a $4,500 dinner bill by several British Airway executives for nine air tickets to give to his staff.

Mr. Fakahany also knows how to cut costs. He is involved in every process of the way, from hiring his former driver for transporting clients and ingredients to negotiating laundry rates based on his physical observations that the machines could be running faster.

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One of my biggest dreams is also to be a restaurant financier, where I can have stakes in different restaurants that I like or deem potential.

But I know as well as the next businessman that running restaurants is not an easy feat. It requires a sharp mind, good sense of humor, and patience all at the same time.

A former trader and now co-owner of restaurants puts it best: “Running restaurants is harder than trading high-yield bonds.”

Eating Ox in Denmark

Be bold and daring. Or just opt for the best.

For the third consecutive year, Noma has been crowned first according to the annual San Pellegrino World’s Best 50 Restaurant awards.

The restaurant, located in Copenhagen, Denmark, is traditional and avant-garde at the same time.  It doesn’t rely on customary ingredients such as foie gras, truffles, and olives typically associated with internationally renowned, upscale restaurants, but instead seek to break through the clutter by utilizing edible materials from the Nordic region, notably Icelandic skyr curd, berries and water, and Greenland musk ox.

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In fact, Noma is a combination of two Danish words: “nordisk” meaning Nordic and “mad” meaning food. Together, the first two letters of each word spell out “Noma.”

The restaurant prides itself on its unique courses that symbolize cultural heritage and health. It is involved in every step of the process from start to finish: cutting, smoking, drying, you name it. And in place of wine as a major component in creating sauces, Noma uses light alcohol like ales and fresh blends like fruit vinegars. The additional mixes of seasonal herbs and spices are not too dissimilar to dishes created in Asia’s high-end vegetarian restaurants.

Their 20-course menu comes at a price of 1500 DKK, or 265.95 USD (based on the most current exchange rate: USD/DKK = 0.1773).

Here’s a preview of some delicacies that are on the menu: celeriac and unripe sloe berry, limfjords oyster and air onion, and brown cheese.

(I specifically picked the ones I either haven’t heard of or can’t pronounce).

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And the current head chef? Rene Redzepi.

It’s no easy feat, but he’s done it—starting his own restaurant in 2003 when he was only 25 years of age.

As of right now, the restaurant is so overbooked that the next available reservation is in August. Evidently the waiting list is in the hundreds. Considering its fame, the length of the waiting list shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise.

More Rolls of Bills AND Fat

Contrary to popular belief, the rich is not necessarily healthier than the poor. Indeed, the rich may have access to higher quality healthcare and medical assistance, but they also have the privilege of enjoying fine dining rich in fat and cholesterol.

Unlike most other countries where the wealthy strive to maintain a fit and even thin figure, the opposite is true for those in China. A survey performed by a professor at the Chinese Medical Doctor Association shows that China’s obesity rate in the last 30 years has skyrocketed 158%. This is extremely alarming, and especially so in large urban cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, where fast food joints like McDonalds and KFC were fighting to set up shop, instead of appearing in stages like it did for the U.S or Europe.

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As long as China continues progressing into the next stages of globalization and opening up a larger portion of its market to foreign manufacturers, there will only be more openings of not only fast food chains, but high-end eateries as well. On the other end of the scale, the wealthy also tend to indulge in expensive food that naturally has higher contents of oil, sugar, and sodium. Particularly around popular holidays like Chinese New Year’s or Moon Festival, food becomes the focal point to represent one’s wealth and status. Thus, meat of the best quality and of various kinds and cuts are sure to be consumed.

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There is one thing I have to add, however—having lived for some period in Taiwan and China myself, I can speak for the Chinese when I say that exercise is not as common a hobby as it is in the U.S. The concept of exercise has traditionally been thought of as a form of art and discipline, such as martial arts, table tennis (ping pong), and chess. In comparison, running and yoga are both really big in the U.S., while in China the shared attitude toward exercising for the purposes of losing weight or becoming toned is not as widespread.

It will definitely be interesting to observe how China responds to its rising cases of heart disease, diabetes, and the likes. Aside from perhaps promoting diet products and weight loss camps, I see a large untapped market for health foods, particularly organic food. As is known in the U.S., retailers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are all a little more costly than Target or Kroger’s. But if the wealthy care about preserving and enjoying their wealth, then they should also care enough to protect their health in order to do so. In the long run, the costs of eating healthy on a daily basis should provide enough incentive to be able to splurge on occasions without incurring serious health repercussions.

Paying Your Fruits With Gold

Yes, you heard correctly. If you happen to be short of cash at the supermarket, you can use gold instead to pay for it (assuming you have any). Well, if you live in Colorado.

The state senators of Colorado are in the midst of passing a bill that would potentially legalize gold and silver so the precious metals can be used as currency. Gold and silver are currently considered property, so any profits generated from them are taxed as capital gains. 12 other states have already considered this, notably Utah, Georgia, Montana, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Washington. In fact, Utah is one state that has made significant progress. In March of last year, the state House passed a bill legalizing gold and silver as currency. This also means that capital gains are exempt. The next step would be the state Senate.

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With the country’s current trade deficit of $85.5 trillion (and which it is growing every second), many are hoping that using gold as an alternative currency can strengthen the dollar. It may seem counterintuitive because gold is often purchased as a safety precaution, especially during times of turmoil. However, the daily price fluctuation of gold can actually work in merchants’ favor.  Gold closed at $1,775 on Friday, up from approximately $1400 from a year ago, and then reached a high of $1850 last August.

While currently merchants in states that have legalized gold and silver are not required to accept them (i.e. Utah), they may be able to rake in more sales if they widen the range of currency that they accept. The biggest issue at hand, however, is counterfeit gold and silver. Just like merchants have to worry about fake bills, now they’ll have another thing to worry about. Considering the volatile state of the economy with many people owning gold (especially among the wealthy who have stacks stored in their bank accounts), I feel that it is still a legitimate risk that merchants should take if they want to stay alive.

Fries and a Glass of Wine, Por Favor

The typical American walks into McDonald’s, and expects to order his regular items: a Big Mac, fries, and coke.

The typical Argentinian walks into McDonald’s, and orders an Angus beef burger, two meat empanadas, and a glass of the local Malbec.

Oh, the life of an Argentinian—living life in the fast lane (pun intended).

The cost of getting a full meal at Mcdonald’s in Argentina is USD$10.80; pricey in the eyes of the fast food consumer but not so much considering the amount and quality of the food.

Keep in mind that the high-end meal is only available in the city of Mendoza—the wine capital of Argentina.

In France as well, the burger is one of a kind. I don’t even know if it can be called a “burger” anymore if the patties have been replaced with baguettes.

That’s not all. The cheeses used will also be substituted with locally produced cheeses.

Termed the McBaguette, the new item has been in inception for almost two weeks now. It will be offered for six weeks in all of its McDonald restaurants in France as a trial run. The cost is a tad bit more expensive, but still maintaining within the price range of McDonald’s premium burgers.

The alteration of the patty is due to the French’s obsession with bread.

Research have shown that the French view bread as one of their daily staples, but more significantly, 65% of the sandwiches sold in France each year are some variation of the baguette.

The prevalence and necessity of bread is such so that even the McCafés are baguette slices with jam on the side for breakfast.

At the core of it, the reason for McDonald’s expansion of new menu items across the globe is to attract and retain a wider range of clientele.

Numerous other examples exist in parts of Europe and Asia, including offering a tomato-based soup in Spain, using a rice patty and teriyaki beef in Japan, and having the option to substitute corn soup for French fries in Taiwan.

However, the newer explanation for the addition of menu items is to appeal to more high-end consumers. McDonald’s probably will never and shouldn’t become an upscale eatery—that would ruin its brand image. But it can aspire to become the Target in the fast food industry: more organized, modern, and fresh.

Wine’s It Girl

She was the youngest woman (29 years old) to be named a Master Sommelier, a globally known credential in the beverage industry that takes four stages to complete and more years of preparation. As of December 21, 2011, there are only 178 master sommeliers in the world, 18 of whom are women. She’s also the owner of Corkbuzz, a wine bar in New York opened just four months ago.

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Meet Laura Maniec, who knows pretty much everything there is to know about wine. She attributes much of her success to building great relationships with her peers in the industry, and of course, commitment to running her place. Prior to opening Corkbuzz, she had been the wine director of BR Guest restaurant group for 10 years. While at BR Guest, she oversaw 20 New York restaurants’ wine lists while simultaneously preparing for the Master Sommelier examinations.

Ms. Maniec’s presence at Corkbuzz 12 hours a day, seven days a week, is dedicated to not only overseeing the service of the wine bar, but also offering various classes ranging from “Pairing Wine with Takeout Food” to “How to Choose a Wine for a Date.”

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With so many kinds of wines to choose from, Ms. Maniec makes it easier for customers by making at least 40% of the brands recognizable, such as Muscadet and Chardonnay. Many people presumably frequent a wine bar for gatherings or causes of celebrations, so Ms. Maniec is careful in that respect to not have customers spend too much time inquiring the staff about the wine selection.

A smart girl operating a well thought out dining strategy in a niche market certainly makes for a successful business. As Ms. Maniec quote when starting Corkbuzz, “I didn’t want a wine school where I ran a tasting and said goodbye. I wanted to teach without being preachy.”