The Center For Science In The Public Interest has named it's "Xtreme Eating 2013" winners, if winner is an accurate word for a business you're publicly shaming for promoting obesity. Each year, the group focuses on the most calorific dishes served in America's chain restaurants, as part of its push to have federal rules for calories on menus. The press release states:
It's as if IHOP, The Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's Little Italy, and other major restaurant chains are scientifically engineering these extreme meals with the express purpose of promoting obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "You'd think that the size of their profits depended on their increasing the size of your pants.
The list includes a 1,700 calorie breakfast at IHOP, a 1,140 calorie milkshake at Johnny Rockets, and a 2,710 calorie veal porterhouse entree at Maggiano's. But the grand prize goes to the Cheesecake Factory, with a "bistro shrimp pasta" dish that has 3,120 calories and 89 grams of fat. Impressive.
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In light of these extreme dishes, rules about calories on menus might seem like a good idea, but we'd be wrong to think it would only impact chain restaurants. How would tasting menus at restaurants like The French Laundry be affected? Would they get by rules, which would presumably limit calories in a single dish rather that limit how many dishes you can serve? And does that lead to a classist system whereby regular, Maggiano's-going folk are regulated but it's assumed that people wealthy enough to afford a tasting menu are smart enough to make decisions of their own. I can certainly see the argument that you might not expect a dish called "bistro shrimp" to have 2-days worth of calories, but I think it's also safe to assume no one is going to a restaurant called the Cheesecake Factory looking for diet food.