Factory indeed

Michael Ruhlman teases Kelly Alexander for lauding Cheesecake Factory. Alexander challenges Ruhlman to try the miso salmon there, and if he doesn't like it, she'll pay for the meal and buy 15 copies of Ruhlman's new book. If he loses, then...

The dishes Ruhlman and his group order all turn out okay, but he concludes that the "Factory" part of the restaurant's name rings all too true:

The biggest drawback is the mall-like atmosphere, a sense of faux everything that is perhaps inevitable in any large chain. The fact that any of the 146 CFs around the country can put out this astonishing variety of food is an impressive work of corporate organization and efficiency. But I left feeling sad, and not sure why. I think, on reflection it was because of the sense that what we'd just experienced was simply a company responding to the demands of America, and the demands of America were helping us to take our food one step backward rather than one step forward, and I don't think we have time for backward steps.

What's more frightening, though, is the caloric counts of some of the dishes there:

The salmon weighs in at 1,673 calories -- which is to say, a bit more than 75 percent of the food an adult male should eat in a day. The piccata is a comparably slim 1,385 calories. The crispy beef is 1,528 calories. And the carbonara? 2,191. (source: Ezra Klein)