Motivations like domain adaptation, transfer learning, and feature learning have fueled interest in inducing embeddings for rare or unseen words, n-grams, synsets, and other textual features. This paper introduces a la carte embedding, a simple and general alternative to the usual word2vec-based approaches for building such representations that is based upon recent theoretical results for GloVe-like embeddings. Our method relies mainly on a linear transformation that is efficiently learnable using pretrained word vectors and linear regression. This transform is applicable on the fly in the future when a new text feature or rare word is encountered, even if only a single usage example is available. We introduce a new dataset showing how the a la carte method requires fewer examples of words in context to learn high-quality embeddings and we obtain state-of-the-art results on a nonce task and some unsupervised document classification tasks.