My husband says I’m a real bitch when it comes to food. Guilty as charged.
I’m still gagging over Friday night. This was the second time we’ve been invited by another couple to meet for dinner at a restaurant of their choice – dutch treat.
I accept responsibility. Much of the problem is mine. I’m picky. Especially when we drop a big wad of cash for food and alcoholic beverages, the alcoholic beverages consumed in larger part by our dinner partners.
When I eat out it’s because:
a. I’ve been invited as in this case.
b. I love the food at a particular restaurant.
c. A particular restaurant prepares a dish way better than I can.
d. A particular restaurant prepares a dish I love but have no interest in making myself because of the time and effort involved.
***Ooh! Check the end of the post. Guess the mystery food and win a dessert recipe from my private collection!
Okay. Here we go.
1. Piling mixed greens on top of every starter and entree instead of providing a fresh seasonal vegetable. Asparagus is everywhere right now. Green beans just came into season out here in California. Brussel Sprouts are still fresh. Cauliflower is big. Baby artichokes are cheap. C’mon! I don’t need a mess o’ greens piled on top of my food, especially when the greens are coated with an herb vinaigrette reeking of marjoram.
It wasn’t hard to identify the greens. I’m growing them in my garden– Japanese Misome and Mizuna. Greens of the moment.
Every single item we were served, starters and entrees, was covered with the same sloppy room temperature greens. I watched plate after plate pass by our table, each plate filled with the same greens. Every single menu item looked exactly like every other menu item – a salad.
2. Every item on the entire menu was served in a giant bowl. This is beyond annoying on a good day, but even more so when the entree is barely visible within the bowl. It is so hard to eat stuff out of a giant bowl. (You try cutting a steak in your giant bowl. Not that I got a steak…)
This may be the first time in my entire adult life I’ve ever been served an entree so small as to be virtually nonexistent. I don’t need or expect a huge portion, frankly I don’t want a huge portion. However I needed a microscope to see the kabocha squash tortellini I ordered. Not that it much mattered because the tortellini sucked. They were cold, undercooked, made with wonton skins instead of pasta dough, and they tasted overwhelmingly of marjoram because of the herb vinaigrette from the greens piled on top.
Which leads me to–
3. Serving what is supposed to be hot food at room temperature.
Nothing arrived hot. Everything arrived at room temperature including the night’s signature cocktail, Sludge… oh, sorry, I mean a Blood Orange Royale. What should be cold, sparkly, light and refreshing was a flat overly sweet red-orange room temperature mush. It was disgusting. I had to send it back.
4. Serving chicken that is unrecognizable as chicken. My husband ordered a roast chicken breast stuffed with tomato confit. When his entree arrived he and I stared, flabbergasted. Beneath the ubiquitous mess o’ greens was something neither of us had ever seen before, something we hope we’ll never see it again.
Let’s see if I can describe this…
My husband to our server– “Uh, excuse me, I ordered roast chicken.”
Our server– “Yes. This is chicken.”
My husband, poking around with a fork– “It is? It doesn’t look anything like chicken. It looks like something…” (Words failed him.)
Our server– “Yes. It’s our version of roast chicken.”
Me, elbowing my husband– “I know what this is. This is Howard Wolowitz’s mother’s turbriskafil.”
Well, in my defense that’s what it looked like.
Do you remember when your kids were toddlers and you made your own baby food? I do. I had this little grinder/baby food maker and I kept it near the table. When I’d serve chicken I’d stick pieces of chicken into the grinder and turn the crank. The chicken came out all smooshed– chicken paste. That’s what this looked like, chicken paste.
So what my husband had in his giant bowl were three rolls or a roulade of smooshed chicken. It looked as if someone had taken a boiled chicken breast, put it through a grinder and turned it into a paste the texture of Gefilte fish, which I suppose is sort of fitting since Passover begins in another week or two. Once the chicken was all pasty the chef spread it over what appeared to be sausage casings. He layered in a little tomato confit, which looked and tasted like liver, and then he rolled it up. This stuff, whatever it was, was super pale, not roasted or braised or sauteed or caramelized by any stretch of the imagination. It was cut into three pieces and stuck on end in the giant bowl. And then covered with a mess o’ greens.
I’m telling you, Howard Wolowitz’s mother’s turbriskafil.
It was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.
The memory of this meal kept me up all night. Food will do that to me. I can obsess for days about either an extraordinary meal or a terrible meal. This was terrible. Damn, I hate flushing money down the drain.
***Guess the mystery food! Our also virtually nonexistent starter arrived covered with greens. My husband and I shared what was supposed to be: Poached Artichokes, Fromage Blanc, Hen of the Woods, Barigoule Emulsiona. (Found a tiny blob of cream cheese buried on the bottom of the bowl) The dish didn’t exactly arrive as described. However, the greens were topped with a mystery food. I’m good at identifying pretty much anything but neither my husband nor I could figure out this particular food. Whatever it was had been shaved so thin as to be almost transparent.
Here are the details:
It was white-ish in color, 2 strips per bowl placed on top of the greens, each strip was approximately 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide.
It was raw.
The flavor was vaguely root vegetable and a little off-putting. But it was definitely not a raw parsnip, not an apple, not a pear, for sure not a lotus root. No sweetness. No tartness. I caught some slight nuttiness.
My husband thought it was cheese when he first looked at it, but the texture was cellulose, so it was a plant.
My thoughts – Celery root? Jerusalem artichoke?
Suggestions? Once I get your ideas I’ll call the restaurant and find out what it actually was.