Monday, December 10, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Fine Dining

Quite unexpectedly, I ended up having a very good morning. Saturday night I went out with the girls, and Sunday I went with my Dad, stepmom (Cindy), stepbrother (Judah) and brother (Curt) to Cindy's holiday work event which consisted of a show and dinner. The show we saw was the musical Jersey Boys, which is the story of the Four Seasons and Frankie Valli. I really had no idea what to expect, but I actually liked it a lot as it was quite funny and had some great music. Then we went out to dinner at Tulio Ristorante, which is what forms the basis for the title of this post.

First a little background. I am a very picky eater. My selection of favorite foods is similar to that of a 3 year old: pizza, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches and tacos. I have been known to go into a restaurant, order a beer, and ask for a kids menu. I have an aversion to nearly all green foods. My mother kindly indulged me a child, and my husband has apparently adapted to my stubborn refusal to try anything new. And while I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm proud of this behavior, I also feel like I am entitled to eat as I please.

So last night when I heard we were having Italian for dinner, I was pleasantly surprised. I love a nice plain fettuccine alfredo with garlic breadsticks. However upon entering the establishment, I could tell this was no Olive Garden. All signs indicated this place was far too upscale for me: one-sided menus in a foreign language, waiters severely lacking in "flair" and candle-lit dining. It was not a situation unfamiliar to me. I often work with internationally renowned scientific researchers, well-to-do board members and executives who are let's face it, a class or two or three above me. And those sorts of people do not tend to think of the Olive Garden as a great place for a business lunch or dinner.

So after my first glance over the menu, I felt a wave of panic wash over me. There was nothing that looked even remotely like noodles in a cream sauce, and there was even something with the words "little ears" in it. Outwardly I tried to maintain some composure as my eyes raced up and down the menu looking for something...anything...that I might be able to eat at least a little of. So when the waitress arrived 45 minutes later (long waits, another sign of fine dining) I asked her if they had anything remotely like a fettuccine alfredo. In response I received raised eyebrows and a condescending look. Taking that que, I went with plan B of ordering these least repulsive item on the menu. If I recall it was a vegetarian dish of something ending in "ella" with ragu sauce and goat cheese.

Then I sat back, chatted, drank some wine and waited another hour or so for the food. I also enjoyed the scenery and nearly burst out laughing when I saw a guy who looked like the Emporer from Star Wars sitting at a table nearby. Finally the food arrived. I was glad to see it was a small portion (another sign) and luckily edible enough for my standards. Later I rewarded myself by choosing the Tiramisu from the dessert menu. Yum! All in all, dinner took nearly 3 hours.

In summary, while I cannot say that I enjoy fancy restaurants, I can get through such occasions without embarrassing myself too much. But the pathetic truth of it all is that I'll take a place
with loud country music and Bud Light on tap over snooty five star dining any day. I just can't get away from those white trash roots, I guess.


C said...

Olive Garden is my FAVE!!! My biggest complaint with super fancy restaurants is that I can get a meal at least as tasty for much cheaper -- like $3 at Taco Bell.

jenn said...

I think we have mor ein common than just our name... i was also indulged with the same limited menu of foods I'd eat- now I eat tofu & spinach & all sorts of stuff that made me gag. but trying it the first time is really tough- especially in a restaurant- especially with anyone other than my husband, sister, or best friend who all know how big a deal it is!!

I think I take the cake from you though- I didn't even have the guts to try mac-n-cheese until my 18th birthday. I thought it was too exotic, lol!