Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hillside Dining Nightmare

I had the strangest dream last night.

We were a group of about ten sat for an early dinner at this new restaurant on a hillside. The buzz about this place was fantastic. It was fine dining in a challenging environment; literally the dining room was tilted at an uncomfortable angle.

The linens were heavyweight in order to keep them from sliding during service. The green selected for the green tablecloth and cloth napkins must have been selected to "blend" with the grassy knoll we were perched upon at a precarious angle. The tabletop ease laden with glasses, both water and wine and probably a few cocktails knowing my friends, heavyweight cutlery stood at the ready. An unfamiliar piece on the table on the high side (altitude-wise) was a small clamp, which the server explained was there because "some people" (said with a little distain) "liked the added security of a clamp on the tablecloth to prevent the ever so slight sliding that occurs during the course of the meal". We as a group certainly weren't going to let our desire for "security" drive us to clamp our cloth and risk missing the entirety of the experience our restaurateur had intended.

As the chargers were lifted the servers brought out the first of the Amuse Bouche. This house made rabbit sausage arrived on a heavy white square plate. It was a simple presentation the stark white plate became a glistening backdrop for this rich and savory bite. Yet there was a touch of sweetness from diced honey crisp apples in the sausage. The "pinky finger" of sausage, as someone at the table had called it was slightly elevated on the plate by a rosemary focaccia crisp and there was three peas size dollops of house ground (no doubt) grain mustard. As the plates were all set down the tablecloth shifted south a bit, but without much thought we on the upside simply grabbed the cloth and nonchalantly pulled it back.

Next there came a wild boar pate served with a cassis sauce and dotted with chopped pistachios. This time the silverware clangs and glasses knock as two people slam their hands down on the table -averting disaster as the entire table top made a run down south. Slightly awkward laughter followed as someone joked aloud, while seriously considering the clamp at his place setting.

Disaster finally struck somewhere between an egg dish and a soup/salad course. All salads were plated and served while a teapot size tureen of hot wild mushroom soup was set next to our soup bowls. The soup was oxtail served under a parmesan crisp with wild mushroom soup. The hot bowls contained the boneless shredded oxtail. A dome shaped crisp covered the meat and at the exact right time the server poured each individuals soup around and over the ingredients in the bowl. The earthy aromas swirled in the air...and then-in an instant so did the entire tabletop.

Wine, water, soup, china, glass, and silver all crashed down on the guests seated on the downhill side. No one was spared however as crisp white shirts, ties, and sport coats were splatter with wild mushroom soup, butter pats, and or, various wines.

The staff sprung in to action. Sweeping, mopping, and appeasing guests. A manager stood with one arm crossed the other hand was slightly over his mouth to muffle the conversation he was having with the server trying to figure out what had gone wrong. The obviously very seasoned professional server was making alternating gestures that clearly exonerated him from any liability, then pointed at certain guests and made mock chugging motions as if some at our table had been drinking Krug like we were shooting Irish car bombs at two for one night.

The blame being assessed fully on our table for this mess, we were condescendingly assured that a new "safer" table was being prepared. We were all in various states of undress at this point. Some men still donned slacks and under shirts, while some of the ladies had been given sweats to wear. We stood awkwardly in the dining room as service continued for the rest of the guests. As a group of servers came out with a course for another table we leaned, and scooted, bumping other guests in order to avoid interrupting the staff.

After several minutes we elected a leader to address the manager about our table. We watched as those folks who arrived at the same time as us leapt ahead of us in courses at their table. The problem, it seemed, was that we were such a large group that we would have to wait for several smaller groups to finish eating before enough tables in a "safe" part of the dining room could be prepared. At various times we were scooted to the host station, a hallway that led to dry storage and the employee restroom, and into the garde manger kitchen.

Tempers began to flare and the Chef became involved. How was his staff supposed to "circle back" and pick up from the wild mushroom soup course so late in service? Our group hadn't even been reseated and dessert was being served all around us.

I had been dressed down to a t-shirt and slacks earlier but now I was in pajama pants and a polo style shirt that had wide horizontal color stripes and a collar that stuck up like wings. Only the left wing was folded down while the right reached for the sky. I think I lifted this from the employee locker room.

After two or three attempts we were finally sent home. We were turned away from the pizza joint down the street as they had dress code standards and we all departed and went our separate ways.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Around Independence Day 2011

Two weeks back from a two week sailing vacation and I'm already ready for another get away. These breaks from the day to day monotony really help to refocus the mind. It is good for man to take time to sharpen the saw rather than always trying to chop down the trees as they say. However there isn't time in the schedual or money in the budget to take more time off right now, but thank goodness for a three day weekend! Amanda, my wing girl and I are heading off to the A's v Diamond Backs tonight, tomorrow we are bbq'ing and are attending a bbq on the 4th. I'm thinking Mai Tai's are just what the doctor ordered to harken us back to trips to exotic locations overseas.

With Mai Tai's and exotic locations in mind, everyone knows the Mai Tai was

The original Mai Tai recipe, according to the Ocean County Register-and they should know, created in 1944 by "Trader Vic" Bergeron at his original bar, then called Hinky Dinks, in Oakland:


For cocktail:
2 ounces 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum
1/2 ounce French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 ounce rock candy syrup
Juice from 1 fresh lime

For garnish:
Half a lime
Sprig of mint


1. Combine all ingredients (but garnish) in cocktail shaker. Shake well, pour into glass.

2. Garnish with half of lime shell inside the drink and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.