Summer Dinner Diaries and Same Restaurant, Different Disaster

Dinner Diary                                                                         June 26, 1988

 

Another example of a nicely restrained menu.  How about that!  Florence was a very dear friend of ours, a realtor who got Bonnie and me into our first house by convincing the people that were selling it to trust us enough to give us a second mortgage.  And pay it back before it was due, we did.  Florence is a character, but regardless we will always love her for getting us into that first house.   

Mayonnaise as a base sauce for things on the grill, or the stovetop is perfect.  It kinda crisps up nicely, takes on any seasoning or breading and I love it!   I don’t know that I’d change one thing on this menu.  Even though the grilled zucchini was not loved – it should have been. 

Well, there is one thing that I would change.  You can’t FORCE anything nowhere, no how, for nothing and have it turn out well.  That includes peach sorbet with unripe peaches.  No matter how long those unripe peaches were in the blender with my finger digging into the ‘puree’ button they were still not ripe, hard and  with little flavor.  And that’s after a lot of effort to make this into something palatable – sugar, whipping cream and peach brandy.  Of course, if we’re talking about things being ‘not ready’ we’ll ignore the ‘seedless’ grapes for the Sole Veronique. 

Big lesson here, if it ain’t ready it ain’t going to taste its best, it will in fact taste BAD – I don’t care what you do to it.  Cook what’s ready, cook what’s in season, cook what makes sense, cook what you love.  Follow those rules and it will turn into a wonderful dish.  If you’re in a restaurant and it’s offering a special of strawberries in January get up and run, don’t even walk to the door, get in your car and drive away to a restaurant that has no spring/summer fruits on its menu.  I don’t care that it’s summer in Argentina; your meal will be many times more enjoyable without the strawberries.  

Dessert – Part I

You really should try making your own mayonnaise; if not for everyday than for special occasion uses.  All it takes is egg yolks, oil and seasonings and a blender or handheld mixer.

As for seasonings I always add salt and depending on the dish that it going with: herbs, saffron, mustard, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and on and on and on.  As for the oil: olive, peanut, corn or oils like walnut.  Again, it depends on what it’s going with, what you want the taste to be.  Do it once and you’ll understand how much better and different (smoother and richer) than the store bought.  I knew that you’d want to know – I can’t stand Miracle Whip.  To me it taste like poor quality mayo with a ton of sugar added – iiiiiccccckkkkk.

  

                                                                                             

EXCEPT IT’S BETTER

  

  Same Restaurant, Different Disaster 

On our vacation journeys up to the Cape Bonnie and me sometimes spent a night at one of my brothers homes before continuing to the Cape the next morning.  This particular year found my brother and his family would be away that night, but they invited us to spend the night there despite the fact that they wouldn’t be able to join us.

We decided to have dinner at ‘that restaurant’ – the very same restaurant where the ‘incident’ occurred wherein my mother decided to tell me what she really thought about the woman that I had divorced.  Perhaps you recall my writing about that.  I myself still recall the actual ‘incident’.   I had called the restaurant to make the reservation, made the reservation in my real name and was actually told that they would look forward to seeing Bonnie and me. 

The car was packed and I was ready to drive away to a wonderful dinner and a vacation on the Cape, as soon as Bonnie arrived home from work.  And arrive home from work Bonnie did – with almost uncontrolled sobbing and river size torrents of tears pouring from her eyes.  Bonnie’s boss was a certified Cee U Next Tuesday kind of girl.  The kind of girl whose philosophy is: if I hate my life and I ain’t having any fun, ain’t nobody going to have any fun.  She had berated Bonnie throughout the day until Bonnie, feeling her most miserable, broke down in tears and left.  Heartsick and depressed to the point where it wasn’t going to be over quickly. 

Hey!  All you bosses, supervisors, directors, et al that are like this ….. We know where you live and payback is a bitch, a long painful bitch.  How’s your children’s puppy doing?  Does it run into the street?  Brakes OK on the spouse’s car?  Might those envelopes addressed to you, but mistakenly delivered to your co-workers and neighbors with the ‘Board of Health’ return address and the ‘CONFIDENTIAL – S.T.D. TEST RESULTS’ label be a little embarrassing?  Next time you want to act like an asshole think about the payback.

So, we drove up the four hours to my brother’s house with Bonnie in tears the whole way.  An unsettling thought slowly began to worm its way into my mind.  The restaurant, as I’ve previously written, is very good and it is not cheap (sometimes the two can be mutually exclusive).  It does, in fact, deserve one’s undivided attention. 

The staff works hard, they do an excellent job, the chef works hard, and his food is superb.  You do not want to just walk into that wonderful setting, partake, and leave without having seen or savored all of it.  With all of this in mind I said to Bonnie, “Uh, honey, you’re pretty upset.  Why don’t we just cancel at the restaurant and get some takeout?”  Bonnie replied that she’d be fine.  That she just wanted to lie down when we got to the house and rest up before dinner.  That’s what she said in between sobs with tears still pouring from her eyes.  All of a sudden I’m getting those restaurant vibes.  The Grunwald restaurant vibes.  The holy shit, how am I going to deal with this – again – vibes.  One more time, “No, really honey, you’re still pretty upset.  Let’s not have to worry about getting dressed and having to spend a few hours at the restaurant.”

Bonnie continued, through the tears, to insist that she’d be fine.  I, meanwhile, was hoping against hope that this would in fact be the case.  But my guts were twisting; don’t the witches perceive the future by divining the entrails?  My cause was lost, my powers of persuasion gone.  We got to the house, cleaned up and rested and Bonnie’s tears were in fact down to the smallest trickle.  One more shot at staying in and one more time, the last time, the suggestions was turned down.

We arrived at the restaurant and – NO TEARS!  Maybe we would get through this OK.  Maybe the sun does revolve around the earth.  I, with wife beside me, once again sat on the deck, looking over the pond and the setting summer sun, peach daiquiris in our hands – several peach daiquiris each.  The unpleasantness of Bonnie’s day faded more and more with each sip of those daiquiris.   We went in to dinner and with glasses of wine in hand perused the wondrous menu. 

At some point in our menu perusal I looked up, looked with love at my wife’s face and noticed that her complexion had the faintest hint of the color green.  New makeup?  What do I know about that?   Ah, those Grunwald restaurant ‘vibes’.  “Honey, how are you doing?  If you’re tired we can leave now.”  Slightly slurred exhortations that she was just fine, the green tint, to my eye, deepening and spreading. 

We decided to share a Chateaubriand – a wonderful, beautiful, large and expensive cut of prime beef.  Oh! And  another good bottle of wine to accompany it.  The meal progressed as did Bonnie’s green complexion and slurred speech.  The Chateaubriand arrived in all of its glory cooked perfectly.  Bonnie, to my amazement, took a bite, swallowed and said, not to my amazement, “I don’t feel well”.  Well just color me surprised!

I have to say about this restaurant – we actually have had meals here without histrionics that were in fact finished and appreciated without incident.  Really.

Tears started again, the waiter wrapped up our uneaten dinner, I paid the very large tab for the uneaten dinner and we were on our way back to the house before you can say, “pull over quick!  I’m going to be sick!”  I didn’t yell at Bonnie, why would I, OK I won’t take the opportunity to go there.  Her explanation the next day: the hellish day at work and nothing to eat all day, and then the peach daiquiris was fine with me and I told her that I loved her.  I waited at least one day before the following words poured from my mouth, “I KEPT TELLING YOU THAT WE SHOULDN’T GO.  I SAID IT TWENTY TIMES.  WHY THE HELL DIDN’T YOU BELIEVE ME?”  Her charming answer, “I know that you really like that restaurant.   I didn’t want to let you down by canceling out.”  No, I didn’t reply.  I could have, but I love her too much.  What did frost my nuts was the call the next day from the brother whose house we had stayed in, “Gee! Thanks for leaving all that food (damn, we had forgotten to take the leftovers!) they were great!  I can’t believe that you ate so little of the Chateaubriand.  I loved it!  How was dinner?”

 

SAME RESTAURANT, DIFFERENT DISASTER

 

Dessert – Part II

I wish that everyone has the chance to have a properly done Chateaubriand at some time in their life.  Well, maybe not everyone.  Chef.com had some good info about it.  Châteaubriand is a small roast extravagantly cut from the center of the beef tenderloin.  This dish was first prepared 200 years ago by Vicomte de Châteaubriand’s chef, Montmireil.  This is not a tenderloin steak.  It has a very recognizable almost loaf shape to it.  Because of its thickness cooking it requires care so as not to overcook it.  Legend has it that Montmireil placed the chateaubriand between two other cuts of tenderloin, burnt both outside meats to a crisp and threw them away, leaving the Vicomte’s portion evenly pink through and through.  Would that I could be so extravagant!  As with all history, including culinary history, there are differing versions of the story.  Some contend that the dish itself is not based on the particular cut of meat, but the sauce that should accompany it or even taking its name from the cattle bred around the town of Châteaubriant in the Loire-Atlantique, France.

Châteaubriand

 The Châteaubriand cut comes from the tenderloin, piece #4

 

Dinner Diary                                                                                     May 13, 1990

 

 Bonnie’s family with us again for a nice simple dinner.  Mom & Dad-In-Law are not ‘adventurous’ eaters so I keep the menu on the easy side.  I really do try to make things that my guests will enjoy.  I usually ask new invitees their likes and dislikes, what they positively or even possibly will not eat.  And of course, what they like to drink – alcoholic or not – but never Tak-A-Boost.  Our friends include vegetarians and teetotalers and people like me whose gustatory universe knows few limits.  I mean, these are your guests – it’s your job and privilege to make them happy. 

The Silver Palette Lemon Chicken!  The Silver Palette cookbooks have provided fabulous recipes since their inception.  Maybe there are a few idiots out there who will argue that but I love these recipes.   I have served the Lemon Chicken many times.  It has become a staple summertime dish – at home, picnics, leftover.  Always great.  Making it is a lot like playing a musical instrument in that most people can play it, but you have to work at it to play it very well.  You can screw up this recipe – fake pre-squeezed lemon juice, no lemon zest, overcooked chicken – but if you follow the recipe you can’t go too far wrong.  To do it really well – select nice looking pieces of chicken, slice the lemon topping just the right thickness so that it doesn’t burn in the oven, but is translucent, make sure that you have enough lemon zest, spread the brown sugar and zest just right, cook it till it’s done – wonderful.  Let’s not forget Chicken Marbella either.  Folks these days are making jokes about it being such an 80’s dish, but it is a good dish and worth revisiting. 

Buttermilk Rhubarb Cobbler with vanilla ice cream – also perfect.  I’m one of those people that drink buttermilk right from the container – better, tastier, than regular milk and a must have for baking.  It makes everything taste better.  After all, it is the Vin Ordinaire of Hot Dog Johnny’s.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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