Fine Dining

10/09/13
I’m no dining connieusier by any means. Fine Dining is something I haven’t experienced much, because let’s face it: Dennis and I are not ‘those’ kinds of eaters. I like Outback Steakhouse, The Cheesecake Factory and BJ’s Brewhouse. We’ve never had a bad experience at these places and they offer decent prices.

Two nights ago we celebrated an anniversary dinner – the anniversary of when we met, 37 years ago- at a rather high end restaurant. Nicole had given Dennis gift cards to “Flemings Prime Steakhouse” for his birthday months ago, and we never used them. I think he was waiting for a special occassion. He told me the other day that he wanted to take me there for our ‘First-Time-We-Met-37 years ago-Anniversary’, and I was gung ho. He made reservations and explained the occassion when they asked him if this was a special event. I looked online to see what kind of menu they offered and I was a bit leery when there were no prices posted. Thinking back, I recall hearing when they opened years ago that the menus didn’t have prices. (That’s a bone chilling thought)! I found the menu and there isn’t a large selection; they seem to focus mainly on beef: Filet Mignon, Prime Ribeye, etc… No chicken anywhere to be found. I had the feeling that swerving chicken would be a ritzy faux pas?. And I love chicken! After looking further, I found the price menu and it appears that you have to order sides seperately. (And these prices aren’t for the faint of heart if you’re watching your wallet)! I did come across a ‘special’, good through mid October, that offered bacon wrapped filet mignon, crab stuffed shrimp and mashed potatoes for $32.95. (I told myself that I’ll keep that in the back of my mind when we go).

After looking through my closet and trying to find something that didn’t make me look like I just came out of Hobo Junction, I settled on a so-so dress. We arrived and first thing I notice is ALL the valet parking. Everywhere. The entire front and one side of the restaruant. After seeing the luxury cars strewn about, we chose to self park and it wasn’t any walking distance. I walk farther at home going up to my bedroom or to the mailbox. (The wealthy can’t walk a few feet?) We entered and the hostess was overly courteous and wished us Happy Anniversary. (Geez, they take notes apparently). She walked us through the darkened restaurant and sat us in a nice booth with a beautiful white linen tablecloth and lovely white linen napkins. A candle burned off to the side, romantic ambience. She asked me if I preferred a black napkin and
held one out for me. I’m thinking “Say, what?” and she repeated her question and quickly said something else and I spoke up and asked her “What was that?” I just accepted the napkin and she gave Dennis one too. Ok, now I knew for sure we were in a fancy shmancy place. The black linen napkin was for my dark clothing. White linen could ‘leave lint’ on my dress. WTH? I must have appeared as some kind of hill-folk to the hostess because I didn’t understand what in the world she was saying. I have never been offered a black napkin before. Ever. I just flubbed my way through it and acted like this is an everyday occurrence that I use at home! Ha! (Live and learn).

The server came and asked if we wanted wine. That’s a big NO….. I either get sleepy (and I was NOT about to miss this high class meal for anything) or I get goofy, and not in a flattering way. I asked for water and she said she’d send a bottle over. (Hmn, a bottle? And it will serve me and Dennis? Interesting). Our bottle of Acqua Panna Spring Water arrived and just in time. I was parched. The server (who was great) gave us the ‘features’ of the night. I was waiting for her to mention the filet mignon special I saw online. Now me being somewhat of a thrifty person, and knowing that this was a gift to Dennis, I still have issues when something is outrageously priced. (It’s just me, that’s how I am). Jennifer, our server, starts off by telling us that they have “Mahi-Mahi” with some side dish for $42.00; a 16 oz. bone in “Steak’ (Of some sort) for $49.50; and a 20 oz. “Steak” (again, can’t recall the name) for $57.50. After hearing the first steak special, I think I went into sticker shock! After lifting my jaw off the table, I patiently waited to hear ‘my special’ I found online. When my filet mignon special wasn’t mentioned, I asked about it. She hesitated and kind of gave me a look as if I had to know some secret code word. She then told us that “that is for our email customers.” Hold the fort, get me on the email list ASAP! Jennifer told us that because I DID see it online, they would honor it.

The dinner arrived and it was the most tender piece of beef that has ever touched these lips! I had read that they sear it to 1600 degrees and let me tell you, the plate had to have been 1200 degrees. When the plate was placed in front of me, the few hairs I have on my arm were beginning to singe. It was SO hot, the hottest plate I have ever received at a restaurant, that I had to let the food sit a little while. Now, I am not a seafood eater because I had always been allergic to shellfish. Swelling of the tongue, lips, throat, violent vomiting….you get the picture. Just what one wants to see happening to another- or just what one wants happening to themselves- in a restaurant. I researched shellfish allergies years ago because I felt like I was missing out on some great eats. An article suggested that your body chemistry ‘can’ change after many years, and I hadn’t had shellfish in years, so I tried regular old shrimp months ago and I didn’t react badly. I had high hopes for this crab and shrimp sitting in front of me now. Took the first few bites and I didn’t need to call 911 so I kept eating it. Because I haven’t eaten much seafood, I had NO idea HOW to get the meat from the legs. What a better place to start, in a 5 star fine dining restaurant. I felt like I should have been on an episode of Honey-Boo-Boo. Yeah, I’m exaggerating – A Lot! I figured it out and it was very tasty- but too fishy for me. (No big surprise there….. that’s what it is- FISH)!

Another event that took place during our meal was a bus boy came by and ‘crumbed the table.’ (Crumbed the what????) A new one for me, that’s for sure. He would take a butter knife and literally scrape crumbs away into the palm of his hand. He mainly did it on Dennis’ side, thank God. This isn’t anything I have experienced at The Cheescake Factory. When we finish in there, they probably come by with a dirt devil because I always have crumb issues with my bread! But Flemings was new for me in so many ways.

Next was dessert. Dennis didn’t care for any, and I REALLY didn’t need to indulge, but I ordered a slice of cheesecake. Delicious is an understatement! It was topped with fresh blueberries and I knew the moment I laid eyes on it that the black napkin WOULD come in handy. Unfortunately I didn’t lay it under my plate on the table (which would draw attention to myself). As I was taking a small piece of the cake from the dish it came on — to my new dessert plate, I dropped most of the blueberries on the white linen tablecloth. (I didn’t get any on my clothes though—- a plus)!

When we were finished with this amazing dinner and the check came, I couldn’t get over how many other diners were in the place. I kept thinking “How can these people afford to eat here?” Even though our dinner was covered by our daughter Nicole’s generous birthday gift to her dad, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that water is $6.95; cheesecake is $11.00; and a piece of meat— tender, delicious meat, is $40.00- $57.50, and you have to order your side dishes separately (a bowl of French onion soup is $10.50, baked potato is $9.50 and fries are just under $10.00). I must sound SO frugal, cheap, miserly, but if it hadn’t been for the gift card there is NO way I could ever justify spending that much money on something that is going in my mouth and exiting somewhere else!!

When we left, we were given an anniversary gift: a box of 4 chocolates that look heavenly. (I will not eat them, too much rich food on that one night has done me in for the month)!
So I learned a few things during this meal: black napkins offered to protect ‘white lint’ from dark clothing, water can come in a glass bottle… instead of my plastic Sparkletts water bottles I drink from normally, and during the meal, the table will be ‘crumbed.’ During the meal I was hoping against all odds that other diners wouldn’t notice my lack of fancy-dining etiquette, and I think I pulled it off quite nicely,

The staff wished us Happy Anniversary one more time upon leaving and told us to come back. Dennis whispered to me “Yeah, we’ll be back if there is an inheritance left to us some day.” I’m more comfortable at Outback and Cheesecake Land……

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