J writes via e-mail on 10/3/10 at 3:28 p.m.
I remember years ago when I first read that airports were going to start offering higher end restaurants, beyond the typical McDonald’s/Burger King fast food fare. Comedians and commentators had a field day. Airport prices were already sky high, so who was going to pay even higher exorbitant prices for a nice meal?
Well, me. Yes, that’s right. On my last day of an eight day stretch on the road I was on the hunt for a nice restaurant in the Miami International Airport. When you don’t have to spend your own money, you tend to be hungrier than normal. On my own, I might never spend $25 for lunch, unless it was a special occasion, but that’s what my per-diem is for lunch, $50 for dinner, so I went looking for a place where I could burn through $25.
I found the something Grille, it’s exact name escapes me now. I suppose I could go looking for a receipt, but I’m really tired. What I did know is that anyplace called Grille with an “e” is usually pretty high end, so I figured what the heck.
Well, I’ll tell you it’s just a damn good thing that I can’t remember the place’s name because it stunk. I mean it really stank like that garbage that was left overnight in the office I was working in at the hotel (yes, N, before you got there this morning I went apeshit on the poor custodial staff for leaving the stinking hummus sandwiches out overnight–it was a bad scene and not one I’m proud of).
In any event, the selection on the menu should have clued me in from the beginning. This is Miami, famous for what kind of food I don’t know, probably fish, but I know they do not know how to make a cheesesteak. Yet, there it was, a Philadelphia cheesesteak with peppers, mushrooms, and SWISS CHEESE!!!!!!! Now, I get that some people like peppers on their cheesesteak; I’m not a fan of mushrooms, but I can accept their existance. BUT SWISS CHEESE???? Are they not aware that John Kerry basically lost the 2004 election because he asked for Swiss Cheese at Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia??? I should have known right then and walked out, but like I said, I was really tired and, at this point, almost delirious.
All I had to drink was water, which I think pissed my waiter off because not only did he say, “fine,” when I ordered it in the same tone your wife might use the day after she caught you sleeping with the maid and you asked how she was doing today, he never refilled it either.
I started my lunch with a Caesar Salad. I have always liked Ceasar Salads because they really don’t expect much from me. Ever noticed how sanctimonous people who eat salads can be? Yes, I’ll have “just” a salad is a phrase you hear often usually from someone who is looking down their nose at another someone who ordered deep fried meat with cheese. Good for you, honey. Go ahead and take your salad and shove it up your smaller ass.
Here’s my thing on salads. Some salads come with cheese, others do not come with cheese. I like to eat the ones that come with cheese. If even after you put bar-b-q sauce on it, it still tastes like the ground, I’m not going to eat it.
But often I’m at restaurants where everyone else orders a salad, usually a “house” salad, which is another problem. I’m at a restaurant; why do I want to eat something called “house?” If I wanted to eat something called “house” I’d be eating it at “home.” I’m out; I don’t want “house” anything.
So I usually ask if I can have a Caesar Salad, to which the general response is “a couple of dollars extra?” To which I almost always consent so I don’t have to eat a “house” salad and so I can eat a salad with a lot of cheese.
Cheese is just one of Caesar salad’s virtues. The other is a lack of extraneous vegetables. House salads tend to come with a lot of things like tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots, which just have the effect of sucking up the dressing, the only good part of a salad. Often I wind up picking them off, and losing some delicious blue cheese in the process, but with the Ceasar salad that’s not expected or required. It’s really the perfect salad for those who do not like salad but who feel guilted into ordering it–maybe that’s why it’s more expensive.
But there is a rule. That is, the dressing needs to be tossed with the salad so that each sprig of lettuce is covered with Caesar dressing. This restaurant put the dressing ON THE SIDE!!!! And it wasn’t enough. I wound up munching on a bunch of dry lettuce. I may as well have had the house salad.
For the second course I had chicken parmesan. Chicken parmesan is American comfort food–I’m sure no actual Italians eat it. Whether you order it in the high school cafeteria or at the highest end of high end restaurant chains, it’s always the same deep fried meat and cheese concoction with a red sauce of unknown origin. And it’s always pretty good.
So the chicken parmesan didn’t disappoint, except for the fact that my shirkey waiter who was already pissed at me for ordering water brought out my chicken parmesan after I had taken no more than two bites out of my Caesar salad. By the time I got to the chicken, it was cold. This, I suppose, was my own fault, but I should point out that I was eating cold chicken parmesan while sitting about 20 yards form one of those fast food Italian stands, La Famiglia, that would have likely served me the same thing at 50 percent of the price without all the attitude. So I felt like I was missing out on the full experience of it all, or maybe that was the point.
I finished up with a Key Lime pie. I’ve eaten a lot of key lime pie this week. It’s one of my favorite deserts and while it’s not exactly rare it’s not served everywhere. The Key Lime pie was passable (I ate a really good slice this week at Grill Fish, a nice restaurant in Miami. So good in fact that when my friend K–I can call her my friend because I just said yes to a friend request on Facebook. While I do like her very much, I only see her once or twice a year and then only because she’s married to one of my colleagues who I likely wouldn’t know except that we work together and who, while I also like very much, don’t talk to very often. In a normal society this would hardly qualify me to call her a “friend,” but Facebook has changed the social rules almost overnight for all of us, and ain’t that grand?).
Where was I?
Oh yes, the pie.
This key lime pie was so good that when my friend K offerred it to my colleague M (who is also a Facebook friend, come to think of it, and also someone I’m quite fond of, but I don’t want to go through that whole thing again) she immediately stopped eating her creme brulee, pronounced the key lime pie the best thing she had ever tasted and left the creme brulee on the table looking lonely. Please note that K shared her pie with M. I ate my entire slice myself; you all know how I feel about sharing.
I did offer N a piece of my steak, but let’s get back on topic, and stop being distracted by the pie.
The pie at the airport restaurant was not near as good as the one at Grill Fish. It was sort of the jello pudding version, and nothing against Jello pudding, but there’s a reason why we feed it to our children while they are still pooping themselves.
The disappointment was made worse by the fact that my waiter had taken my fork and brought a spoon with my pie. I don’t eat a lot of pie with a spoon, but I guess the waiter was conceding wordlessly that the filling came out of a mix, so why keep lying to each other and pretending that this high end airport restaurant was anything else than overpriced?
At the end I sat there with my empty water and a strong sense of disappointment while I waited for the check.
And here came the coup de grace.
Wait for it.
Wait for it.
The check came with a 15 percent “service charge.” Gratuity, in other words, was automatic. Perhaps this whole exercise was a social experiment in what happens when waiters don’t have to work for their tips. In short, they don’t refill water, they don’t stagger courses and they bring out improper utensils. And they do it all with a shirkey attitude.
But hey, at least it was expensive, which I suppose in the end, is the definition of a nice restaurant.
P.S. Sorry that this post was ridiculously long, but it’s been a while since I submitted anything to N for this growing blog. N is the blog’s manager and in many way’s its inspiration. That is, the whole thing started when I kept sending her random e-mails about my lunch hour and other pointless ramblings that for some reason she found funny.
Ladies, if you laugh good naturedly at a man he will only continue his behavior, and thus the blog was born when she decided my humorous musings needed a wider audience.
For the past week, we’ve been sitting three feet from each other running an offsite office and when I had something I thought was funny I would just say it, she would laugh and that would be the end of it. I didn’t have the energy to write it most of the time.
Sorry you’ve been left out of all that, because some of it was quite brilliant, particularly our conversation about documentaries where we both congratulated each other on being smart enough to enjoy being bored while the rest of the world insisted on being entertained.
Rest assured, N and I are now separated again to go on and live our mostly separate lives, thus correcting the balance of the universe and getting back to the really important business of keeping Cake in the Conference Room up to date.