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Plain Food Talk: Garlic Has "Jus?"

My children are grown ups now.  There are so many great things you can do with a child who is a grown up.  You can travel certainly, without packing toys.  You can buy smaller birthday presents that don’t have to be assembled first.  And you can go to fancy restaurants without having to bring a full-sized bath towel to lay under their chair.  These are good things.  The down side is they can make their own reservations and take you to dinner and it could be fancy.

I am a meat and potatoes kind of a guy.  I like meat.  I like potatoes.  I really like salads these days, but to be honest, I was out of college before I tried my first bit of iceberg lettuce.  When I was growing up, children almost never went to restaurants and had to eat everything on their plate so savvy moms cooked kid-friendly things like fishsticks and tater tots, hamburgers, and spaghetti every week.  So, trying new food has been a lifelong challenge for me.  I have insisted that my children “just try it,” and for the most part, they, trusting souls that they are, have complied.  But me?  That’s another story.

I am going to a fancy restaurant tonight with my daughter.  It’s her favorite and they have just opened a new outpost uptown near the theater where we have tickets.  “That’s OK, right?” she asked me and I admit now, I could have said, “No!” but I was kind, I was generous.  I know she loves the place and I decided the worst case was I might find something on the appetizer menu I could order because the rest of the menu, to my extremely limited taste, is really weird.

Wednesday, they have a special of fried chicken and potato waffles.  Right?  What the hell is a potato waffle and what do you put on it, maple syrup or powdered sugar?  That’s scary.  Everything else starts out like real food, but if you keep reading the ingredients, after a few items it goes all wonky.  They have tomato soup.  That sounds safe.  Until you read that it’s actually “cheddar melt.”  There’s an innocent looking crabcake but then you read down and it’s got Fresno chiles and frisée, whatever that is.  The calamari is Brooklyn style, which probably means you have to walk across the bridge over and over again to work off the calories.

Then we get to the entrees.  Salmon sounds fine until you see it’s served with parsnip purée.  The lamb chops come with “cauliflower steak” and the short ribs are served with mascarpone?  What are they thinking?  Even the burger is cloaked in mystery when, having read the rest of the menu, it says a burger comes with “The Works.”  That should mean lettuce, tomato, onion, but I see there’s no lettuce in any of the salads, the tomatoes are “burst,” and the onion is probably carmelized.  So, I have to wonder what are the works exactly?

Can’t a guy just get a bowl of spaghetti?  That would be a cool trick.  The first pasta on the menu is served with crème fraiche which I reserve for strawberries and the last one on the menu has “pickled chilies.”  There is a warning or footnote, if you will, printed on the side that alerts the reader that “not all ingredients are listed on the menu.”  I realize that’s in case you are allergic to nuts or shellfish, you should let them know because lots of sauces or dressings could have either or both.  But what worries me is if they list every “burst” tomato, what are they still not telling me?

So, I will go to dinner there tonight and eke out an unadorned shrimp cocktail maybe with a side of “smashed” potatoes, but I do it under duress and only because I love my daughter.   It will be interesting to see what she orders, since this is her favorite place.  Maybe the Jalapeño Cheddar Grits?  Or the Trout Milanese with the mustard crust? Or even the Brick Pressed Chicken with the garlic "jus?"  Who even knew garlic had jus?

Where did I go wrong?  How did this meat and potatoes guy raise such a world class adventurous fancy eater? 

It's all my fault.  She must have been listening when I said, “Just try it.”

Crossposted on Open Salon