Midweek Random Rants and Reflections

Sorry, Gentle Readers. It has been a while. The day job took precedence. But I’m here now.

The crazy train of winter seems to be slowing down for a stop at the spring station. Nowhere near as awful as last in terms of snowfall. Cold, but at least the roads were clear. It’s sunny today, but the wind chill’s unbearable. Oakley walked me this morning. He’s still pretty wiped from the play group yesterday, so I don’t feel too guilty.

Today’s rant is brought to you by the buffet restaurant that we went to on Sunday. I never would have gone there on my own. The husband in the couple we pal around with loves buffets. OK, fine. I don’t mind Indian buffets. The food can sit without adverse effects. I don’t like Chinese buffets. That was not designed to sit on steam tables. I can find ingredients to make a salad if need be, as I was able to at this all things to all people place.

Problem was that we arrived at the worst time possible when everyone was making their post-church visit. I do not like crowds to begin with, but I felt as if I were going to have a panic attack. I was able to keep breathing. We (four adults) were squashed between two parties of at least four adults plus enough children to populate a day care center. At least the kids respected our space as much as possible, so the parents get stars.

While the food was pretty good, the atmosphere was entirely too loud and bright for my taste. I managed to stay in my adult self and not hide under the table or take my plate into the ladies’ room for a bit of peace. Salad, chicken (albeit twice as much as I really should have had), some veggies, and a couple of strawberries dipped in the chocolate fountain kept me within my points for the day.

I tried to focus on my plate. Really. Tried not to stare at the overfilled plates, the bussed dishes with so much waste on them. Struggled to tune out the unconscious conversations, the negativity.

For so many people, Sunday buffet dinner is the high point of the week. I know that. The feast-or-famine mentality still pervades our culture, our collective thoughts.

I struggle to stay in a place of non-judgement but find myself falling from it. People all do the best they can based on their preferences and experiences. I appreciate good manners, but am as guilty as the next person of eating in front of the TV when I dine solo.

Does the desire and passion for a meal eaten in peaceful surroundings with conscious gratitude make me a snob? So be it.

Uhh….Not So Much….

So last week I did something I hadn’t done before: I ate at a hip-and-trendy celebrity-owned restaurant.

Usually, I don’t eat at places like that. While I am relatively demanding and don’t mind paying for quality, I do arrive with high expectations. I have been delighted with many not-so-hip-and-trendy places, such as a couple of very memorable dinners in a 500-year-old inn in Montreal’s old town that didn’t get the press a couple of other places had in the guidebooks.

I went with a friend who returns to teaching in too-few weeks. We did a walking tour of the Loop’s landmarks, and we went to the Merchandise Mart to look at some of the displays. Then we went to the celebrity-owned Mexican restaurant that was the  the end point of our quest a few blocks north of the train station.

For me, the wheels came off when we stepped inside the small, dark, crowded dining area. The intense purple walls and dramatic Mexican artwork shrank it further. And loud. Very loud. Every other word being “WHAT?” “SORRY, COULDN’T HEAR YOU!” loud.

The waiter, though, was pleasant. He walked us through the menu after the usual “would you like some chips and guacamole” routine. (At those prices for chips and guac, the  celebrity owner had better bring his yoga-toned tush out to the table and mix it up himself for us.) 

My friend chose tacos; I chose some tostadas. She was happy. Me? I liked the salad with the pumpkin seed vinaigrette, but the tostadas, not so much. Perhaps it’s a lack of sophistication about Mexican cuisine on my part, but it came across as very bland and too cute. Three tiny corn tortillas topped with refried black beans, chicken, avocado slices and crumbled cojita. It wasn’t bad, but just really bland.

I realize that authentic Mexican cuisine is not about adding enough chili to make flames shoot from the diner’s bodily orifices. I also realize that I have a higher than average tolerance for heat because of the seasoning adjustments Dad made due to his salt-free diet. But this was just really bland. And the presentation was too cute for me. I tried spiking it with the bottle of hot sauce on the table, but that didn’t work very well.

But the salad was fantastic. The company and conversation couldn’t be beat. The iced tea was very refreshing.  

I can say that I ate there.

And I never have to do it again.