Doyle and I went out for our last company meal together. CodingClan has been buying company lunches for a year or so now, which is nice because not only do we save money individually, but we also have that extra hour to talk about work. It's a good check-in time with a casual atmosphere.
Since we realized it would be the last meal of the year, and of the company, instead of heading off to our usual haunts, we decided to go out in style and went to the really expensive Italian that we've been to only twice before, and the first time was by mistake. We knew what we were getting in for, so we decided to go early and enjoy the meal.
We arrived at the restaurant at 11:50, figuring most people would arrive afternoon. We were wrong. The entire restaurant was full, and not just with big company groups. All of the small tables were full, the big ones full. After waiting a few minutes, our choices were outside (brrr.....) or at the bar, with a fantastic view of the inner workings of the kitchen.
Just after we sat down, the waitress came up to ask us if we wanted anything to drink. I must have offended her somehow by saying I was fine with water, as that question was the last time we were helped in a timely manner.
At some point while I was waiting for my water, bread showed up. Not really wanting to spoil my appetite for the blackened salmon with a fine cheese and scallop sauce I was going to order, I avoided the break as long as I could, right up until the point where I had to turn my stomach inside out and start gnawing on my insides.
Eventually, the waitress returned and we ordered our meals. We then commenced waiting.
We supposedly managed to order before the big group behind us even arrived. I'm not so sure we managed that feat. I had much to ponder, as we waited. Did I mention we waited? Yeah, we waited. And waited.
We entertained ourselves during the waiting by commenting on the various aspects of the kitchen, of which we had a fantastic view. We wondered if the sandwich chef would run out of orders before he ran out of bread in the stack within easy reach. We pondered how much easier our cooking lives would be if we cooked with vegetables already cooked.
And our pasta precooked.
And our cheese presliced.
We determined we'd be much faster. So fast, in fact, that our waiting for our meal seemed out of place.
Yet, we continued to wait.
Eventually, as some point close to an hour after we had arrived, our meals arrived. Doyle's looked tasty, and he took to it with gusto.
Mine looked strange. Sure, the vegetables looked fine, and were just barely crunchy making them cooked nearly perfectly.
The risotto though? We've been here twice before and both times I ordered some risotto dish of some sort. I really really really like risotto. What was on my plate, though billed as "with a side of risotto," was not risotto.
It was a ball of rice.
A ball of no taste (well, a hint of rice taste), bland, barely stuck together rice, in a lump on the back side of my plate. I doubt I would have noticed it much if its plainness wasn't in such sharp contrast to the neon orange pile on the plate closer to me.
Why did I forget my camera today? How could I have been so dumb?
I looked closely at the salmon on the plate in front of me. Yes, yes there appeared to be some salmon under this topping. Oh, look, the topping is sorta solid. If I nudge it, hey, look, it moves a little bit, then pushes back.
Doyle and I had spent close to an hour watching these chefs in front of us. They seemed knowledgable. They knew their way around the kitchen, how back could it be? Tasty the fish.
You know that scene in Ratatouille where the first bite of that one plate, that signature plate, sends the food critic tumbling back through his life to a happy, happy moment? Yeah, well, that first bite sent me tumbling back through my life, too.
Only I landed in college dipping tortilla chips into a jalapeno nacho cheese sauce from a can.
I will swear the neon orange sauce on the incredibly well seasoned and cooked blackened salmon in front of me at that moment was indeed some Cheeze Whiz or ultra pasteurized cheese food product with some hot peppers thrown in. Could this meal get any worse?
Yes, but only because twenty minutes after I had finished the half of the meal I could stand to finish, I had to lean back in my chair with my arms crossed over the back of my head and nearly start whistling before the waitress returned to our bar area to ask if we wanted the check or dessert.
Good lord woman, it's our last meal. Bring us dessert! There had to be some redeeming quality of this restaurant to warrant the prices on these menus.
I almost felt the last meal experience was a symbol for something. It was trying to tell in metaphorical terms about how it summed up the last three years working freelance and in my own company.
I couldn't hear the message, though. I was too busy leaving a crappy tip.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: that chef ended his shift with exact correct number of bread rolls in the stack within easy reach. He used the last one and, by the time we finally left, they were more-or-less done with taking orders, so he most likely made no more sandwiches. The man is skilled beyond reason in the art of bread stack counts.