Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

From the vaults: That was the meal that was

When we first moved to New York, Greg worked for a while as a concierge for a company of dubious reputation. The one perk of this job was that Greg occasionally got free meals--restaurants liked it when Greg sent tourists to them, so those restaurants would sometimes pay Greg back for the business. Which was cool. I was working at a job that scored us free tickets to Broadway, and Greg was working at a job that scored us free meals, so even though we could barely afford toilet paper, we were still able to have a pretty spiffy night out on the town.

Then there was this thing, from October 14, 2005:

After the Johnnie Walker tasting thing Tuesday, I assumed our freebie points were used up for the month. However, Wednesday evening, just as I was preparing to forage for food and cook up a meal, Greg called to tell me that we had reservations at Uncle Jack's Steakhouse in midtown. I'm not a steak fan, but I could tell from Greg's tone that it was, if not a Great Steakhouse, then, well, it was an Expensive Steakhouse. "It's business casual," Greg added, after informing me that we were getting a free meal from his company. "So. You know. Don't wear the Converse and the jeans with holes in them."

Since I was starving, though, and the reservations were for much later in the evening, I decided to microwave some frozen taquitos. And eat them.

Anyway, so, stuffed with taquitos, I met Greg. I was dressed in my version of "business casual," which was Converse and jeans without holes, and we walked over to the restaurant.

As instructed, Greg told our "captain" that he is with whatever company it is Greg is with, and asked for a special menu. Because, apparently, meals paid for by the company are from 'limited' menus. The captain checked with a manager. The manager came to our table, all smiles and ass-kissy sweetness, handed Greg his card, and informed Greg that, indeed, the company does provide a 100 dollar gift certificate, and that we were welcome to enjoy the full menu.

A 100 dollar gift certificate. A coupon, essentially. Not a free meal, but a few bucks off.

Greg blinked, swallowed, and said "Okay." Exchanged cards with the manager, smiled at the captain. And, when the manager left and the captain orally recited the menu (no printed menus for THIS place), Greg damn near muppetted himself into panic mode.

I pointed out that we were already there, and might as well put on a good show.

Yes, Greg, I know we can't afford this place.

Yes, Greg, I know you feel you're in over your head.

No, Greg, it's not a good idea to bolt for the door.

Yes, Greg, we will survive. Chill out and do your job.

Our captain returned to our table after a while, offering his suggestions. We settled on an appetizer (and because I was queasy from the taquitos, I let Greg pick the line-up): beef tar tare something-something, with wasabi caviar. We skipped the salad despite our captain's obvious horror (But it will clense the palatte, he kept insisting, as if Greg and I didn't have dry mouths already). Greg and I launched fearlessly into the main course: porterhouse steak for two, with garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach.

"And to drink?" our captain, a footbally looking Bronx guy who managed to come off as both down to earth and intimidating as hell, asked. We'd already seen the wine list, which was as thick as a novel, and, after the night before, I at least was not in the mood for more alcohol, so I said, offhand, "Well, the Pellegrino is fine for me."

"You don't want wine?" Greg asked.

"Eh." I said, then realized one does not merely drink water in a place with such an attentive, sprawling wait staff. "If you want wine, I might have a glass."

Greg nodded to the captain, who informed us that the sommelier would be over to recommend a 'perfect wine compliment to our meal.' Greg broke into a sweat, and I tried to finish off as much Pellegrino as I could before forcing down whatever wine we were about to end up with.

"I'm in over my head," Greg said. "I wasn't expecting this."

"You're doing fine. Schmooze. It's part of your job."

"No, I mean. Do you have any idea how much this is gonna cost? 100 dollar gift certificate my ass."

"Yes. But it's part of your job to deal with these people." I kept insisting it was part of Greg's job to spend us into homelessness.

Greg drew a few deep breaths, and the appetizer arrived. Neither Greg nor I had the first clue how to eat the thing--raw beef, essentially, molded into a thick circular shape, with a tortilla thing on top, some weird green stems, and a lime-slice-shaped dab of wasabi. I shrugged, Greg panicked. I grabbed a cracker and slathered the uncooked cow across it.

It wasn't bad. I managed to finish off one bite, with a healthy helping of wasabi on top, and greg finished the rest. About a half-pound of dead cow. Mmmm-mmm.

(Later, we found out the appetizer was 50 bucks.)

So the sommelier, dressed in a white tux, approached our table and went into heavy negotiations about the proper wine for our meal. We settled on a Cabernet. Both G and I expected a glass. Really, after the previous night staggering around with Johnnie Walker, we could only manage a glass. The captain of course brought us a goddamn bottle, presented it to Greg for inspection (Greg pretended to read the label with interest), and then uncorked the bottle. The captain poured out a taste of the wine into a glass slipped onto the table by some anonymous attendant, and waited for Greg to approve of it.

Greg, who'd never approved of anything being served to him, held the glass up, swished it around a bit, smelled the aroma, and took a sip.

"Perfect," he announced. The captain feigned pleasure that we approved, and glasses were filled. With flourish. And the bottle was left on the table, with ominous foreboding.

(Later we found out the bottle of wine was 120 bucks.)

So we sipped on our wine, and I confessed to Greg that I felt awful, and was worried about throwing up frozen taquitos. Greg confessed that he felt sick as well, and was concerned about throwing up gold bullion.

The music was Sinatra. There was a faux-Sargent painting hanging on one wall. We made small talk, discussing the decor, how attentive the staff seemed to be (we never touched the bottle of wine, for example, nor did we touch the bottle of Pellegrino--a server appeared out of the depths of conspicuous-consumption hell to fill our glasses, like one of those ball chasers at Wimbledon). Meanwhile, beads of sweat were appearing on Greg's forehead. "Enjoy this," I kept telling him. "If we're about to get raped up the ass, at least lean into it."

The main course arrived: a porterhouse cooked to Greg's perfection, on a dish. The server carefully placed appealing portions onto our empty plates, and set the dish--still stuffed with more steak--onto our table. Our portions of garlic mashed potatoes and creamed spinach were likewise spooned out for us onto a plate, and our wine glasses were refilled (I'd already assumed that if we were getting a full bottle of wine, then we'd by god better finish it off, so was on a second glass by the time the meal arrived. Greg, too, was on a second glass, and was tipsy). I stared at the chunks of beef before me, fought back a need to puke, and took a bite for the team.

As I said, not a fan of steak. But it wasn't bad. Greg, a true fan, slid a chunk of meat into his mouth and had some kind of bone-deep orgasm.

(Later we found out the porterhouse steak, cooked medium-well, cost 85 bucks.)

So we set about trying to finish our meal, and I constantly reassured Greg that it was his duty to not seem as if he were about to bolt for the door before the bill came. Servers swooped in, wine was poured, more steak was lovingly spooned onto our plates, and then the captain arrived again to ask about dessert.

Since I was already about to throw up, I let Greg make the call. He ordered the Mississippi Mud Pie (only he was drunk and slurring his words, so it came out Missa Mu Pi).

(Later, and happily, we learned the M.M.P. only cost 8 bucks.)

During our meal, the manager of the restaurant made it a point to visit us, check in, and, I think, try to make Greg feel either important or poor. Each time he approached the table, Greg cleared his throat, assured the man that we were enjoying our meal, then, as the manager left, inhale as much wine as he could possibly stomach. And, as we waited for dessert, the manager again approached, asked how we were loving our meal, and Greg, drunk, slurred out a string of compliments that would make a monarch blush, if that monarch were fluent in drunkese.

The manager beamed.

I stifled another need to throw up.

So our Missa Mu Pi arrived, in a single dish (fresh dessert plates had already been installed before us), and a large tray floated down to us, crowded with samples of all the wonderful desserts Uncle Jack had to offer: pecan pie, tiramisu, whatever. There were a few strawberries on the tray, so that's what I went for. Greg devoured everything else, and confessed to the manager that the pecan pie put his grandmother's pecan pie to shame.

The manager leaned in conspiratorially, leaving some slime on the booth, and said, "Don't say that too loud. You might get hit by lightning. Heh-heh."

And so, filled with food, supplied with a plastic container of 85 dollar steak left-overs, Greg and I had nothing left to do but await the bill, which arrived, with an escort, like a death sentence. I forced Greg to shotgun the rest of the wine before he looked at the bill, which was probably wise because, all told and with the 100 dollar discount, the meal came to 237 dollars.

We consumed over 300 dollars worth of food. And wine. Always the damn bottle of wine--the one item we could not take home.


Matt Osborne said...

Blue laws are a buzzkill. But you did, in a sense, take the wine home with you.

MM said...

Yes. Sloshing around inside. And it made the train ride much more interesting.

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