The Highs and Lows of Food Adventures

I am one of those geeky Big Lebowski fans who can quote the movie line by line and thinks it’s hilarious that I can do that. I know most people don’t think it’s hilarious. They think it’s annoying, and yet this hasn’t detoured me enough to stop. Watch, I’ll do it right now:

One of my favorite lines in TBL is, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well sometimes the bear eats you.” I live off that line. When a particularly shitty day won’t seem to loosen it’s hold on me, I remind myself that it’s all cyclical – tomorrow could be utterly fantastic. If not, I’ll hold out for a day the following week. It will come around eventually, it always does.

Same thing can be said of my food adventures, though the emotional highs and lows seem to be felt by me much stronger than with issues in my everyday life. When I discover a place that turns out to be a real treasure, I blather on about it for days and days and I don’t care if people ignore me. I want to take people there. I find myself longing to lounge under their tables and encourage new diners to try this and that. I am threatened with restraining orders …

Then there are places I research and look forward to that turn out to be duds, and somehow this is so disappointing to me. I seem to take it personally. I know this is odd and I can’t explain it, but there have been times I’ve wanted to like a place so much, but no matter how many chances I’ve given them, they continually disappoint.

Two recent food adventures found me believing I could be the next Tony Bourdain I was so spot on with the first place, and a complete glutton for punishment for continuing to want a brunch spot to make me happy.

I was down in Orlando for business and the street our hotel was located on had plenty of food establishments within walking distance. As ever, I researched a few places before we left and The Capital Grille landed on the top of my list. It was the dry-aged steaks that caught my eye. Traveling with a bunch of guys, I was sure this was a potential winner.

No one went away hungry, that’s for sure. Everyone had steak, except for our new friend Joe Leach (of overstockbait.com) who enjoyed a beautifully plated lobster.

Filet was ordered, and I believe a NY Strip or two, but my Porcinni Rubbed Delmonico with 12-year aged balsamic vinegar was the hit of the evening. Thankfully, it was a huge piece of rib-eye, plenty big enough for everyone to sample – and then rue their own milder selections.

In the tradition of good steakhouses, salads and side dishes (go for the creamed corn with smoked bacon and the fresh creamed finish – those disappeared the quickest) were ordered separately, and the waitstaff were overly-attentive, spoiling us rotten. Sadly we left no room for desert.

This was a total win for me because I picked a place that made my friends happy. That was almost as good as the Delmonico. Almost.

What bums me out is when I take folks to a place that’s supposed to be good, but they do not enjoy themselves gastronomically. There is a popular brunch spot in Flagstaff, AZ that shall go unnamed because while I’ve bombed every time I’ve tried it, it is still very popular and even made the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” show with Guy Fieri. I went again yesterday with my mom because I thought it was just me, that the dissatisfaction was coming from my tendency to be overly food-snobby. We needed a quick meal, this was close by the hospital where Mom was having tests done, so we went.

The way they described the Farmer’s Market soup made my mom’s eyes light up: Beef, potatoes, fresh vegetables in a beef broth. She ordered a bowl and I ordered the tuna salad. The salad was a good pick – not loaded down with mayo, the greens were vibrant and fresh, they even threw in some fresh corn. It was lovely. The Farmer’s Market soup was not at all how they described. It was basically a bowl of vegetable soup in beef broth – and by vegetables I mean carrots, celery and onion. We inquired about the potatoes and the beef and our server (who had not described the dish, I’ll give him that) apologized that apparently we’d been misinformed.

Mom didn’t like it and this was frustrating for me because it’s hard to mess up soup, especially if you’re an award-winning brunch spot in a food-snobby town. My previous frustrations with the place have not been so much about the food, but the service (which I hardly ever squawk about – if the food is fabulous you can stab me in the eye with a fork and never refresh my coffee and I could care less). It was happening again but this time to my mom.

I’ll be honest and share that my mother is going through a difficult time fighting cancer right now – nothing much appeals to her food-wise so we all try to make sure she’s eating well and that what she eats she enjoys. She should at least have that much, so when it didn’t happen for her, I found myself ready to punch out the waiter over a bowl of bad soup, even though I did enjoy my salad.

I want to say that I will give this place maybe one more try, but I would be lying. It’s now permanently off my list – and it’s not because they’re a bad restaurant, they’ve just never been able to make me happy. My mom’s soup was the last straw. Our waiter did not charge us for the soup which was cordial of him, but the damage had been done – for me at least. To the many others who enjoy this spot (you know where it is), feast on, friends. I will not be joining you there.

Good food and good food experiences are so very grounding to me (see my gold, shiny posts about Revel and Pizzeria Bianco. Some of my friends don’t understand it, but I know they feel the same way about food, they just don’t know they do. And the more I talk about food and eating and cooking and sharing my experiences with it all, the more accepting they are becoming of this addiction.

Let’s all meet up at the In-And-Out, another sure-fire winner. Last one there buys the first round of shakes.

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