Dining Out

August 10, 2011 in Life

What the F*rk by David Schwen

On the heels of our last blog post, where I reluctantly confess that I am not a foodie at heart (*THANK YOU to those of you that wrote that they too, are also not blessed with the gift), the topic (in the comments) turned to eating out with our chefs. What’s it like going out to eat with our main squeeze when he’s actually off and ready to mangia. I mean, eating at restaurants is part and parcel of being with someone in the FOOD industry, right?

As eating out goes, I’d say we’ve got it pretty good. We rarely have to be concerned about WHERE we’re eating (unless we’re really craving something) and most of the time we know that it’s going to be an adventure. We can usually sit back and enjoy ourselves, knowing we’re in good hands. Upon reflection,  I found three common types of restaurants that these epicurean creatures usually frequent:

  1. Hole in the wall Restaurants they want to try
  2. Fine Dining Establishments where they either know someone or heard from someone else in the industry.
  3. ‘I’m hungry, feed me now’ kinda places.
    I figured I’d share my own experiences with each. 

Hole in the wall Restaurants

– most likely, you’ve heard of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  The place that NOONE knows about but is SO GOOD. Like, generations of families cooking one thing SO well but left to the obscurity of strip malls and off the beaten path locations that only LOCALS know of their gold winning status. I find that Chefs curiosity to find one of these gems, is like a diamond to a miner. My husband and I will just go in these places that I would NEVER even consider, with it’s strange smells and choice of decor. He’ll say “Honey, it’s not about that, it’s about the FOOD!”  “Um, okay?” as I make my way thru to read menus in other languages and drinks I’ve never heard of. Case in point:

Phở (fuh) – A Traditional Vietnamese beef noodle soup. See more about it here. It’s become a very popular lunchtime meal by Americans in the past decade (including myself), but the first time I set foot in Pho 75 in Arlington, VA , I was NOT sure what I was getting myself into. A big cafeteria like room PACKED with people of different nationalities, you sit down to be handed this one page menu with different proteins you can add to your soup (I stick with white meat chicken), the guy who takes your order stands over you like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld, agitated if you are a newbie and have no idea what you want. Thankfully I was with other seasoned pho-ites and my then chef boyfriend… so my first experience was hand held a bit. I have come to LOVE LOVE LOVE Pho, especially on a cold and rainy day, or when I’m feeling under the weather. Something about a big bowl of yummy goodness satisfies my soul. To me, it is the epitome of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” (and yes, I always order chicken)

I am more apt to try a hole in the wall, now that I’ve had a handful of success stories under my belt. I still, though, have that moment when my husband says “Let’s try THIS place!” that I’m like… “here we go again!”

Fine Dining Establishments (aka Six Degrees of Separation)

Going to a fine dining restaurant of someone your restaurant man/woman knows is almost a rite of passage when you first get together. It’s the true “coming out” experience, when you are on the arm of your man (or woman) as they introduce you to someone they know who owns/works at or manages the restaurant your dining in or a friend of a friend who works there. This marks an important moment in a restaurant relationship. During this experience, our role is to just sit back and relax…they have it all under control.

Most likely you will not be ordering ANYTHING off the menu during this dining experience. (well maybe your drinks)  It will most likely be a tasting menu and many different courses. (or you’ll just be ordering the entree and everything else is up to the house chef.) Most likely (not always) it will be an almost silent affair as your man/woman eats, they will be silently critiquing what their tasting – it’s almost as if he/she is on a panel of judges and up next to give his take on what she/he just tasted. You’re looking at them to gauge if you should actually be enjoying what you’re eating. If you, too, are a foodie, it can spark the beginning of a conversation that might go into the evening, OR if you are not (like myself) it might be a one or two word answer until he/she can talk to someone with more seasoned taste buds.  Either way – this experience is something that 9-5’rs DEFINITELY have NO idea about.  It’s something that makes our type of relationships special, foodie or not.

‘I’m hungry, feed me now’ kinda places

This is the most interesting/humorous/aggravating of them all because this is when your restaurant man/woman becomes a sometimes harsh critic of the way OTHER places are run. It’s most likely a regular ‘ol dining establishment, neither fine dining nor hole in the wall. There is not that aire of it not being at the same caliber of where he/she works, so the gloves come off and you find yourself sitting across the table with someone who wants to critique every aspect of how THEY would do it better. From the moment they walk to the hostess stand (if there is one) they’re making little, under their breath comments about “Well I wouldn’t do that.” or “Our restaurant isn’t run like that”. It can be funny and aggravating because you just went there to satisfy your hunger, to get something in your stomach, not to try something new or eat somewhere with high expectations. You JUST want to eat!”

I am SURE it will sound familiar to you, but I have sat in some semi-chain restaurants with my husband and the WHOLE time, he’s looking into the kitchen. He’s smelling the bread, wondering if it’s par-baked or fresh. He’s looking at the cleanliness of the polished glasses. (If they even are).  It’s almost as if I’m not there. Like a dog who is fixated on a new bone, I cannot seem to pry his attention away from what’s going on around him, to focus on what we were discussing before we walked in.  Even listening to how the servers talk to other guests, his eyes are on the next table.  “UH, HELLO! Can you come back to THIS table and THIS conversation?”

Sound familiar? If so.. just know you are NOT alone. It’s part of the quirky ways in which being with someone in this industry is both very exciting, and well.. interesting to say the least!

When it comes to eating out with your restaurant man or woman.. what is your experience?