Wednesday September 26, 2007
I had been looking forward to this dinner for a few weeks; I hoped Janna wouldn’t ruin it. Because I’m a good cattle herder, Kara, Janna and I arrived promptly at the Bigelow Grille at 8:40pm where we were then told by the stiff-lipped host that the 6:00 seating hadn’t ended and we’d have to busy ourselves some other way for the next twenty minutes. I wanted to get naked and set things on fire, but that was vetoed. So instead, we went outside where I was lectured ad nauseum about smoking by Kara and then we all complained about our shoes and wondered if the cute girl duo standing nearby were on a date. After that grew tiring, we sat in large chairs in the lobby with a wide table separating Janna and me from Kara. It was nice to have some distance for awhile. Then of course Janna had to pee.
Finally, it was 9 so we took another stab at being seated but were shooed away again like flea-infested pound puppies.
Other people began arriving for the 9:00pm seating, so a few of us congregated in a small foyer outside of the Grille. I stood too close to the outside door, triggering the sensor to repeatedly engage the opening mechanism. Every 60 seconds there would be a loud whoosh followed by a blast of air. I maintained my stance until someone from another group politely wondered out loud, “Wow, I wonder if someone is standing too close to the door. That’s awfully annoying.”
Behind Janna, there was a small-framed man with a loose blazer hanging over his bones like a death shroud. His hair was forked in thick clumps; he had a sharp, thin nose and a lipless mouth jammed with serrated teeth. I was intrigued by this man and his close-set eyes and the way his eyebrows disappeared into the creases of his forehead when he dryly said to his companion that the hallway we stood in “smells just like the hotel in Tokyo!” I wanted to have his picture in the worst way.
By 9:15, the other diners had cleared out so we pushed our way into the restaurant. That asshole host was doing a fine job ignoring us as he went down his stupid reservation list and called names of people who weren’t even there, instead of saying, “Hi, and your name is—?” A woman next to us asked him just that and he tersely answered that there were people seated at the bar as well, but then the logicality of her suggestion must have found a small brain cell to seep into, because he acquiesced and asked me for my name. He waved his pencil up and down the list until he spotted me.
“Oh yes, I already called you and you weren’t here. Follow me.”
I did not appreciate the snideness of his tone. We weren’t there because he kept telling us to leave! We were right on the other side of the door; he could see us from his stupid hosting station! I hated him. Imagine how thrilled I was when I found out he was doing double duty as a server, too.
That asshole. The host/server, not Janna. Oh alright, Janna too.
Farmstead cheddar: rye bread puree, caramelized onion, apple butter
Kvass Bread Beer
In other words, if Beer ran for president and won, I’d move to Canada.
Scott from the East End Brewing Company came out from the kitchen and welcomed everyone for coming, and recited a bunch of Really Important Things that I could not hear because the cacophony from the bar was blowing out the drum of my left ear; Kara and Janna appeared enrapt though which made me wonder if it was really important at all. The waitstaff burst through the kitchen doors again, and slid little plates piled with cheese castles under our noses. Scott said that the chef, Kevin Sousa, would be out momentarily to give us an explanation of the Amuse bouche and the first course.
“That means don’t eat it yet,” I hissed at Janna, who rolled her eyes and visibly bristled. Wouldn’t it be fun if Janna had feathers? I’d ruffle them all the time.
There was a man my family and I met in Europe when I was eleven. His name was John and he taught me one of the most important life lessons that I know of even to this day, the tenor of which your God, church, college, or the blind sage that lives behind the dumpster in the park could never comprehend matching. This nugget of knowledge has pulled me from the claws of destruction and devastation more times that I’m comfortable admitting.
I might have never eaten Spaghetti O’s again had I not known that secret.
Using my advanced math and reasoning skills, I can brilliantly deduce that if a dish is centered around cheese, I know I’ll enjoy it. And I did. I wished it was larger, though. I hoped Janna wouldn’t eat all of hers so I could swipe it like an orphan with a porridge-allergy, but that was wishful thinking.
An interesting thing to note is that the Kvass Bread Beer was the only beer I was able to completely down. Probably because I like bread. However, it took me all the way into the second course to do so, after collecting two other glasses of beer. I was pleased to be the only diner with an ale armada.
Kara and Janna knocked back their beers like the booze floozies they are. I hoped they wouldn’t detract from the sophisticated and, how you say, refined example I was trying hard to set, by sitting upright and spreading a napkin out on my thighs, which were not slung open like those of a benched baseball player, I swear. Maybe once or twice, but I caught myself.
Lobster Roll : lobster mushroom, corn, tomatoes, citrus coriander bloom, huitalacoche-tofu mayo, avocado
Kara had been freaking out over this course for awhile, ever since a friend of hers outed the lobster mushrooms. [Note from Kara: “I just want to add that it wasnt the lobster mushroom that kept me from eating that roll, it was the fact that huitalacoche is DISEASE INFESTED CORN. “] I wasn’t deterred by the fact that it was really a parasitic mold, and I’ll tell you why: it tasted delicious. [Note from me: AND SO WAS THE INFESTED CORN.]
Janna and Kara didn’t finish theirs. Janna claims she felt intimidated by so many non-regional ingredients piled onto the roll, but I think she was just trying to score points with Kara by proving her solidarity in parasitic mold-hate.
Their palates are pathetic.
The smoked porter was disgusting. I thought I heard a man at a nearby table liken it to the taste of a burning house, and he was not wrong. Janna guzzled hers right down, though, and then she and Kara started talking about gluten which was outrageously dull.
Cucumber Gazpacho : cucumber sorbet, pickled lemon zest
East End Witte
When Chef Sousa mentioned that the cucumber gazpacho would include ‘jicama,’ Janna belted out a very serious, “Ooh.” I jerked back a little and wondered if Janna had some secret life of which I was unaware. “What, do you really like jicama or something?” I asked suspiciously. “I don’t know,” she answered. “It just sounds nice.” It’s a potato, asshole.
While the soup was served in an interesting asymmetrical bowl that would probably inspire a boner from the interior decorator from Beetlejuice, I did not likey. Probably because I don’t like regular gazpacho either. The only time soup should be cold is when it’s made from ice cream. Pretty though, isn’t it?
The chef’s right hand man, Jimmy, walked by right as I announced to being a failure for not liking beer and convinced me to eat that there yellow flower which was a cucumber blossom and not half-bad.
I was initially excited to try the beverage because I mistakenly read it as “East End Wine,” but no, it was beer.
Summer Roll: seitan (menudo style), cilantro, heirloom green tomato, onion, queso blanco dipping sauce
Big Hop Harvest
Vegetarian Sushi : cantaloupe roe, porcini sashimi, tempeh “tamago”
wasabi fondue, vanilla soy, crispy pickled ginger
Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale
Something amazing happened during this course. Continuing my role as a trouper, I took a delicate sip of the Fat Gary Nut Brown Ale. I wanted to at least try every beer. I was paying for it, after all. My lips followed their instincts and immediately puckered. My taste buds, however, were like, “Yo, hold the phone. This shit’s kind of not so bad.” I took another tentative swig and deduced that this was no fluke — Fat Gary and his nuts were definitely agreeing with me. I excitedly announced to my dining partners that I was in love with this beer. “I’ll meet you at the altar,” I thought as I took another sip.
Unfortunately, after sip 4.5(b), he proved himself to be just as bitter and deceitful and displeasing as all those other assholes, so we broke up.
The course, though, was delightful. Janna didn’t know what wasabi was so I laughed at her small-town farm girl ignorance and considered chucking some standard food fare at her, something she would recognize. What could I throw at her that she’d recognize…? Oh, I know: an apple.
The cantaloupe roe was the most amazing thing and of course I couldn’t hear how Chef Sousa made it, thanks to all the white noise radiating from the bar. Kara tried unsuccessfully to explain it to me. Something about cantaloupe and compression and then dwarves waved voodoo wands over it and they magically shrunk to look like the spitting image of roe.
Somewhere near the end of the course, I wound up with Janna’s tempeh. The more the merrier has always been my belly’s motto.
All pickled ginger should be served up crispy. When I buy out Food Network, this will be so.
Gratitude Barley Wine
Oh hello, new favorite course! If this was a person, I’d have killed it and stuffed it and put it on pedestal in my bedroom, where I could shower it with love (hey, sexual innuendo!) every day.
Even Kara said, “If you can get Henry to learn how to make this for the next game night, I’ll suck his balls inside out.” (Stop blushing, Henry. No one would ever like you that much.) I was a little tweaked that Janna and Kara had three full globs of creme fraiche panna cotta on their plate, while my third one was MELTED. Rip off.
This was the worst beer. Even Janna flinched a little, and it inspired a hearty “Whoa, buddy!” from Kara, who promptly fondled her freshly-sprouted chest hair. Before the waiters came to relieve me of my growing beer collection, I mistakenly took a giant quaff of the barley beer, thinking I had grabbed my water. Janna said I made the funniest face she’s ever seen, so we’ll take her word for it because:
a) People are typically unable to see their own faces without the aid of a reflective surface
b) Janna has to see her own funny face every day, so assuming this is her basis of comparison, it must have been pretty hysterical.
Then I just sat there, not knowing what to do with it. I was absolutely dreading having to swallow that vile wetness coagualting with my saliva—it might as well have been Satan’s own post-asparagus-banquet-urine and seminal fluid cocktail, with a nice sprig of Athlete foot as a garnish.
I swallowed; I’m a whore.
Fresh hop instant slushy, dried hop vapor
Pedal Pale Ale
(i.e. the part where all the palate cleansing goes down. I hoped they had a horse scrubber for Janna’s tongue.)
The wait staff slowly circled around the dining room, pausing to perspire dried hop vapor out of big plastic pillows and into our faces. I thought I would hate it — you know, because of the beer thing and all — but it was really delightfully refreshing. They dragged it on for a long time though and with nothing to stuff into my mouth, I was growing bored. Where’s a ball gag when you need one?
I didn’t get any salvageable photos of this because the batteries in my camera died so I had to rely on my shitty Razr. I still haven’t really gotten over it.
Kara was starting to act weird from all the vapor, like she was on stage with a televangelist and being cured of herpes. When she started talking about wanting to invent hop perfume, I tuned her out. But she became my friend again moments later when I was frantic to learn about the second part of the Intermezzo as the waiters began placing beakers of orange juice on our tables, and she was the only one paying attention when Chef Sousa explained it.
According to my notes: paint gun —-> tea made of hops ——> liquid nitrogen.
So there, now you can try to figure it out.
The beakers contained orange juice, honey and cardamom which was to be poured over top of a frozen scoop of the paint-gunned hop tea, the creation of which still plagues my mind.
Another person who missed the explanation was Janna, who was en route to her fifty-third potty field trip. While she was gone one of those times, Kara and I were having an intense discourse about the kinds of girls we would go for if we were gay (I use “if” loosely). So when Janna came back, I posed the question for her, then sat back and watched as the temperature rose in her face. She of course assumed I was being an asshole for asking her and put up a defensive wall. I had to remind her that I was being Sophisticated Dinner Erin (read: nice) but she still wouldn’t answer.
Anyway, the tea was served in a glass which spilled forth fog and vapors. We then poured the orange juice over top and mashed it all around, turning it into the most delicious slushie ever and if 7-11 won’t add this to their refreshment repertoire, then look for my very own chain of convenience stores coming soon. I mean seriously, what a refreshing ade on a hot summer’s day when you’re on your way to work or picking up the kids from school or going in for liver surgery.
But don’t take my word for it! Here’s what other people were saying:
“Those assholes at that other table think this is grapefruit juice.” — Kara V.
“This is good. This is cool.” — Janna H.
In fact, Janna’s tone was so dramatically reassuring that it made me feel like she was my mom whom I just walked in on with a transsexual’s wang in her mouth and a cotton candy-wrapped broom stick in her ass. “What? This is good. This is cool. This is natural!”
Who knew that hops shit could be turned into such a delicious confection.
This was also around the time that we learned the contents of the cooler which sat on the floor next to a table of seven obnoxious businessmen. We hoped it was a head, but really it was home made beer that they wanted to ply the East End beer guy with.
Watermelon Salad : melon with pickled rind, French breakfast radish, noble sour, mint, feta, pine nuts, watermelon bubbles
Coming off of my hop-high, I hoped I would enjoy this here Russian Sourdough, because I like sourdough bread and while I’ve never actually had a Russian, I hear good things about them all the time. I took one sip and never really tried again after that. The whole process was getting kind of old. If it makes my lips draw back like an old lady without dentures, then I probably shouldn’t drink it.
The salad was great, though! I don’t know what was up with that watermelon foam, but it was fun to play with and didn’t taste half bad, either. I’ve always been one to hold internal parades for the pine nut/feta combo, but now that I’ve had it atop a juicy wedge of watermelon, a ticker tape trifecta was born. In fact, I think this weekend I’m going to see about making a watermelon sandwich on SOURDOUGH with some pine nuts and feta and whatever that shit-streak is in the picture, because in spite of it’s fecal appearance, it was really quite delicate on my tongue.
Kara ate a radish and exclaimed, “Oh wow, that is one hot radish!” Wanting to form my own opinion, I tasted one for myself and Jesus Christ is she a fucking liar. There were no palate pyrotechnics a-happenin’ in my mouth.
Mahleb unbaked Brulee: chicory ice cream, almond black berry streusel
The waiters swooped in and dropped dessert spoons in front of everyone. Everyone but me. I was crippled for several seconds after this appalling exclusion, my spoonless fingers stiffened and curled back like talons. Kara diffused any impending tantrum-bombs by hailing down a rushing waitress and asking her to please bring me a spoon. The waitress smiled politely and when she returned (and I’m not kidding about this), she laid down the new spoon in front of me with a sweeping flourish, stood back upright and smiled cartoonishly. Essentially, she was mocking me for being the big fucking baby that I am, and it made me laugh that a complete stranger was acknowledging this. When she left, I whined, “Hey! It’s not the same kind as yours!” after I noticed that the spoon she gave me was a plain dinner spoon and not the fat, rounded kind which were made to be jammed into my ever-flapping mouth. Kara rolled her eyes and traded with me. She mumbled something about me and my sped spoon, to which I responded, “What’s that? I can’t quite hear you over top of this resplendent bonne bouche before me.”
Jimmy, Chef Sousa’s right hand man/Kara’s fantasy bedmate, came out and explained the origin of the ingredients and based on the oohs and aahs of everyone, I figured it must have pretty otherworldly. Of course, I only vaguely heard something about goats eating cherries and “dropping the pits” for the villagers to collect? And all of our desserts were supposed to be decked with a rare wild strawberry.
Two complaints re: rare strawberry :
1. Mine was yellowish green and not a pretty pink hue like Kara’s and Janna’s and, oh, everyone else’s.
2. Kara and Janna had two strawberries. I had ONE.
Bigelow Grille will be getting a hand-penned letter from one angry, neglected diner.
When I found out that the beer was made from brown sugar and molasses, I asked, “Ooh, do you think even I’ll like it?” Kara unconvincingly said, “You might,” and then exchanged doubtful smirks with Janna. (No, I didn’t like it. I really didn’t like it. And apparently either did they, but their excuse was that they “just don’t like stout in general.” Oh OK.)
The chicory ice cream, though? Oh my god, I will only ever be coating my gullet with chicory ice cream. And to think all these years, I was settling for coffee flavored ice cream? Was I insane?! Even the streusal was better than most meals I’ve eaten in my twenty-eight years and I fought with the spoon to collect every last morsel. Every so often, I would have to protectively hug my plate with an arm, after noticing Janna and her furtively darting eyes. She had big plans, I’m sure, but she wasn’t getting any of my brulee. Eat your own, Two-Strawberry Bitch!
We all decided that we wanted to come back in an hour for another serving.
After everything was over and we all gave Chef Sousa a round of applause (and I really meant it, too! Plus, he was pretty hot), we let our bellies lead us down to the parking garage where I’m pretty sure I caught Janna pitching her belt into a urine-soaked corner.