Birthday Dinner with Friends

Last night I went out to dinner with some good friends.  We celebrate each other’s birthdays, but had been unable to get together very often this winter, so we celebrated 3 birthdays together.  We generally go to the same restaurant as all of us like it.

However, I have been growing more dismayed with this particular restaurant over the years. It used to be so much my favorite, that whenever my husband would ask me where I want to go to dinner, its name would automatically spring from my lips, without any prompting from my brain.  But it has grown tired.  It has not kept up with the times.  The menu is always the same.  Even the specials are the same one they use over and over.

Last night, I decided to order something different and ordered the pork chop.  I had not had any meat for a while and was feeling a bit peaked as we used to say in Virginia. The menu said a pork chop with an apple cider demi glaze, with pesto infused rice and sautéed fresh vegetables.   I was excited.  How could you screw up a pork chop and rice?  What arrived was an abomination.  It looked like someone had thrown up all over my 12” plate. The pork chop was pretty enough, and it was sitting all nestled into the rice, nice and cozy, with the colorful vegetables beside it.  However, all over this whole plate, was a sickening, store bought liquid that tasted as far from a demi glaze as a can of pineapple juice.

What is demi glaze?  A true demi glaze is nothing more than the pan juices from the cooked meat combined with another liquid, such as wine, apple cider, coffee, etc for flavor. These are cooked down to make a thick, intense liquid to spoon over the meat. Demi glaze bases can be bought in some fine stores. They are thick and jam-like in consistency. You heat them and add a little liquid to them.

What I got last night was something like a half a bottle of sugary, indistinguishable liquid.  My rice was soaked and tasted like pineapple or apple juice.  So were my vegetables.  My pork chop was as tough as a shoe. It was so tough that the glaze did not soak in at all.  So instead of having the various flavors of the meat, rice, pesto, carrots, broccoli and zucchini, I had tepid, sweet, in every single bite.  Needless to say, I did not eat it.

On the other end of the spectrum is all this super fancy food like ferns and foraged this and that, smoked, jellied, foamed and artistically displayed that some very high-end restaurants in big cities are serving. Norway is big in the foraging movement. (Look, I don’t have one problem with foraging.  Many people forage for mushrooms especially around where I live. But the prices are astronomical for them in restaurants.)  If you include wine, you will be encouraged to have a different wine with each course causing your individual bill to begin at  $200 and only go up from there.  Only a very few can afford to eat at these places and only a few times at that.  These are the types of restaurants getting Michelin Stars and lots of press recently.  There is a big market for these restaurants, but they are out of reach for most of us.  So are we forced then, to eat only at places serving us horrible food, because they think we cannot tell good food from bad?  They are dumbing down their cooking for us. They are using all these processed sauces and bread to lower their costs.  They think that is what we want, when it is not what we want but all that we have to choose from.

I ask you and I put these out there to chefs…can’t there be more middle ground?  What about a restaurant that serves really good food, using good free range, sustainable meats and produce, instead of a giant plate of slop or a salad of four lettuce leaves and 3 micro greens for $50.00?