Gourmet Gruel

An oboe blew a slow tune into the background as I waited for my order to arrive. Perhaps it had been thirty minutes since I had placed it, so I was content to sip on my mint lemonade as I waited. Occasionally, I would glance into the stream beside me and watch the carp swim about. I tossed the tip of one of my breadsticks into the stream, and enjoyed watching them leap at the morsel.

The flower vase on my table also served me as a sundial. It cast a shadow about at 7 o’clock, covering up the little butter dish beside it. Thanks to my fidgeting about, my table cloth grew wrinkled, so I tugged on the white sheet to straighten it out. The oboe faded away in sink with the sun. I called a waiter over and told him to pass my five dollar tip to the musician.  He took my money and my emptied soup bowl with a smile and left.

The door to the kitchen swung open, letting a waitress onto the dining room floor and distracting me from the fish.  She made a quick turn and placed a plate in front of me. There was my order, served over a bed of lettuce and with house-made fries beside it. My waitress began to describe the dish. “The bun, Mr. Perkins, is a roll that was made in house, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted. Inside of it is a sausage made only with the choicest cuts of beef, and fire roasted on each side for an even charring. To top it all off, the chili has been made with an aged cheddar, and seasoned with a unique blend of spices chosen to provide heat and bite to the meal, but not distracting from the distinct profiles of the meat, beans, or cheese.”

I took a deep breath to appreciate the warm, savory aroma that arose from my chili dog, an experience that made me reluctant to eat the meal. Nevertheless, I unwrapped my silverware from their black cloth casing, and carved off a bit with my fork and steak knife.  I took my first bite and studied it a moment in my mouth. The crisp exterior and foamy interior of the bread, the moderate spice and silky smoothness of the chili, all worked perfectly with the meat. After swallowing, I turned to the waitress. “Superb.” I bowed my head, thanking and excusing her in one fluid motion.

She smiled and bowed back, “And for your wine, sir?”

“Oh, yes. Bring me whatever you think would complement this meal best.” As she walked off to the restaurant’s cellar, I pulled out my pen and notepad to jot down a few thoughts on the meal. To Gourmet Magazine: The dish has been very carefully crafted. Quite clearly, the chef contemplated not only each individual ingredient, but the technique and application of all of them. This chili cheese dog is a grand example of the five-star food patrons have come to expect from Le Mal de Ventre.

“Pardon me, Mr. Perkins,” the waitress interrupted me one last time, “but I have your drink.” She commenced pouring it into a shallow glass. I picked it up to get a whiff of the aroma. Tantalizingly sour. Using my fork, I dipped the chili-dog bun a little bit into the white vinegar, letting it soak into the bread.

“Thank you,” I excused her again. This time I slipped her a twenty, which is fittingly 20% of my bill. As she went on to help some other patrons, I added one last comment to my review of Le Mal de Ventre. My only problem is their choice to include filthy street foods in the menu. Foods as lowbrow as lobsters and clams do not belong in such a well-accredited eatery. Regardless, I anticipate dessert as eagerly as I did my main course. Funnel cake seems appetizing, and I’ve heard that the Celtic knot-work they do with it is among the grander arts of this world.

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