Tuesday, December 04, 2007


The Man and I went to see Enchanted on Sunday afternoon. It's a thoroughly delightful chick flick, and a great date movie. What was less than "Enchanting" was our dining experience before the show.

We purchased our tickets and went in search of luncheon options. Near the theater was a local pizza joint that wasn't too bad...good beer on tap, and the calzones were large and stuffed. Imagine our suprise when we pulled up and our little pizza dive had turned into an actual (we think) Italian restaurant, complete with white tablecloths, pictures of Venice on the walls, and suspect bottles of wine on the table. (Why do restaurants do that? Put bottles of wine on the table? If you were going to order that wine, you would definitely not want the one on the table that had been manhandled by everyone who sat down, slobbered on by errant children, etc.)

We decided to give it a whirl anyway, because it was next to the Cold Stone Creamery, which was my real reason for suggesting the old place in the first place. (More on the Creamery in a moment.)

The menu was pretty basic. I wasn't in the mood for pasta, and a grilled vegetable panini caught my eye, so I opted for that. The description in the menu read "grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella cheese." Sounded pretty good on this overcast afternoon, especially when paired with a cup of pasta fagioli soup.

The soup was passable--not the best I've ever had or made myself, but hot and somewhat tasty. Our entrees arrived--The Man ordered their pasta carbonara, which was a lighter alfredo-type sauce with peas and bacon--people are just afraid to do the egg thing--and I took a bite of my panini. It was a bit greasy, but there was something else...actually, something lacking in that bite.

I pulled the sandwich apart and what I found within is the "disenchanting" part of our story. Yes, there was fresh mozzarella, but what the hell was going on with the vegetables? No eggplant, no red peppers, just some chopped up bits of yellow squash, zucchini, and broccoli that had been sauteed, not grilled.

My brain was a bit fuzzy and wishing it was still in Maine, so I thought that I had mis-read the menu. The Man grabbed me a menu from another table, so I could confirm what was supposed to be on my sandwich. There, in black and white, the menu listed the grilled eggplant and roasted peppers.

I was a bit perturbed by this mismatch of menu description and delivered food item. I set the sandwich to the side, and finally our waitron came over and asked if anything was wrong. I pointed out the discrepancy between the menu and the actual sandwich, and he apologized and whisked it away. He offered me other food items, but I declined. My heart really wasn't into a meal at this restaurant after that, and I got even more peeved after the waitron returned from the kitchen to apologize again. He said something along the lines that the cook didn't have any grilled eggplant or peppers, and thought it was too late to do them, so he grilled other vegetables. It was 2:00 in the afternoon...what did he mean "too late?" And, why did he not tell the waiter that they were out of eggplant or something and request that I make another selection? Did he think I was stupid and not going to notice the absence of the eggplant, much less the red peppers? And, if those vegetables he put on the sandwich were anywhere near a grill and not a saute pan, I'll eat my keyboard and yours.

The irony is that I recently read an article essentially about the truth of menu descriptions, and how sometimes what you order is not what you get...essentially, "truth in menus," which are laws in some states. I remember thinking that article was really odd, because how the heck could that happen? Why would a restaurant serve something that didn't live up to the description or, at the very least, the list of ingredients in the menu description? Now, I know. And, this restaurant has lost a customer. Yes, the waiter took the sandwich and the soup (which was unexpected--I did expect not to pay for the sandwich, because it damn skippy was not what I ordered, but the soup was fine) off our bill, but the fact that the kitchen just didn't feel like living up to the restaurant's standards was a bit much to swallow. I can just hear Gordon Ramsey's voice in my head now, and "donkey" would be the least of the this guy's worries.

The more I thought about it, the more pissed off I got. Not that there was anything else I could do. I had voiced my displeasure over the mismatch, but I still felt sort of impotent about the situation. I think it just boils down to the whole "did the cook think I wouldn't notice? Do I look that stupid?" factor in this equation. Sure, there's a ton of people out there who make life hell for wait staff and cooks, but when a restaurant allows this kind of behavior to happen, then it's pretty indicative of how long the restaurant is going to be in business. I'm betting this is not the first time it has happened, and I'll be surprised if this place makes it to Spring.

But, all was not lost. Cold Stone Creamery finally had my favorite (of theirs) flavor, which is a special holiday offering--Dark Chocolate Peppermint. This is a dark chocolate ice cream, with a lovely pepperminty flavor that's not overpowering or artificial tasting. The ice cream itself is not overly sweet, so it's sort of a nice palate cleanser as well as dessert. Unfortunately, it's only available for about2 1/2 months, during the holiday season. I think of Cold Stone as being way overpriced (as are other places like it), because it's ice cream for heaven's sake...not liquid or frozen gold, but this flavor is worth darkening their doorstep. I like it plain--none of that mix-in stuff for me--and it just hits the spot, making the bad dream of that lunch fade into insignificance for awhile...at least until it came time to post about it!

Today's Special: A lovely Gala apple--ruby red skin with shadings of gold, creamy white flesh with a hint of pink, and just a soup├žon of poison to round out the flavor profile. Bwahaaahahaaaa!


J said...

I am cracking up because every time I have an experience like that, my reaction is the same. It all comes down to me thinking that someone is insulting my intelligence!

BTW, Stone Cold Creamery, I always want to resist because of the prices, but my favorite there is the Strawberry Blonde. It's like a gourmet Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake. It is super fine!

Jim McMetz said...

The rats are jumping from the ship as hundreds of Cold Stone locations are now collapsing around the US. Why? Because the "concept" of mixing stuff into ice cream has always been a fad, and the fad is now over. The product isn't that good, is grossly overpriced, and consumers are flocking back to properly formulated ice cream from other chains like Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry's.

The Cold Stones have been largely sold to Yuppies with too much equity in their homes, who jumped into the stores to be "business owners". But since the labor costs are double the competition, and stores are too big and too expensive to run, the number of unprofitable stores is skyrocketing with the results we have here.