Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Red Stag Run Down

Nice. Like how I've squeezed in three posts without actually saying much about the place?
I'd been anticipating going there since I first heard about it last summer. That's part of my problem, though. Every year I build up so much about how my birthday is going to go that nearly always something catastrophic comes about. Either I'm sick, bleeding or blubbering. This year, I was just plain hungry.
The table we were seated at was about 40 feet long, so I never got to find out how the evening went for Heath and Heather. Scottie seemed okay to shout and Aisha met me later for a drink.
That left me with Eric, Pierre and Laura within ear shot. Andy was there, and looking gorgeous, might I add, but I didn't get to talk to her either. The waiter was nice, probably about 10, but that okay. It's a Monday - JV crew is working.
The wine we ordered was a lovely Cabernet blend. I had about four glasses, which is why I didn't end up with the blubbering or the pouting.
First we ordered appetizers, the highly recommended flatbreads that were promised to arrive with squash, goat cheese and black olives. I also ordered the side dish of triple fried fries. I had to know. The flat breads came out burnt to a crisp. There wasn't even any squash on them! There were little nibbles of goat cheese (not at all melted) and smooshed olives that looked like they came out of a jar. I can't believe that they served them! They weren't nicely crusty, they were burnt and devoid of any toppings.
The fries were superb, served with the first house made ketchup I've ever tasted that wasn't horrendous. We passed them around and nibbled at the bread basket that tasted like it had been sitting out for a while. I liked the white bean puree that came with that, but I don't think that everyone did.
For entrees I decided that I wanted to try a side of the lobster mac and cheese with a salad. Our server described the mac and cheese as having a layer of lobster cream sauce over the macaroni. This sounded heavenly and reasonably priced! He said that his favorite dish was the stroganoff. Since he'd also said his favorite thing was the flatbread - I ignored this advice. Eric got the duck over butternut squash with raisins, preserved lemon and arugala. Pierre ordered the Red Stag Stroganoff. I ordered the mac and cheese with a Chop salad (with hamhocks, parsnips and more raisins, accented with puffed wild rice. Interesting!) Laura ordered the mac and cheese with a Waldorf salad.
All pleased with our decisions we sipped wine and I opened the presents that everyone had brought me. I should feel worse about accepting presents at this age, but who can resist!? Andy got me a Wustoff knife sharpener to go with the knife that Matt had gotten for me. Laura got me this kick ass Jolly Roger sparkly tray. Eric got me the holy trinity - booze, literature and kitchen utensils. These guys are awesome! And everyone got me an adorable card of some sort. Sigh.... That was fun. Hmm... out of bread in the bread basket. Yup. Is Aisha wearing navy blue down there? I don't think I've seen that before? Little dim in here. What the hell is going on in the kitchen?
I went to the bathroom where they have those neat Dyson hand dryers that "wipe the moisture from your hands." Didn't work the first two times my hands went through. It was weird. I returned to the table where there still wasn't any food.
I didn't even notice how with all of this waiting and waiting, Andy was getting nervous. She had to get home and let her dog out before the poor beast exploded or devoured his crate. The restaurant was farely empty and the table behind us, that arrived after us, were gathering their coats to leave. Finally, Andy just had to go ask for her dinner to go and take off. She had to ear her steak in the car! It was such a bummer because I really wanted to try a bite of it. More, though, the best part of celebrating a birthday in this group is having everyone there together.
Finally the food arrived. I frowned into my plate. There before me was a teeny dish of pasta topped with dried out hunks of lobster, studded with little black char marks. Not brown, black. And, it was black because there was nothing to brown. There was no sauce, no cheese, just this terrible abused lobster. Who would DO such a thing!? It was stringy and singed beyond recognition. I would rather have been served some of those fake crab legs than to see such a sight. Half starved, I took a bite anyway. The little bit of sauce under the pasta had broken. There was the oil, there was the cream, pouting on opposite sides of the stupid terrine. Damn it!
My salad was another level of terrible. It all just tasted like one big hunk of something. Except for the puffed rice, which at least had texture, something the over dressed salad was lacking. As I crunched through it I kept picturing Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel chomping on bugs in Madagascar or some damn thing.
I knew we should have gone to Bulldog!
The acienct birthday girl slouched down and pushed out her bottom lip. At least Laura shared my misery. Her food was just as dismal.
Luckily, I have friends and they understand what makes me tick. Eric generously loaded me up a big bite of his duck and pasta combo. Oh, heavenly day that was lovely! The flavors melded well (except the raisin - why are there raisins in everything? What is this - a Better Off Dead send up?) The duck breast was perfectly cooked medium, juicy, the skin crispy and the fat layer gelatinous and sinful. YUM!! The bright lemon flavor played off the sweetness of the butternut squash so well.
Pierre offered me a bite of his stroganoff and this was also delicious! Why didn't I order THAT? Aisha had that as well and loaded me up with a heaping bite of venison, sour cream and eggy noodles and passed it all the way down the table. Delicious! What the hell? What was with the discrepancies? I'm even now wondering if maybe there was a guy working the appetizers/starters/side dish station and another guy was preparing the entrees. One was heavenly while the other repugnant.
I'm actually offended about what was done to that lobster. At least they took it off of my bill, but that's not really much to make up for the fact that I thought I was going to leave hungry.
But, awesome people that are my crew, had arranged a piece of cake be brought out to me. The waiter began to tentatively sing, if for fear his voice would crack or what, I don't know, but he was reeeally not sure he wanted to sing. Awkwardly everyone else joined in. It was nice. Embarrassing, but nice.
The cake was delicious. It was a chocolate/peanut butter confection - my two favorite desert partners! It was so rich, so decadent, and so good. I had to send it around and make everyone have a taste of it. So. Good. And thank God they ordered it for me. I was still starving after all that.
We all stood and mingled for a long time, drawing out our good byes. I still felt like I barely talked to half the table. At least right now I'm working with Heather, so I can harass her pretty much any time I want.
After all the hoopla, Aisha met up with me back at Skinner's for a few more. Considering I didn't eat, this might have affected my performance yesterday. Still, it was so great to have some time to just hang and talk with my really good friend. I'm so blessed and lucky to have such amazing people accompany me on these culinary adventures. I think next year we should just skip the adventure and stay closer together, rather than me trying to make such a big deal out of everything.

Psh! Yeah, right, like that's gonna happen.


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