Let me start by saying that my boyfriend Mike is the most wonderful man in all of the seven kingdoms, who has the sort of superhuman patience uncommonly found yet absolutely necessary to date a pain in the ass of my caliber. I’m not mean or combative or prone to causing scenes in public, but I am the type of girl who’s constantly apologizing for things I say or do when I am hungry (otherwise known as “hangry”).
After months of gathering data, science has decided that my pain-in-the-ass-ness reaches its weekly apex on Friday nights. Here’s why: by Friday I am usually highly physically and emotionally drained, and all I typically want to do is assume a supine position on a soft piece of furniture and fat load like a bear going into hibernation for winter. Relationships are about compromise, so many Friday nights I find myself driving from deep in the valley where I work to Mike’s place in Manhattan Beach. This is about a 30-mile stretch of combined 101 and 405 freeway purgatory. When I say that I would rather do repeat root canal sessions at the dentist for hours on end than sit in this hot gridlocked mess for 1.5 hours on Friday nights, I am dead serious that I would choose the former on any occasion.
A month or two ago, Mike invited me to go with him to a progressive restaurant that serves 25+ course meals with a different menu at every sitting down in Orange County. I warned him in advance that I may not be the best candidate for this sort of situation, but he assured me that when he went it was mainly a fun twist on food, like fancy PB & J. I’m not mad at peanut butter or jelly, so I obliged. By the time I made it to him I was already suffering from LBS (low blood sugar) and had another hour in the car before we could eat. Now, although he is aware that I subsist mainly on Chai Tea Lattes, muffins and other bread products, we haven’t really been in a “scary” food situation yet (meaning, before this night out he was not aware of the extent of my unwavering and expansive food phobias). By the time we made it to the restaurant, I was hangry as all hell and on the penultimate edge of being able to remain pleasant and behave myself during a classy and expensive meal.
As soon as we sat down, an invisible IV drip of sheer panic started to permeate through my veins. The 20 or so diners sat at a long, curved bar, and the restaurant was intimately laid out so the chefs would prepare each course right in front of us, meaning we would be served face-to-face and everyone in the kitchen basically had an up-close and personal vantage point from which they could watch diners revel in their food creations. I had a napkin, a small, rustic wood plate/slab/platter/thing and tongs – end story. Food was to be consumed in whole as it was given out; there was no “clearing” of plates after each course.
When they introduced the theme of the night, I knew it was over for me before it even began. “I FOUND THE WORLD SO NEW” was the theme of our not-25-but-33 course meal that would last approximately three hours (you read that correctly). I quickly surveyed the room for a mea culpa sword to fall on as it seemed easier than putting myself and Mike through the next three hours. I didn’t find one, so I considered torching myself with one of the chef’s instruments, but that seemed hard, so instead, I sat in silence and waited for my first of 33 courses.
The rest of the night went something like this:
1. MIYAZAKI A5 WAGYU – This was described as a very expensive cut of marbled Japanese beef. People were visibly excited. The second it hit my fancy wood slab I promptly clamped it with my tongs and dropped it in front of Mike. He was a little concerned that I wouldn’t eat a cut of beef, but was also excited because that meant more for him.
2. ALAN BENTON’S BACON – Again, instead of a delicacy, I simply saw a fat blob of fat. I took a “bite” mainly to appease Mike and flung the rest of it into a nearby bowl for discarded food items. Strike 2.
3. AKASHI OUTSIDE SKIRT STEAK – I don’t remember this course other than Mike asking me, “Do you not eat steak?” When I replied I do NOT, the color started to run out of his face. All it took was 3 strikes for him to realize he was dating a monster. Onto his plate my food went.
4. PICKLED BEET & PICKLED PLUM – Finally, a vegetarian option. I am not a fan of pickled anything, but I also did not want to get dumped on the spot and stranded in Orange County for being an ingrate, so I shoved this in my mouth, swallowed and smiled. I can do this!
5. OCEAN TROUT BELLY – Absolf**kinlutely never f**king ever would I ever put this in my mouth. Not even for money. Yet another nutriment gift for Mike. At this point, I was getting increasingly anxious and embarrassed, and the woman sitting to my right turned to me and asked if I ate seafood. I replied I did not. Then she asked me if I ate meat, and I told her “not really.” She started laughing and replied, “This is going to be the best/worst meal of your life”. Excellent news.
6. FANCY NORI MICROSPONGE – This was described as some sort of cake, but unfortunately it looked like cake you would only feed to a literal sea monster. It was basically seaweed sponge cake, so F*** everyone. I smelled this several times and determined I could not eat it despite its vegetarian nature. This is the first item I dropped into my lap when no one was looking.
7. BINCHO LAMB BELLY – Again with the damn belly. WHY GOD! I don’t do lamb and I don’t do belly! I don’t care if bacon is back fat (which some of it apparently is), just call it bacon and feed it to me because bacon is delicious but I don’t need the details. TMI. No lamb. No belly. Ever. I don’t know what I did with this but it disappeared all right. Course 7 had me almost in tears, and I think Mike knew this would all end poorly if he gave me any sh*t, so he began coaching me through the meal at this point along with my newfound friend to my right. I knew I had 26 more courses of mostly terrifying meats ahead of me; I was already starving, and had nowhere to run. This was supposed to be a romantic evening and instead I felt like I was on one of those messed up Montel Williams episodes where they force people to face ridiculous phobias like q-tips and cotton balls and they all run away shrieking in fear.
8. MAX’S CARROT FRITTER – Finally, another vegetarian course. I am so NOT afraid of carrots that I ate Mike’s carrot too. Just to show him how good of a sport I can be.
9. A MORE INTERESTING PIECE OF HALIBUT – In case you’re wondering, this was a fancy title for the Halibut fin. Absolutely not.
10. TRAVIS’ SAUSAGE – NO.
11. DUCK DUCK DUMPLING – This was the course when the chef and sous chefs began to catch on to my tricks. Mike’s friend to his left at the bar ate his dumpling and thoroughly enjoyed it, so Mike passed his dumpling to his friend. I reached down and grabbed the friend’s empty dumpling serving spoon, placed it in front of me and shoved my dumpling in front of Mike to make him look bad for once in his life. Unfortunately, several sous chefs witnessed my action and were not amused to say the least.
12. DUCK DUCK BREAST – Duck ducked into my napkin.
13. THE BEST PART OF THE CHICKEN – …FINALLY!!! Something I can wrap my brain around eating. Chicken. I got this…until I saw it. There was something amiss here. When I asked WHAT this “best” part of the chicken was, the response I got was that “it really gets your blood pumping,” followed by a nefarious chuckle. These Sick F**ks pulled twenty-something chicken hearts from twenty-something chickens and skewered them like it was no big. The chef walked right up to me and asked me to eat it. I don’t really know what I said. I was so nervous I wasn’t speaking clear English but I was trying to tell him to stop pressuring me and I couldn’t do it when he was looking. When he turned around, I also shoved this under the bar into my napkin but it didn’t even matter because one of the sous chefs was watching anyway and I’m pretty sure he wanted to remove and eat my heart after that.
14. SHROOM-SCHLAGER CONSOME – This was pretty much a lukewarm, liquid mushroom shot with gold flecks mixed in. I tried to sip it down but my throat began to close and I thought I might die, so I swished the tiny glass around to make it look like I had done some damage (brilliance epitomized) and shoved it to the edge of the bar.
15. BORA BORA TUNA BREAKFAST – Another present that landed itself on Mike’s plate. He’s a lucky boy.
16. BEEF TENDON CHICHARON – I don’t recall this course, probably because I was drunk on humiliation at this point in time.
17. TYLER’S TINY EMPANADAS – These tiny empanadas were filled with curried apricot, so I ate both mine and Mike’s, as he was nearing maximum capacity.
18. RUDE AND UNREASONABLE CHICKEN WING – Again, I thought I could take this one down even though I hate chicken wings, because I was desperate. If you’re wondering where RUDE and UNREASONABLE came into play, it was because they pretty much sautéed these wings in fire ant sting poison before serving them to us. Cue coughing, watering eyes, and audible complaints. Always a lady.
19. CACIO E PEPE CHURROS – Another thing I did not want to eat, but I was willing to eat almost anything vegetarian just so the night wasn’t a total fail.
20. RISOTTO MILANESA CHIPS – See comment above. These were like rice cakes make out of risotto. It felt weird and wrong, but I ate it anyway.
21. HOKKAIDO UNI AND LARDO CROSTINI – I was running out of room in my napkin about the same time Mike was running low on his ability to eat double of every course, so I dropped this into my jacket pocket with the decision to deal with that hot mess later.
22. FANCY GIRL POTATO – This was covered in caviar. Death by napkin.
23. BLACK SEA BEAM CRUDO – No.
24. MARGARITA AIR PIZZA – This was also kind of curious, despite my steadfast love for pizza, but it was vegetarian and had a bread component so I ate my air pizza along with anyone else’s I could reach.
25. ANTS ON A LOG – This was described as celery root, peanut butter powder and bbq raisins but I have no recollection of this course probably because I was actually dead at this point.
26. ALAN BENTON’S COUNTRY HAM – Zero recollection. Clearly blacked out on self-abasement. I am sure this ended up in my napkin, my purse, my jacket, OR Mike’s jacket that I was wearing. Maybe even the woman’s jacket next to me. Nobody’s anythings were safe.
27. SUNCHOKE CHIPS – I don’t know what the hell these were but I ate them.
28. FORBIDDEN FLATBREAD – So, this was fun. The chef had clearly had enough of my presence, and told me specifically that this was a “pear butter and cocoa crumb” mousse on flatbread. I don’t know why I believed a word of this, but I took a bite and instead of pear-chocolate it tasted like demon vomit. Those dirty, lying bastards fed me some sort of foie gras mousse on a piece of flatbread. Pretty good revenge on someone viewed as basically desecrating your entire night of work I guess. If only I could have exorcised that demon right back up my esophagus into his face, I would have.
29. SHRIMP SCAMP A LAMP – Cute. I don’t remember this either.
30. MAX’S PISTACHIO CUP – Dessert. Tears of happiness. Swallowed whole.
31. CHESTNUT SOFT SERVE – F**k chestnuts. I don’t even like them. But I ate all of the chestnuts within reach.
32. PINK GRAPEFRUIT DESSERT – I ate both mine and Mike’s.
33. CHOCOLATE BUDINO BLAST – Took it down along with everyone else’s I could reach, just so I could finish strong.
We finally left with my head hung low, and I also stole my napkin for obvious reasons, which I had to discard into a public trashcan upon our departure. In conclusion, I basically got an A in desserts and an F in 29 other categories, which is pretty much how I live my life day-to-day. Sugar and simple carbs.
At least I’m consistent.