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Everything King: Weirdly named cheese, watery gravy and appetizers the size of postage stamps

In this week's column, Wendy deciphers swanky restaurant talk and embraces the grease stains on her blouse
tapas AdobeStock_57779695
Is there grass growing out of my tapa? Stock photo.

I consider dining out to be one of the great treats in life!

It’s a social event. It usually means I get to dress up, stay out late and eat someone’s else’s cooking which is bound to be better than my own. It is so relaxing without the smoke alarm going off every 10 minutes!

I want to be hoity toity. I want to be classy. I want to be one of those women who wear white pant suits and who never slop on their boobs. None of that is going to happen. 

I also want to enjoy the fine dining experience but every time I try it, I end up feeling disappointed, dissatisfied, unfulfilled and with a stain on my chest. Also, still hungry!

A group of woman and I recently went out for a nice dinner at a swanky restaurant with a good reputation. It would probably be considered high-end.

Linen napkins, low lighting, nary a Heinz ketchup bottle in sight. You get the idea.

It’s a bad sign when you can’t understand the description of the menu items. 

I remember the server saying something about chicken infused with mustard with a side of red veined basil leaves. Literally, this was a couple leaf sprigs about the size of my little finger. It wasn’t anything to write home about or to write a description about. Some vegetable was declared to be “hand-selected." Something had the essence of oregano. I smell pretention.

Usually, there’s some meal with a reduction sauce (I have no idea what this is.) If they call it scallions, that is pirate talk for an onion (or is that a scallywag?)

Expect some weirdly named cheese. If they describe it by its texture and colour like “hard yellow cheese” it will be more money. If it comes from Paris — add a couple bucks!

Some dishes come with some sort of gravy but they called it ‘au jus” which as far as I can tell is just super watery gravy that you can see through. Don’t be confused by truffles. They are most likely mushrooms sniffed out by pigs and not made by Lindt, at all!

So, back at the table some of the ladies thought maybe they would eat light (personally, that thought has never entered my mind). They asked to see the Tapas Menu. 

Someone asked the question: “what does that mean exactly” to which I piped up with “from the looks of it, it's Spanish for not much food." So, basically they are appetizers about the size of postage stamps. When it arrived, we had to stifle a giggle. It was so paltry. 

I can always be counted on to break the silence.

“Y’know what this looks like, girls? 

“It looks like we are hitting the McDonalds drive -thru after this”.

To assist you in avoiding a similar crises here are a few helpful tips to dining out.

1) If the dishes are oversized and oddly shaped, your food will come in an oddly small portion and be stacked up like a small mountain . . . the meat will be topped by mashed potatoes and there will likely be a too-hard green bean or asparagus spear balancing dangerously on top. Like a game of Jenga — if you touch the wrong sprig in the wrong order, your food mountain will topple filling out more of the too-big plate but not enough to fool you into thinking you got a full portion!

2) If there is no salt and pepper on the table — reach into your purse and use the salt packets you stole from the diner earlier in the day. I was once informed that there was no need for salt because the chef had perfectly seasoned the meal in preparation.  Unless you’re my heart doctor, hush up and get me something for the taste!

3) If the restaurant does not provide a bread basket — leave. This meal just lost its fun factor.

4) If the server asks the question: “Does anyone want to see the dessert menu?” — quickly and efficiently put down the fork and grab the purse — no one needs this kind of negativity in life. There should be NO question — wheel out the damn pastry cart!

5) Check the size of the coffee cup. They will likely be like the kind you used in your playhouse as a kid. They will try to fool you by calling the coffee “robust" and “full-bodied” but rest assured whatever it's called each refill will be extra!

I hope I have not ruined your next dining out experience.  If I have, please join me at the neighbourhood diner which may or may not have partially ripped wallpaper dangling in the corner. I’ll be the one with the grease stain on my blouse enjoying a giant cup of java.   

And I’ll treat — I  probably have a coupon! 

Bon Appetit!