Have No Expectations and You Will Not Be Disappointed
Posted Jan 02 2010 7:45pm
I rarely eat out in restaurants anymore. It sounds funny when I say that given that I once wanted to be a food critic. In the past two years, it has become increasingly difficult for me to eat out because of the number of foods I can’t tolerate and because I simply don’t enjoy dining out as much anymore. This is not to say I don’t enjoy scouting out restaurants with gluten-free menus when I have the chance, but overall, I find myself longing for a meal cooked in the comfort of my own home with fresh ingredients that I have purchased .
My two weeks in Italy were special in that way. Even though I didn’t cook the entire time I was there, I was completely aware of the simple, yet delicious ingredients Elizabetta cooked for us each day. I don’t think she was aware of how happy I was with her cooking. Preparing meals is something she does day in and day out, but for me, it was as if I had been given a special gift. I have not eaten that well since my mother was alive. The ironic part is, for all that I ate, I didn’t gain any weight in Italy. I probably lost a few pounds. My digestive tract was happy and I ate food that was prepared with love. That’s the secret ingredient restaurants don’t include. Love. Piatti preparati con amore. Platos preparados con amor.
Tonight I felt like Primo from the movie Big Night. If you have seen the film, you know that Primo is the Italian chef who opens up a restaurant with his younger brother Secondo. Secondo wants to be successful with the business, and so does Primo. The problem is, Primo wants to hold on to his old world recipes and customs instead of making changes to accommodate the American palate. He suffers as a result both because his restaurant is empty and the few people that eat in his restaurant haven’t the foggiest idea about real Italian cuisine. You can watch one of my favorite scenes from the movie in this post.
I have learned that if I don’t have any expectations for the real thing in a Spanish restaurant in the United States, I will be less disappointed. I imagine it works that way with everything, right? You have no expectations, you don’t get disappointed. Well, tonight I guess I had a few expectations without realizing it. Or perhaps it was that I had not eaten out in so long, I forgot to leave my expectations aside.
Don’t get me wrong, if you eat at Ibiza in Hamden, you might think it is quite good. That all depends on whether or not you have spent any significant time in Spain. Once you spend time in Spain, the restaurant loses all its appeal.
I told the waitress that I would be ordering “American style” because I have food allergies and I can’t eat all the ingredients in the dishes my father ordered. When I say American style, that means that we each get our own dish and we don’t share the plates like you traditionally do with “tapas” in Spain. The problem was, the waitress didn’t tell us that the dishes would be brought out to the table in no particular order. They were served in the order in which they were ready.
That meant that my main course came out before my appetizer, and my father was served a mystery dish that neither of us could recognize. When I asked the waitress what she had served my dad, she said,
“Oh, that was a mistake. We didn’t mean to serve that to you. We won’t charge you. Go ahead and enjoy it.”
By the time she responded, he had already eaten two or three mouthfuls. The dish resembled what I had ordered as my appetizer, but since the chorizo didn’t really look like chorizo, I figured it wasn’t what I had ordered.
The waitress then returned with my father’s “main course”, not what he had ordered first, and she informed me,
“That dish we served your father was actually your appetizer. I thought you realized that. We have no control over the order in which dishes come out of the kitchen.”
Lesson learned. Never expect that the dishes will be served in the order in which you asked for them. At least not at Ibiza in Hamden, CT.
As our reversed meal came to an end this evening, I couldn’t help but ask the young waitress about the chorizo in my appetizer (which, by the way, got consumed by my father while I was eating my main course). You see, this chorizo didn’t look like any chorizo I had ever eaten before. It tasted more like a Polish kielbasa. At best, maybe a Portuguese chorizo that I wasn’t familiar with. I would have expected a bit more pimentón. Especially since they said it was chorizo “Rioja Style”. And I also had never seen such a thin chorizo. Usually a slice of chorizo is about the size of a quarter, not a dime. This chorizo was particularly thin. Maybe it was homemade? I asked the waitress,
“Could you tell me, does the chef make his own chorizo?”
“Oh no, everything we get here is from Spain.”
“I see,” I responded. I wasn’t so convinced.
Before departing from Ibiza, I took a look at the ceramics in which they had served my dad’s coffee, cream, and sugar. I love Spanish ceramics. Each region has its own particular design and style, and the ceramics on our table were not familiar to me. I decided to turn over the sugar bowl to see if I could identify the region from which it came.