“Can’t we sit outside?” I asked our hostess as she led us to an indoor window table. I added, “I requested an outdoor table by the creek.”
Our hostess, a young twenty-something with long flowing hair like Rapunzel-in-the-making, gave me a pouty, glum look and shook her head slowly, “Not tonight, it’s raining.”
“It’s not raining,” I said, although I knew we had arrived in Sedona to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary in the heart of the monsoon season. It had rained earlier in the day.
“You don’t want wet food,” our hostess said as she placed fifty-five different menus on our table.
“C’mon Bronwyn,” Jerry said. “We have a great view from this table. And see! The window is open so we can hear the creek and there’s a nice breeze.”
Thoughts flashed through my mind. Do we want to pay the high price for this place when we won’t dine by the creek? Didn’t the advertisement for the restaurant state: “flavorful courses served on the banks of the flowing Oak Creek?” Didn’t it promise guests the most memorable and scenic dining experience in the world? But where else would we dine with short notice on a Friday night? Wendy’s? And Jerry seems so enthused about the table and window view.
I seated myself reluctantly as Jerry gave me one of his adorable smiles, the kind of smile that makes me want to reach over the table and pinch his cheek, saying, “you’re so cute.”
We were shelling out $200 or more for our meal and so for that reason alone I put very high expectations on the food since the fairy tale creekside ambiance had been canceled. The indoor table offered a view of a patio and the sound of the creek coming from somewhere behind a jungle-like forest of trees. Pleasant but not what I hoped for.
Waiters set fancy glasses of water on our table as we read the set-priced three or four course menus. We declined cocktails and wine much to the dismay of the waiter. The fifty-two wine lists with leather covers were removed.
Sylvia (not her real name) arrived at our table and said with semi-sincerity, “Happy Anniversary” and then explained the courses as if we understood what she meant when she said, “the Creekstone Beef Tartare comes with red-pepper-castelvetrano olive.”
Even though I know how to pronounce “fois gras,” one of the first course choices, I chose the Brassicas Salad with chorizo and pistachio brittle. Jerry ordered the Creamy White Onion Soup with smoked mussels.
The first course arrived. A waiter gently placed an empty soup bowl in front of Jerry. Then with his left arm behind his back with pinky finger raised, he used his right hand to pour the onion soup from a flower vase into Jerry’s bowl. No fancy presentation for me as the waiter slapped my Brassicas Salad down.
“Jerry,” I said. “This salad is kale tossed with Ranch dressing. It has a few slices of pepperoni stick and a couple of candied nuts.”
The menu made no mention of kale for the Brassicas Salad. While I know kale is good for you, who wants to eat it?
I glanced over at Jerry and he seemed to enjoy the onion soup. But I’m not happy. I said nothing. I didn’t want to spoil the special occasion.
None of the second course choices seemed desirable. Rabbit Porcetta? No thank you. I go with the Summer Salad, since I didn’t feast on the kale salad. Unlike rabbit, a salad at least doesn’t give me frightening flashbacks to my childhood when my dad had a rabbit-raising venture. Us five kids had the job of taking care of the rabbits, which became pets. My sisters and brothers gave them names. When my dad had them butchered and they ended up on our dinner table, our youngest brother asked, “Is that Big John?” as we gawked at the plate of crispy fried rabbit. None of us ate except my dad who chomped loudly and said, “mmm, delicious.” I vowed to never eat rabbit the rest of my life.
When I ordered the Summer Salad instead of the Rabbit Porcetta, Sylvia had said, “Good choice!” Her comment made me feel I had picked the best of the second-course choices.
The Summer Salad landed on the table as the second course commenced. I noticed it squished on half the plate leaving lots of empty space. A mix of greens and two cubes of watermelon crowded to one side of the plate. While I contemplated the reasoning for the half empty side (not for bread as we had bread plates), Sylvia stopped by to inform me the watermelon is infused with lemon juice and sugar. She said it like “what a treat!’ To me, it tasted like watermelon soaked in mouthwash.
At the table next to us, I overheard the man order the Rabbit Porcetta. “Good choice!” Sylvia said.
Back at our table, the third course appeared. Jerry and I had both ordered the Meagre Sea Bass. The name should have given us a clue. We were served a meager fillet with two tiny fingerling potatoes resting on a bed of graham cracker crumbs.
“Why is it,” Jerry said to me, “that the fancier the restaurant, the smaller the portions?”
“I guess with enough flair and presentation, you can make anything look better and charge a whole lot more for a whole lot less,” I said.
“Happy Anniversary,” Sylvia said handing us the bill and two chocolate truffles and a chunk of chocolate inscribed Happy Anniversary in gold.
“It’s an experience,” Jerry said. “I’m glad we came here. Let’s do it again in forty years, for our 80th.”
“It’s a plan,” I said. And…we left starving.