Monday, May 23, 2005

Birthday Dinner

Renee and went to the Beach Bistro for my birthday last Sunday. Since this place is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Florida, I was, of course, skeptical. Still, it's not like it wasn't my idea to go there in the first place. I guess I'm just skeptical of fine dining in general. I've had some less than stellar experiences at restaurants where, despite the food being good, the staff's attitude toward young diners thoroughly ruined the meal.

Thankfully, that wasn't the case here. Our waiter was about our age, and I think that helped. Also, he was admittedly new to the job and thus eager to please. He only referred to Renee as "the lady" once, and even then it sounded sincere (as compared to that time a waiter said to me, in a less than genuine manner, "And what will siiiiiiiiir be having?").

With that worry out of the way, the rest of the meal was very enjoyable. The small dining room felt a tad cramped, but the fact that its floor to ceiling windows look straight out onto the Gulf of Mexico helped. I guess I've been sort of desensitized to the draw that the ocean seems to have for a lot of people. The view was great, don't get me wrong. It just doesn't captivate me.

And what did we eat? Well, I'll tell you. We started with a cheese course, which included three American cheeses, one French, and one Spanish cheese. The menu said the course was all American cheeses, and honestly I was a little surprised to find that Manchego in there. Next, Renee had a tomato and Maytag soup which I liked more than my spinach salad with duck and bacon dressing. The mixture of bacon with the shredded duck reminded me of pulled pork. For our main courses, Renee had a roasted duck with a raspberry sauce and a pepper sauce. I opted for the punch-bowl sized serving of bouillabaisse, which was probably the best I've had. We passed on dessert, but the staff brought out a praline encrusted round of vanilla ice cream anyway.

Would I go back? Probably, but not for a little while. I'm still trying to reconcile how I feel about fine dining. I think the best method I've come up with is telling myself that the price of the meal reflects how we were treated, which was very well. I guess I just think of food as such a basal thing, created from simple ingredients. Also, some of the best food I've had has been from street vendors and roadside stands with absolutely no pretense. I've had more good experiences there than in fancy restaurants. Maybe that's just because I don't go to too many fancy places. That said, I'm sure I'll continue trying out upscale restaurants. Just not with the frequency that I hit the taco trucks.


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