Thursday, December 15, 2005

Haute Cuisine...With Toddler

I'm here to tell you, it CAN be done! On Mom's birthday, we celebrated at our very favorite restaurant, one I've raved about here before, chef extraordinaire Peter Brave's "Brave New Restaurant." This is a fabulous place, and pretty fancy-schmancy--it's not overly pretentious, but it's the kind of place where Alex and I can drop $100 on dinner with ease. And we don't drink, so...that's just for food, chil'ens. And it's worth every penny, the food's that good. Peter Brave is...well, my culinary hero.

Obviously, we don't get to go often, so we don't want our experience (or anyone else's) wrecked by the Wrath Of She Who Is Capable Of Sonic Screaming At A Moment's Notice. This very topic was just discussed on a friend's blog recently, so I was acutely aware of the various pitfalls of including a just-three-year-old in an evening of fine dining. We also had her eight-year-old cousin Grayson with us, but he is fortunately well beyond the age at which he would suddenly go Tasmanian Devil or spit directly ON us.

We've learned something. The secret to the success of such a venture lies not only in the hands of the child and her parents, but also in the savvy of the restaurant owner, management, and staff. This is not a booster-seat place, but I have a feeling that had we needed the "boost," they'd have come up with something. First up, the quick service upon our arrival. We all had something to drink and our orders taken swiftly. Then, greatest of all, and to our surprised delight, before appetizers or salads were served, our children were presented with beautifully arranged, complimentary fruit and cheese plates. Genius, I tell you! GENIUS!That, my friends, is a happy child eating a grape, instead of a restless child regaling the other patrons with her Very Special, Never-Sung-The-Same-Way-Twice arrangement of "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town." This is not a "kid's menu" place. All the better, because we had all the options in the world! Bella had some not-on-the-menu angel-hair pasta, with Basil Shrimp and fresh seasonal vegetables, and there was much proclamation of, "yummmm." Grayson had fresh breaded chicken cutlets and rosemary-roasted potatoes, and was also quite happy. He enjoyed Vanilla-Bean ice cream for dessert, while Bella and I each polished off a chocolate creme brulee'--a specialty of the house. The chef was even nice enough not to "cap" hers, and no one got all snooty about it! And see? We did not leave a giant swath of destruction in our wake! A perfect evening! Well...close. Right? You can't have everything. Oh, and in case anyone is worried, I was totally prepared to whisk my little darling out of there at the first sign of noise or trouble. Fear not, if you see us at a fine restaurant with you some evening.


  1. My wife never ate a complete restaurant meal for 22 years. We're finally to the point where our youngest is 7, and we can slowly ease back into something besides fast food.

    A great post!

  2. oh thanks Belinda for the mention (I feel loved).
    What a great story, I think you have brought up a good point about how businesses can also help parents with small children. It is a two way street, misbehaving children and establishments. I love that Bella and Grayson were given special appetizer plates, that makes them feel special and probably like one of the adults instead of "little kid." (I think the seperation can cause kids to act out). Restarants and other businesses that do this (like grocery stores that have carts that kids can push around), should be actively supported, maybe it will start a trend. In that way, we, as a community will be truly family friendly! (though I think in America we are much more family friendly than Europe).

  3. I haven't heard of that restaurant- it sounds great! Especially that the food is actually good. Usually when we go to fancy restaurants around here (ie Ashley's), the food sucks.

  4. That sounds like a really nice place. I'd have more trouble with Mark finding something to eat there. He's picky!

    Our dining these days is basically fast food type stuff (chinese buffet, hometown buffet, local burger places, pizza). The one fancier restaurant we go to is Charlie Brown's - a steak place with a salad bar. We keep Alan amused with salad and they are pretty kid friendly. We also try to go when it is less crowded.

  5. I think it's a good idea to at least try to take the little ones somewhere civilized. The key is try. As you said, if the sich turns ugly, then its the bad parent that ignores the demonic eruptions and lets the kiddo torment the rest of the restaurant.

    But they are going to have to face civilization eventually, so depending on the child's temperament, it doesn't hurt to try.

    Glad to hear everyone had a great time.

  6. I enjoyed this post. I do not have a child yet, but I do work in the restaurant & a well behaved child is such an accomplishment. Kudos to the staff & to you, too.