Monday, January 28, 2008

Why You Can't Take Us Anywhere

I decided to finish journaling our Disney vacation from December, when I stopped after just posting about the first two days. You are thrilled to hear this. No, you ARE.

That Sunday happened to be Alex's and my wedding anniversary. Seven years, and I'm not even itchy. How 'bout that? Let's observe a moment of silent wonder and appreciation at what the two of us have come through, and that we are, in fact, more or less happily married still. Done? OK.

Alex's delightful mother (honestly--I feel like the luckiest woman alive, because I not only have a fantastic mother, but a fantastic seems greedy), who is something of a Disney World expert, having made several trips with grandchildren before, had, months ago, made reservations for Alex and I at the very posh Victoria & Albert's restaurant. You might be wondering why that name sounds familiar, and it's because it was recently in the news for officially "banning" children under the age of 10. My input on this is that no one with half sense would bring a young child to a 3-hour, 7+ course meal, but that's just me. There may be people who also like poking themselves in the eyes with mechanical pencils, but I'm not one of them.

Victoria & Albert's is a AAA 5-diamond restaurant, and you get a feel for what's in store right up front, when they present you with your very own, pre-printed keepsake menus.

you know, when they print you your very own menus, that it's gonna be 'spensive

Intimidating, much? Well, yeah, you could say that. Let me take a moment and share a little secret about fancypants dining, especially 3-hour-long seatings of gourmet meals in places that are so dignified and quiet that you can hear OTHER people breathing, despite the soft harp music: Gentlemen, as you sit normally in your upholstered chair, in your coat and tie, supported by the seat back comfortably, and enjoying your meal, APPRECIATE the fact that the lady in your company is perched on the edge of her own chair, holding herself ramrod-straight, because, in the female version of "semi-formal" dress, well...we just must. There is no leaning back in our chairs, because that would make us look decidedly unladylike, and there is CERTAINLY no slumping. I can honestly say that the only not-entirely-positive thing about this amazing meal was the ache in my back and shoulders by the time it was over. But you can overcome a lot of pain with the right amount of gourmet cheese and/or chocolate ganache.

When people keep asking my why I'm persisting in my attempts at learning how to cook duck, I tell them it's because of this dish.

something with duck and a bleu cheese sauce and mushrooms and black truffles
That is walnut oil seared duck with hearts of palm, huckleberry vinaigrette, and Fourme D'Ambert foundue. And it was DIVINE. Well, everything we had was divine. I don't even recall what Alex had while I was eating this, BUT, I do know what he had next, because he would not shut up about it for DAYS. He had pan-roasted foie gras with Fuji apples and Mostarda di Cremona, and it came in this funky dish:

I think this was Alex's foie gras dish

This is just not something I can eat, because the flavor of the liver and the taste of the insanely high fat content are just too strong for me. Alex could not believe that anyone would be so dense as to pass up this delicacy, and declared it to be "possibly the best thing [he had] ever eaten." While he was doing that, I was minding my own business over on my side of the table, with a festival of mushrooms and truffles, more formally known as ballotine of poulet rouge with chicken consomme', Scottish Chanterelles and black truffles. Also known, immediately upon serving, as IN MAH BELLEH.
I ate every last drop

Now, here is where things took a typical turn, for us. As you might well imagine, service up to this point had taken a good hour or more, and our supply of genteel manners was running on the lowish side. The stuffiness of the restaurant was starting to seem less serious, and more funny. This is dangerous, if you're out with us. Fortunately, we had only each other's images to damage. Naturally, my highly-sophisticated husband waited until I had taken a sip of the mellowest iced-tea ever, sweetened with honey collected from highly-sophisticated bees, to lean over and whisper conspiratorily, " a little goose-grease on my tie, there." Composure: BLOWN. Thanks, Honey.

I blame myself, partially, because on our way to the restaurant, I'd dared Alex to sit down, look over the menu, and then ask the server, "Y'all got any nachos back'ere?" which of course he wouldn't do. But once the ice was broken with the goose-grease remark, the flood-gates were open, so to speak (and with mixed metaphors, even). I also blame the butter, because I think it made us a little stoned. I'm not kidding. This butter they had--it was naturally cultured butter from Vermont cows, cows which I imagine spend a lot of time getting spa treatments and dining on alfalfa cakes and drinking spring water, because only INSANELY HAPPY COWS could have produced the milk that made that butter, and therefore there must have been some sort of giddy endorphins buttering our bread that night. In fact, we discussed the truth that on this occasion, the bread was merely serving as a butter-delivery system, and had there been spoons on the table between courses, we'd have likely skipped the bread altogether and just mainlined the butter.

We did manage to get through the fish course (turbot for Alex, Alaskan sablefish for me), but the delay between that and the meat course left way too much time on our hands and way too much "material" for Alex to riff on. Probably my favorite exchange of the evening had to do with the lovely harp music, which was being played right next to our table by a lovely lady. It began during a particularly heartfelt rendition of "Lo, How A Rose E'er Blooming," with Alex once again leaning over to whisper to me.

Alex: "How much you reckon I'd have to tip her to get her to play 'Turkey In The Straw?'"

Me: (laughing) "I don't know, but for a heavy tip, you'd want to get your money's worth--something like 'Dueling Banjos.'"

We paused, locked eyes, and had minor meltdowns as we imagined the opening strains of "Dueling Banjos" being played on a harp. Go ahead--imagine that. It's FUNNY.

We hummed softly together, until we got to the "busy" part of the song, and I allowed that at that point, it was probably a moot question.

Me: "No, I don't think one harpist could do that part by herself--there's too much going on."

Alex: (without missing a nanosecond of a beat) "Oh, well, she'd have to rare back and kick her shoes off, for sure."

And then we LOST IT. For quite some time. And were not again settled until the arrival of some steak that demanded serious attention. Alex had Kobe beef tenderloin with smoked garlic puree, and while that garlic/potato puree tasted like it had been prepared earlier that day by angels in heaven, my Kansas City Angus beef with caramelized Yukon Gold potatoes was, in my opinion, WAY better. Great galloping kumquats, but it was good.

seriously, my Kansas City Black Angus was better

After the steak, Alex was the wise soul who ordered the cheese plate for our next course, and I'm grateful to him for not stabbing me with a cheese fork as I pilfered from his plate, because I'm not sure I'd have shown the same restraint, were our situations reversed. There were five amazing cheeses, but the highlights were the Comte' Saint Antoine, the 4-year aged Gouda, which transcended all Goudas that ever came before it, and the melt-in-your-mouth Cabra al Vino, which I believe is the one we were told translated as "drunken goat." Listen to me, all ye people who raise milk-goats and make cheese: START GETTING YOUR GOATS DRUNK ON WINE IMMEDIATELY. That was the most incredible cheese ever.
I could have gone away happy just having been served this cheese plate

Just when we were almost ready to die, we were served our desserts, which had been in the making since the beginning of our meal. Alex had a Grand Marnier souffle', which I'm sure was perfectly wonderful, but I really wouldn't know, since I was occupied having the chocolate version of an LSD trip, with my trio of chocolate desserts: Tanzanian chocolate pyramid, Hawaiian Kona chocolate souffle', and Peruvian chocolate ice cream and puff pastry.
and then I died, happily, of chocolate

And yes, the apex of that sweet little pyramid is topped with 24k gold. I am now worth slightly more than I was before I ate it.

The only thing I can add about this meal is that, even if you don't particularly care for coffee (I don't), if you're ever offered coffee that is brewed at your table in one of these contraptions:
all coffee should be made in one of these

By all means, HAVE SOME. Wow. I am now of the opinion that all coffee should be prepared in a flame-powered vacuum percolator. Gotta get me one of those. And some of those wonderful little pear/mint/ginger sugared cubes that were served to top off the meal.

Victoria & Albert's sent us on our way, a little over three hours after we'd arrived, with a long-stemmed rose and a loaf of apricot breakfast-bread, stuffed to the gills with good food and memories of a special occasion. It's an experience I'd highly recommend, though if you're easily embarrassed, I'd suggest not taking us along. The really good news on this night was that the restaurant is located at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which is where we happened to be staying, so we only had to waddle a short distance before we could fall into bed and try not to die of instant-onset gout. SO WORTH IT.


  1. Cannot. stop. laughing. Seriously woman, I don't even remember how I found this blog but I am SO subscribing to it.

  2. Okay, mystery solved after I retraced my clicks between tabs (typical A.D.D. Firefox user)...I found this blog from GuyKawasaki who was linked from Penelope Trunk. I think it was the words "Arkansas" and "Democrat" that really caught my attention. Poodles don't hurt either :)

    Anyway again, I love your blog. Keep up the amazing work!

  3. Wow, what a cool "chain" to get here! Thanks for sharing that...we should make that a "meme" one day, telling everyone how we found each other!

  4. Yum, yum, and double yum! I pick your dessert!

    Thanks for sharing your delicious dinner with all your blog readers! I'm pea green with envy.

    (Oh - and for the record, my DH and I would SO eat with you guys. Only we would ALL be kicked out of the restaurant for Disturbing the Peace!)

  5. I gained six pounds and suffered a touch of unstable angina, reading this.

  6. Yeah, I am with ya on the chocolate. It had to be worth it to sit through three hours of the other hoity toity stuff to get to it. Yum!

  7. LOVED this! And I would've thrown in $100 to hear Turkey in the Straw. Seriously.

    That dinner looks absolutely amazing - so glad you captured it all in pics!

  8. You are the funniest food writer! You should get your own TV show on the Food Channel!! You and your Hubs would make an unbeatable pair!! All ye who agree with me, put your hands up.

  9. Do they have any interesting recipes made with American Cheese? How about Wonder Bread? Creamed corn? If not, I'd have to pass.

  10. You can take the redneck out of Arkansas, but you can't- oh, you get the point. :) I could just see me and my DH acting the same way! At least you didn't get kicked out. :)

  11. But the best part? Aren't all the waiters named either Victoria (girls) or Albert (boys)?

  12. Nothing like a romantic dinner and laughing while humming "Dueling Banjos"

    That's Amore.

  13. Man, I wish there had been a warning on this post, because tantalizing a six-months pregnant woman with that dessert photo is just NOT FAIR.

    Must run out of door in search of chocolate...

  14. Dave2 YEAH, we thought they were all supposed to be "Victoria and Albert," too, but our pair wasn't. They were named Ann and Dan. And I remember that because those were the names of the two coonhound puppies from "Where The Red Fern Grows," which I read when I was nine. Funny what sticks, huh? That was ANOTHER thing that got us tickled that night, too.

  15. Sounds like a wonderfull time. When I first looked at the pictures, though, I thought you had a personalized invite to Victoria's Secret.

    I have made "Cabra al Vino". It was essentially a young feta brined in red wine. Very tasty! The red wine made the outside of each piece dark purple but the inside stayed brilliant white.

  16. Scrolling thru quickly - because my diet just can't take this level of food porn!!

  17. See, this is why I love you. Now V. and I are not the only couple who make Fat Bastard references with regard to fine dining.

    One of the few benefits of living in N.E. at this time of year is that I can still get the cultured butter in pretty much any supermarket-- and I do. I'm irish, I require good butter. And whiskey. But that's another story.

  18. Well, great. Now, whenever I hear harp music, I'm going to think of asking them to play "Turkey in the Straw". Belated Happy Anniversary, y'all!

  19. Very funny ! You sound like someone I could hangout with. Love your blog.

  20. omg. love it. let's the four of us double date sometime.

  21. And the visual you've left me with for the night is a prim and proper harp player Rocking Out with hands and toes.



  22. Food porn is right! I just had an orgasm reading about your dinner. Wow.

    We would have so much fun at dinner together! At one of those fancy rooftop restaurants that revolved, we were being ignored by our waiter. So we started putting things on the windowsills and watching them rotate away from us. Saltshakers, rolls, dirty plates, oyster shells, etc. The waiters didn't notice until someone complained at seeing empty lobster tails roll by their table - but we were already paid and at the elevator at that point. Ha!

  23. oh come on! nobody asked for Dueling Banjos? On a harp? That would have been the Bomb!

    The food pics have made me very hungry. I think we still have some Nutella upstairs...

  24. Reading about that meal made my blood pressure destabilize and gave me chest pains. I also drooled down my front and moaned a bit.

    None of this is any less dignified than my normal, so I'm not worried. :)

  25. That sounded like a fabulous meal, and exactly the experience that The Man and I would have there, but he really would have asked about the nachos...because he can take a joke and run in right smack into the ground! I'm going to V&A the next time we hit Mouseland!

  26. You have not eaten with us yet:o) We get a little crazy at big, expensive places like this. I might have to try it one day, since it is practically in my backyard!!

  27. You and your husband are after my own heart... had I been there having dinner with you two, guaranteed we would've been kicked out. Though I don't doubt the food was wonderful... the formality of it all and the stuffiness really would have gotten to me VERY quickly. (I'm not very sophisticated, at all.)
    I would have been laughing and rolling all over the floor after the visualization of Alex's suggestion of Turkey in the straw on harp.
    Happy anniversary to the two of you!

  28. Happy anniversary and the nachos comment made me spit water all over my keyboard, then the chocolate dessert trio made me weep.

  29. If I ever go to that restaurant, I TOTALLY want you to come with. But just so we're clear--EVERY FOOD ITEM MUST BE SHARED. :)

  30. Okay, you're probably never going to find a comment on a post from months ago, but I could not resist.... I am finally nearly done w/ your archives (great reading, by the way), and had to pause for a moment on this one to say, THANK YOU for the serious food porn!!! Awesome. We already wanted to take our little one to Disney World, but your post has made it a MUST DO!

    I am so enjoying reading your blog. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself in here. It's great reading, and you guys are f***ing funny (excuse my language!).

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