Saturday, November 29, 2008

Haute Cuisine With Kids In Tow

Last night was one of those nights that began fraught with peril, but ultimately ended up being pretty darn sweet.

We took our kids to a fancy restaurant.

Yes, against our better judgement we dressed up the chimps in button down shirts (myself included), jumped on the Van Ness bus, and headed down to Market Street to have dinner at the Zuni Cafe. We had stopped in earlier in the afternoon to make a reservation in person. The maitre d' looked me up and down, dressed in my stained hoodie with my two pet orangutans, and smiled and said "I can fit you in at 6:45". His body language, however, told me that he would prefer to fit us in after a certain region to the extreme south had frozen over completely.

So we arrive in the button down shirts, with Laurel looking nice and me with the bulk of the stains removed from my hoodie with a wet cloth earlier. After a brief wait, we are led through the restaurant to the most distant corner table in the place. I commented to the gentleman leading us that "this must be the childproof table, eh?". I received the same smile I got earlier. Now Zuni is a nice place. Huge wood oven. Open kitchen. Gorgeous bar. The closest table to our demilitalrized zone table was occupied by a very elegant looking couple in their late 50's/early 60's. They were about halfway through their starters. Their faces visibly fell as we were led past them to our table a few feet away, as they realized that their quiet and elegant evening out was about to be invaded by the simian exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo. I smiled at them and made some lame joke about their imminent need to wear protective clothing, and they wanly smiled back.

So we began our training seminar on how to behave in a nice restaurant. Inside voices only. The napkin gets shaken out and laid on your lap. The small fork is for your first course. Sit up straight. A little shaky at first, but they started to kind of get it. We ordered some raw oysters, which, ironically were from BC. They came with both a lemon wedge and a lovely mignionette. The older couple actually stopped eating and stared somewhat slackjawed as Miles slid a whole raw oyster into his mouth and pronounced it "Excellent!". Isaac, who declined the actual oyster part, insisted on loading up an empty shell with a combination of lemon juice and mignionette and sliding that down his throat. "Yummy!"

Then came the starters. Laurel and I both had the house cured anchovies with celery and reggiano with black pepper. The boys split a starter of serrano ham and braised fennel. We ordered a nice local gewurztraminer, and about halfway through our starters, Laurel put the glass under Miles' nose and asked "what do you smell?". "Grapes!" came the reply. "And spices!" We did the same for Isaac, and then insisted that they both have a teeny sip to see what it tasted like with the ham. Enthusiastic approval, despite being mildly illegal.

After a little time went by, the waiter came out to apologize for the delay in the delivery of the mains, and said that the chef would like to buy us all dessert to make up for this incredible faux pas. I didn't mind the wait actually. North Americans tend to eat too fast anyway.
Then came the mains. I had some seared scallops with braised cabbage in a mustard sauce, the boys shared a ricotta gnochi dish, and Laurel had a spaghetti with chanterelles, although there was a mixup and they first sent out a fish dish. All told, quite tasty and we were actually able to suppress our regular urge to yell at the kids. It would seem that the apes were evolving into humans.

All through our meal, the neighbouring couple kept looking over at the boys. As they were getting up to leave, this very elegant woman sidles up to our table and said, in the most heartfelt way imagineable, "I had begun to think that our civilization was coming to an end, but seeing this heartens me". She seemed genuinely thrilled that we were taking the time to try to educate our young dudes in the way of fine dining. I'm not ashamed to admit, that at that moment we felt kind of proud of ourselves. Of course that feeling evaporated moments after they left when the waiter arrived bearing crayons, and encouraged the boys to cover the table in kid art. Which they did. Actually we all did. A moment of evolutionary snakes and ladders...

1 comment:

Chris said...

love it when that happens...everything you do as a parent is always seen from the inside, and alot of what we do in public is parent to mitigate collateral damage on those around us. When someone takes the time to say something nice about our kids or our parenting, it restores MY faith in civilization.