Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'd like the $69.00 Crustacean, please.

This story has been told many times in my life since it's such a crazy mishap - I had to share it with you as well, since it involves an amazing restaurant and and incredible meal.

Picture me fresh out of college and convinced I'm going to live life forever as an old maid. Then a magical wedding invitation for a dear friend arrives in the mail and I immediately book my ticket to fly to Pennsylvania. Not wanting to be the old maid amongst all of my old classmates at the celebration of wedded bliss, I get the harebrained idea that I should invite a date. Not just any date, but the guy who I had a massive crush on in Junior High (he was four years my senior). One would think I would do a bit of a background check, but remember, I'm in old maid status here and desperation tends to reign supreme in dire circumstances.

I get in touch with said Junior High Crush. He takes the bait and agrees to pick me up from the airport and be my date. A few phone conversations later and I've agreed to a day trip to Washington DC.

I step off the plane in the most perfect black dress with one hour to spare until the wedding and lay eyes on my date. Oh Lord. It's going to be a long weekend. I'm going to be an old maid for the rest of my life. We attend the wedding and I should have run when I had the chance to take a cab at the airport. On the way to the wedding - the date asks if I like his car. Yes, I complement it's nice shade of black and modest sedan appearance. He chimes in wholeheartedly that he bought the car because I was coming to town. Folks, it was a KIA.

The wedding is perfect - my dear friend looks like a princess and I couldn't be happier to be there to see her marry the man of her dreams - while the nightmare of mine doesn't know when to stand, sit or say amen.

The reception is equally as charming (I'm trying to ignore my date). Things go downhill when he makes a scene over not wanting to participate in the champagne toast and I learn he doesn't have a blockbuster card. Does one actually live without the means to mindless entertainment? OH boy. Let's skip forward. The wedding - perfect, the date - awful, but I had agreed to the Washington DC day trip and he was kind enough to pick me up at the airport. I will stand by my promise and see this through (let's not mention I tried to bribe all of my friends to attend the day trip too - I was willing to drain my bank account over this). None took me up on the offer. I was stuck.

Washington DC - the 2 hour car ride is uneventful and the day was carefully planned by me. I know the city like the back of my hand and had done extensive research to show him special exhibits that I hoped would appeal to him. We start off on our journey through the city and I quickly see we have absolutely nothing in common - there are no exhibits that interest him. I got mad in the Holocaust Museum at his lack of compassion and interest so I stormed out and ran smack dab into a hot dog vendor. "I'd like the foot long with chili and cheese please - he'll be paying for us." Comfort food at it's finest.

Let's fast forward a bit, the day can't go by fast enough and in the back of my mind I recall this dinner he wanted to treat me to. "Sky's the limit - choose any restaurant in DC you want. I'd like this to be special." Me being the self proclaimed foodie that I am, chose the Willard Room. It's posh - the Crown Jewel of Pennsylvania Avenue. I'll be surrounded by Senators and Diplomats and the menu is extremely expensive. Perfect!

I suffer through the day, listen to mindless chatter of why "the date" doesn't listen to music despite being a music major and watch in horror as his one purchase of the day (besides my chili cheese dog) is a few crusty dinner rolls from a bakery in Union Station. One can tell a lot from a guy based on his bread purchases. While I lovingly selected a chocolate filled croissant, a small loaf of kalamata olive bread and a delicious crusty sourdough, all he can come up with is a few day old dinner rolls. Sigh.

Fast forward, we change clothes and meet outside the Willard Room. I am once again in a perfect black dress (different from the one I wore to the wedding, mind you) and silver accessories with the cutest purse. I look like I'm about to accept an Academy Award and I'm forced to walk into the refinement and grandeur of the Willard Room with someone wearing a heavy wool sport coat with summer pants and light brown shoes. It's July. Enough said. The maitre 'd takes pity on me and gives me a sympathetic smile.

We have a delightful table by the window and a perfect view to see and be seen. I'm munching away on the flatbread that I've slathered with butter and the date starts to get a little nervous. I'm thoroughly ticked at how the day (or weekend for that matter) has gone and am fully prepared to take this guy to the cleaners. I had already purposed in my heart that I would order the most expensive menu items and enjoy them to the fullest - my reward for suffering through. I knew I was in good hands with the culinary staff - you simply can't go wrong. I'm basking in the glory of the most perfectly written menu in fine scrolling script when the date interrupts my blissful state of culinary happiness to ask what I'd be ordering. I quickly scan the right side of the menu and without hesitation, happily reply "the lobster." (All sixty nine dollars of it). His face grows pale (have I given him a financial heart attack?). Not a chance. The ultimate weirdo replies that he doesn't believe in eating crustaceans. I'm then forced to listen to a 10 minute dissertation on why eating bottom feeders is wrong, unhealthy and will shorten my life span.

The waiter approaches and undauntingly, I order an appetizer, a salad and THE LOBSTER. The date clearly isn't happy with this selection and I could care less. I'm trying to tune him out in between bites of arugula, goat cheese and dried cranberries...something about how wonderful I am and what a great day he had. Blah blah blah. The lobster arrives - he's enjoying the baked chicken and I once again tune him out as I leave no trace of succulent lobster meat behind. Then comes Dessert - why choose one when you can have them all? I'd like the sampler platter, complete with gold leaf decor on the chocolate mousse torte.

Through each course I've been concentrating on the cuisine and half heartedly nodding to the chatterbox who is even more nervous. Why I didn't seen the signs until dessert, I'll never know. Dessert is divine. I'm so stuffed with food at this point, but this sampler of desserts is truly rich and delicious and calling out my name and I'm going to eat it all. The date finally gets my undivided attention with the comment "I've looked all my life and never met anyone like you, and I know that you are the one." Dear God - what have I gotten myself into? This guy is proposing to me. I gently disagree - letting him know there are many, many nice girls out there. He continues...and I gently prod back. Trying to let him down easy is no small task. A marriage proposal is a big deal for a guy and I didn't want to crush his hopes and dreams but I was not his ticket out of Dodge. He was undeterred and I had to come up with a way to save him from utter humiliation and me from the most uncomfortable situation ever.

Suddenly, it came to me. I had blood sugar issues. Seriously. I could use this to my advantage. Terrible, I know, but folks I was desperate. I faked a blood sugar attack to get out of the restaurant. He was quite concerned, immediately asked for the check and rushed me to the car. I told him I'd be fine after about 2 hours, complete silence and the air conditioner blowing right on my face. He bought it - we were 2 hours from where I was staying with one of my girlfriends and it was a happy ending (for me at least). When he pulled into the drive, I had miraculously recovered, I mumbled a don't call me, I'll call you response and have never been happier to set foot on an airplane the next day.

This was many, many years ago and my old maid status went by the wayside when I met the man of my dreams and married him in 2002. We have two beautiful little boys and my life, as they say - is deliciously perfect. My husband likes kalamata olive bread, a good crusty sourdough and lets me enjoy the chocolate filled croissants while he dines on an apple tart tatin. Bliss. :)


  1. It's been way too long since I heard this story. It does my heart good to know it's forever recorded. Love it.

  2. Katrina - just remember I would've drained my bank account on you if you would've rescued me. :)

  3. Gah! So close! You know I would have been there.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story, it was the perfect afternoon pick me up to a jam packed day of meetings and chaos.

    I can’t imagine how you survived as long as you did; you are a much better woman than I am. I would have become ill much earlier in the day and it would have lasted well into the evening. It is a good thing you did sustain the day, as you have an amazingly funny story to tell as a result.

    Thank you again, I hope that you have a wonderful weekend and I look forward to reading more of your blogs in the future.


    Steele Haley Stevenson
    Director of Catering and Conference Services
    1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20004-1010