If that is red sediment in your chardonnay, it must be another birthday dinner.
My family has never had luck with birthday dinners. We always choose the restaurant with the best intentions, arrive hungry and happy and eager to eat and celebrate, but it never fails — we usually end up getting the dinner for free. Not because it’s a birthday dinner, but because something went terribly wrong.
I don’t remember all of the milestone mishaps, but I do seem to recall a birthday many years ago when the whole family went to Darryl’s. Our food was mediocre, but the conversations was lively until a 5-year-old boy began to projectile vomit down the aisle that lead to our cozy booth for five. After witnessing that episode, smelling the splattered puke and promptly asking for our check, no one took another bite. We also never went back to Darryl’s.
Another year, we went to Dos Hombres in Brookside. After we’d finished about six baskets of chips and inquired as to the whereabouts of our meals, we learned that the cook had quit, the busboy was cooking and the owner was waiting tables. When we did get our food, it was hardly recognizable. We ended up eating for free that night, although I’m not sure any of us really ate.
Today is my birthday. To celebrate, we went to Accurso’s on Main. The kitschy atmosphere charmed me immediately, as did the eclectic mix of items on the shelves in the smoking section. Waiting 20 minutes for a table in the non-smoking section didn’t bother me, nor did the lack of space to wait, the Christmas lights in the windows or the red and white checked table cloths. It was charming, I thought. I felt like I was at my grandma’s for dinner if she was Italian instead of Jewish and cooked lasagna instead of blintz soufflé.
When we were finally seated, I really wasn’t sure if we had a waitress. About five minutes later, when she finally did say hello, she was inattentive and didn’t seem to hear anything we said. She seemed begrudged to bring more bread. She didn’t necessarily love that Amy and I ordered oil and vinegar on the side for our salads and I don’t think she liked that Dad asked them to toast the bread for us because, “They do it for me all the time here honey.” Despite his down talk, when it came to ordering wine, she was little help. They were out of the rose Toad Hollow I preferred, so I switched to a white zin and Nick ordered a glass of chardonnay. After 10 minutes, the glass was placed before him and that’s when we noticed red sediment floating at the bottom. Gross. They took it back, apologized and brought out another glass. The sediment was still there. The third time was the charm, but when we asked our waitress to take it off the bill, she said, “Well, it’s right now isn’t it?” Eventually, the glass of wine was free. Dinner came out about 30 minutes later. I had little room left for food because I devoured the toasty garlic bread. It’s a good thing I was full because my shrimp spedini was mostly breading and the lemon butter sauce on my pasta seemed to have been thickened with cornstarch. Nick’s seafood ravioli was good as was Dad’s steak parmesan and Amy’s chicken modeaga. But somehow, the birthday girl got the short end of the stick. Thank goodness for free birthday tiramisu.