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Pet Peeve: Bad Meals

There are very few things that bother me more than a bad meal.  Especially one in which I've spent some time thinking about it.  I remember, every Sunday waking up on Garth Road and knowing i was going to have a bagel from Scarsdale bagels.  Most often it was a sesame or an everything, with Philly cream cheese, Nova Scotia lox and a big thick slice of tomato.  Perfection.  Always lived up to the hype. 

When my mother cooked dinner, regardless if it was moussaka or breaded chicken cutlets, I knew it was going to be stellar.  When I go to Piper's Kilt, I know the burger will not let me down. I know the chili will be delicious and the nachos (especially now with real cheddar), will be exceptional.  This is not always the case and in terms of going out, it can be a monetarily devastating blow.

On Saturday, I was out at the Quarry in Tuckahoe.  I decided to have the White Clam Flatbread.  I hoped it would be good and it was very good.  I was thrilled.  Later that night, I ended up at Roma's and while the night didn't exactly turn out the way we planned, the pizza was very good, as it always is.  So today, I was hoping for the trifecta.  I'd heard mixed things about the place I was going to, but I figured, It's a cheesesteak, how can they really screw it up.  Well, if you don't add salt before you cook steak, you don't bring the juices out of it.  If you use lean beef, you need the salt even more.  Then you don't season the onions and the thing just tastes like wet paper towel.  The fries were ghastly.  Bacon, chopped onion and ranch dressing was advertised, but there might have been about three bites that contained the first two and there was no dressing.  The cheese was only in the center and the fries were mushy.   Overall one of the worst eating experiences I've endured recently.  Johnny Rockets was better and I got ill from that place. 

People say I'm overly and too openly critical of eateries, but the bottom line is, my $15 lunch should taste better than my six dollar lunch.  Maple Street deli makes a Philly Cheesesteak with bell peppers, onions and garlic, with melted cheese (your choice) and tops it, if asked, with a pico de gallo sauce, for about $6.00.  It's 100 times better, there's more meat and it's nearly 1/3 the price.  I don't mind paying, but I want it to be good.  When my steak dinner at Smith & Wollensky's was "as good" as Outback, I wasn't happy paying $175 for it.  When my steak dinner at Peter Luger cost me $225, I was more than happy to pay for it.  And it's not just restaurants....the person I'm most critical of is myself. When I cook, I'm always angered when I ruin something or a dish is lacking.  I once bought pork chops and ruined them.  They were like show leather.  The next time, they were undercooked, but within another minute, I had mastered them.  Every time after they were perfect. 

There is something magical about food. That first bite of a great burger.  Saving the uni for the last delectable bite while dining on sushi.  That combination of flavors, when you get the perfect bite of a Cobb salad or the sweet deliciousness of a perfectly cooked duck.  It can range from the simple pleasure of an avocado, lightly salted on an English muffin to the complex melding of flavors of a perfect paella.  This is important to me.  When I go into a store that has the name of what I am buying, I expect more than mediocre.  When food expectations are met, it matters.  When they are exceeded, it's magical.  When they fail, it is like a tragedy, because with a little care, a little passion, they could be incredible.


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