*Warning: Long post...it covers four years of delicious food. Okay you've been warned.*
Jason and I love food. We enjoy critiquing and eating and tasting and learning all about the art of food. At least once a year (and no more than twice or three times) we treat ourselves to a fine dining experience. By fine dining I mean throw bank account to the wind, order 5 courses, forget about your diet kind of meal. I like to think our taste has even matured over the years. Eating at Sambuca is considered a more "casual" nice dinner and Ocean Prime, is well, prime. Through the years we have had some pretty awesome experiences and have gained some fun stories.
This all started 4.5 years ago when I asked Jason to take me on a romantic date. We had been dating for a little over half a year and I decided I deserved a nice dinner out. Okay, really I just wanted an excuse to get dressed up because girls just like to do that sometimes. So one night while I was visiting him in Houston I got all gussied up and he took me to the best restaurant he knew, Sambuca. I'm 90% sure this is where he went to eat before his high school prom, but I could be wrong. Compared to our later adventures this was a modest experience. I think the "not yet 21" thing helped keep our total bill in the reasonable range; 1. because alcohol is expensive and 2) alcohol also makes you happy to spend more money. On this particular night they placed us in the back of the restaurant. Some might take it as "hiding us away" but I took it as exclusive and romantic. Except that we were basically in the kitchen and the chefs were staring at us pretty much all night. Good times good times. We had delicious beignets (which we still order today whenever we go there), a cup of lobster bisque, I had zebra pasta (which has been discontinued, and probably a reason I'm not so drawn to Sambuca anymore), Jason had the lobster enchiladas, and for desert berries with a grand marnier sauce. Oh yes, I could get used to this.
|Our first adventure in fine dining|
|Zebra Pasta...the dish that sold me on the idea that pricier food is indeed worth the extra money|
3 months later our 1 year anniversary rolled around and I requested that we revisit Sambuca, but this time in Dallas. I wasn't ready to step out, but was ready to eat that delicious food again. This time we again started with the beignets and soup, Jason had the Chilean Sea Bass, and I had the Zebra Pasta, we finished off with the same berry desert. Again, delicious and we were still sold on its style. Another high point about Sambuca was the live music entertainment, usually a jazz or blues/soul singer.
|Anniversary at Sambuca Dallas...oh yeah also I had maroon hair.|
The following June, Jason and I once again went to Sambuca for his birthday. This particular time we were lucky enough to have a really awesome entertainer, Adam Estes. He had an excellent voice and was able to play pretty much any 90s song that we threw at him. I believe that following our regular appetizer and soup I had a small steak (this was the first time I noticed the lack of Zebra Pasta on the menu) and Jason the seafood integration.
|Jason's 21! He got to have a glass of wine with his dinner...extra fancy|
Time for our 2 year anniversary! Where did we go? Where else but Sambuca of course! The highlight of this meal was being sat by some kind of basketball/football riding the bench, but still paid enough to wear lots of diamonds guy. This guy sat on his cell phone the entire dinner while his very beautiful lady friend sat there staring at him. What a silly man. This woman was gorgeous and he couldn't pull himself away from his phone long enough to appreciate her. Jason and I even considered asking her to join us because she looked so bored. We ordered pretty much the exact same food as our previous visit. Except this time I got to drink too! Oh also I had a dessert, adult coffee, very yummy.
|Jason's Seafood Integration|
Four months later, April of my Junion year rolled around. At A&M this is traditionally the time that Aggie couples go to Ring Dance. I had been getting excited about this dance for a long time. I had even hunted down a dress on Ebay that I first saw at express and bought it for $100 cheaper. Awesome! But come Ring Dance time, most of my friends decided they weren't really into it. But, I still had this dress so Jason took me out for a night on the town in Austin. And guess what! We did not go to Sambuca! Instead we went to Maria Maira. So good! I'm still looking forward to going back here some day. I had the most amazing Seafood Chile Relleno and Jason had Pork Carnitas.
|Our faux ring dance|
We returned to Sambuca for our 3rd Anniversary. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of us there nor do I have a recollection of what we ate. I'm pretty sure this is when I ordered some kind of pasta and was less than impressed. Good news, the beignets were still delicious!
|3rd Year Anniversary...gasp I know! I wore the same dress as I did for Ring Dance.|
During the summer of 2010 Jason was in Atlanta. It was a long and painful summer. But, I did get to visit him! While I was there we had lots of incredible food. But one place we made sure to visit was the Atlanta Sambuca...c'mon it was tradition by this time. I have to say this Sambuca blew the others out of the water. The entertainment was excellent! We even got up and danced for a little while.
|Sunny D and the All Stars|
Alright alright. Here's where it starts to get a little more interesting. For our 4th Anniversary we decided to break out from the norm. Sambuca has been great to us, but there are so many lovely options in the Dallas area. After sifting through these options we decided on Eddie V's. At this point in our relationship I was more than ready to hear Jason say those four words "will you marry me?" Pretty much every time something out of the ordinary or any kind of special occasion rolled around I immediately assumed he was about to propose. So, the kind host at Eddy V's is walking us to our table and my eyes spot a table that is decorated with rose petals and already has champagne sitting out. We are headed right towards the table. Ohmygosh ohmygosh this is it!!! Annnnd we pass the table. Fail. I become upset for about 5-10 minutes until I realize how completely silly it was to be upset. But man. What a tease!
|Pics after dinner In less than a month Jason would decide he was 100% ready to pop the question!|
We have a terrific waiter! He's personable and oh so willing to make suggestions to us. We browse the menu and decide on the seafood tower for an appetizer. This appetizer was listed as Market Price...we figure, this can't mean more than maybe double any other appetizer price. The waiter puts in this order and returns to suggest we split our entree. You see the seafood tower is quite large so we probably won't need much more food after this.
|Top of the tower|
|What does the waiter suggest we split but this beauty. The biggest steak I've ever seen in my life. C'mon, this is not splitting one entree. This might qualify as three entrees.|
This was also our first real dabble in appreciating side orders. Fancy restaurants have the best sides. No joke, we had the most incredible french fires here and some pretty darn good mac and cheese. Needless to say we were about to pop by the end of all of this. However, our waiter wasn't ready for us to be done. He came over to Jason, the two of them whispered for a few moments and next thing you know he's bringing out a desert.
|So delicious but so unnecessary!|
Okay, the number one rule of dining at these restaurants is to always at least have a general idea of how much each item costs so when you get the bill you aren't thrown for a total loop. Let's recap: we ordered a market price appetizer and a giant steak recommended by the waiter that also was not on the menu. Market price is code for "if you have to ask you can't afford it." Oh wow! And tomohawk steak, well let's just say the price was not comparable to the price of the other steaks on the menu. But, the waiter was kind enough to comp the desert. I think he may have seen the blood rush from Jason's face and decided to give us a wee bit of a break. Lesson learned. No more off the menu items.
Okay, next up my new favorite place, Ocean Prime! I fail miserably at taking pictures here, but I think it's because I feel silly taking pictures here. I guess I have this perception that if I do they will know I don't belong. We went here for Jason's 24th birthday. This place is way above our means...we pulled into the valet lot with Jason's 4Runner only to see BMWs, Lexus, Escalades, oh and a Lamborghini. *Feeling out of place* Let me just start by saying the food here is outstanding. Worth every bit of money we've spent here. Again, the sides are outrageous! Truffle mac and cheese, creamed spinach, jalepeno potatoes au gratin! Yes, please. But more than this the service is incomparable. We had two waiters. The first guy is nice, very informative, all around a 5 star waiter. But this other guy is unreal. When he talks about food it sounds as though he is reciting poetry. I'm not kidding. The guy rambles off the specials as if Shakespeare himself cooked and named them. He tops off his list of suggestions with his choice of side, "creamed spinach" as he gazes into the distance and adds in a soft fist pump. Seriously?! How do I not order the creamed spinach at this point!? I'm pretty sure we ordered everything he listed in his sonnet. To top it off, after each of our requests he always responded with "Very good, sir (or madame)". Which was mostly funny because he was the one who suggested it in the first place. But the way he said it, it was as if I had just created a new menu item myself. "I'll have the creamed spinach" "Very good, madame, excellent choice." We ate 5 courses here just so that we could spend a little extra time with our new best friend.
So here we are today. Jason and I decided to go on another fine dining adventure. The primary reason was to make up for our failed honeymoon dinner; but it just so happens to be about 2 months from our wedding day and 1 year from the day Jason proposed. We looked at a lot of different options but alas we returned to Ocean Prime. Mostly because I was craving their Mac and Cheese for about 2 months now. We sit down and a nice young waiter asks our drink order. Jason and I start looking at the wine list when out of nowhere I hear "I see the lady will be in charge of the wine selection. May I offer any assistance?" NO WAY! It's Steven! Our poet waiter from last time! I could not be happier. Let me just say that when he started his ballad of foods to consider I about jumped up and hugged him. It was even more beautiful than the first time. I'm certain my face was about as goofy as you can imagine. I was trying so hard to look like I was a normal amount of interested in what he was saying but really I had this ridiculous smile plastered on my face as he spoke. And then he said "creamed spinach" with the fist pump in tow and it took everything in me not to laugh with glee. Luckily I held it in. We again had delicious food and I finally got my Mac and Cheese.
So there's our food journey. I highly recommend everyone take a day off of their tight budget and diet and go splurge once in awhile. It's fun, you get an excuse to dress up, and as Steven reminded us tonight during one of his shining moments "Variety, I believe it was said it is the spice of life." Yes, Steven, yes it is.
The Vrly Fries