Eating my way through winter -- 01/31/09

We don't eat in restaurants that much. Well, not as much a lot of people seem to do.

And then, having written that opening assertion, I began to think of all of the exceptions. For example, vacation trips or business trips obviously require eating out. When I went to an office to work most days I usually brown-bagged my lunch, but as times changed and I began to mostly work from home and would show up in the office maybe once a week (and, eventually, only a couple of times a month) I would hit Subway or a local deli for lunch. (Strangely enough, working at home everyday, some days I will make a sandwich for lunch or eat some dinner leftovers, other days I will just grab a container of yogurt or some fruit, and probably at least once a week I just won't ever get around to eating lunch at all.) This past fall, when Jill and I were driving up to Providence every Friday night for that Flash course at RISD, we would make a quick stop at a Dunkin' Donuts shop on the way and each get a coffee to go and I'd get an egg-and-cheese on a toasted bagel to eat as my dinner on the way to class.

But what I'm talking about is actual going out-to-dinner eating. We have built a certain amount of t hat into our schedule. Every time Nancy and I go to see a play at TrinityRep, we go out for dinner before the show (usually at Trinity Brew Pub). And everytime Jill and I go to a play at 2nd Story Theatre we also go out to dinner before the show (usually at Sakura). And we sometimes like to eat out to celebrate a birthday or to get together with friends and family or "just because." But those events don't happen every week.

This week, however, found us eating out a lot.

Jeremy is cooking in a new restaurant. (He is also still at the corporate chain restaurant, but they have imposed a total ban on overtime and some weeks he doesn't even get 40 hours in, and he's been looking for other opportunities... so he's cooking lunch at one place and then cooking dinner at the other.) Monday night the new place -- Burger Shack -- was having a "friends & family" testing night, sort of a shake-down cruise before opening to the general public. Nancy and I had hamburgers. Good-sized burgers, good quality meat, very tasty. Then we dashed off to Nancy's school for this year's edition of "Family Math Night" -- where students have set up various math-related games and activities for parents and siblings and classmates to play. It was another successful math night, with good attendance and everyone seemed to be having fun.

Tuesday night Nancy and I went to the Mews Tavern with Jeremy and Jill & Eli. Ah, our favorite restaurant here in town -- good bar food and an awsome variety of beer on tap.

Wednesday and Thursday night we ate at home. Wednesday had brought snow (that changed to sleet and freezing rain in the afternoon) and I gave Jill a ride to her class at URI so she wouldn't have to hunt for a parking space and then walk for a mile through slush to get to class. She said she'd meet me at Burger Shack so she could see it and say hi to Jeremy. When I got there I found that she had been hungry and had ordered a veggie burger for lunch. I was feeling a bit hungry myself so I ordered a Buffalo chicken sandwich. I thought the sandwich was very good and Jill was pleased with her veggie burger, which was quite substantial.

Thursday night I happened to notice a "gift card" that Staples had given me sometime last year that was good for $25 towards dinner (some kind of "customer appreciation" promotion). I picked it up to see if it had an expiration date. It did have an expiration date -- 01/31/09. Hmmm, I guess we'd better use it soon, eh? So I went to the Web page that was listed on the card and found that you had to pick the restaurant you wanted and then print a coupon for a $25 discount. I looked at the restaurants within 15 miles of us and saw that The Cheeky Monkey was one of them They had recently moved from Newport to Narragansett and I had heard good things about their food. Okay, I printed the coupon.

And then yesterday Nancy suggested that we should use the coupon for dinner that night at The Cheeky Monkey... so last night we went out to dinner again... Nancy ordered Sesame Seared Yellow-Fin Tuna with Asian wok vegetables, jasmine rice, wasabi, pickeled ginger and lemongrass dipping sauce and I had their Seafood Paella which included cold water lobster, steamed mussels, white shrimp, sea scallops and chourizo served over traditional Spanish paella rice. Some kind of very fancy martini for Nancy, a glass of pino noir for me. I had asked Nancy if she wanted to split an appetizer (thinking of their panko encrusted scallops, which sounded interesting) but she declined. No appetizer, no dessert and yet we were both feeling quite full when we left. I can't imagine how someone could put away an appetizer and a dessert plus a large entre such as my seafood paella and not feel uncomfortably over-stuffed. It is a bit higher-priced that our usual choices for dining (dinner, drinks, and tax came to $84 plus $18 tip, so my wallet thought it was nice to have that $25 coupon) but the food was excellent and worth it.

And tonight? Well, in a few minutes Jill and I will be going up to Providence for dinner at Sakura (our favorite Japanese restaurant) and then over to Warren to see a play at 2nd Story Theatre. (Their schedule had called for them to be doing Death of a Salesman -- but their founder/artistic director had second thoughts about that -- "Given the economic times do we really want to put on a play about a guy who loses his job and kills himself?" -- so they are doing Front Page instead.

Yes... another dinner out...

A charming music video done with stop motion photography:

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