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Hi, I'm Jaden, a professional recipe developer, food columnist and food photographer specializing in fast, fresh and easy recipes for the home cook. Most of my recipes are modern Asian! About meFast, fresh & easy recipes for the home cook.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Date Night a.k.a. $120 dinner + $50 babysitter

Before we had children, my husband and I used to eat out at least 3 times a week. Our evenings wouldn’t even start until 8pm, and it wouldn’t be uncommon for us to have reservations at 10pm. We’d easily spend $300 in an evening for just the two of us. This was downtown San Francisco during its dot-com boom, after all.

Eating out now is the price of dinner + gas + babysitter + opportunity cost Things are different now. By the time Saturday rolls around, we are so exhausted from the week, that sometimes it’s not about eating out…it’s just about getting away while a sitter looks after the kids. 9 times out of 10 we debate where to eat – while in the car as we roll out of the driveway.

This past Saturday, I decided to actually call and make reservations at a restaurant that I’ve always wanted to visit, but just never had the chance to. There is a reason why I write about ingredients, techniques and original recipes and not restaurant reviews. It is so easy to criticize my own creations (and I often do), but its entirely another beast when you are paid to write about other people’s food. I love sharing great finds, but in the case of not-so-great finds…what’s a girl to do? I brought along my camera and asked the server if I could take photos – assuring her that I wasn’t doing a restaurant review, spying for the enemy or anything like that.

So I am here to keep my promise somewhat, show you what I’ve eaten & my comments, BUT not mention the restaurant name. For 90% of my readers who don’t live near me, you won’t give a cow’s turd anyways. Is this fair? What if one day I happen to meet the Executive Chef somewhere and he’d say, “Oh, you’re the wench who didn’t like my food!” What will I say then? Or worse yet, what if Chef doesn’t even know about what I wrote, and we somehow meet and become friends? I’d have to fess up and admit what I wrote. (gulp) Thank goodness I don’t do reviews….I’ll just call it bitching about my evening. This is precisely why I don’t own a restaurant. If I ever did, I would have to include the cost of weekly psychotherapy as part of operating expenses.

Starter (photo above) Rabbit cooked sous vide, then pan fried to give crispy texture. I love the sous vide method – which results in a silky, smooth yet luscious meat. However, when you over pan-fry the thin nuggets like in my salad, you lose all the benefits of sous vide and it becomes crunchy, chewy rabbit. Maybe if the rabbit nuggets were a little thicker, they would be able to withstand the pan frying? Or maybe it was meant to be rabbit jerky. The rest of the salad was wonderful, the egg perfectly poached, with the golden yolk spilling out and coating the greens.

Rabbit cooked sous vide

Husband’s Entree Short ribs + beef medallion with cauliflower and broccolini. Short ribs were decadent, fall of the bone. Medallion was overcooked – husband asked for medium-rare and it came medium well. But he didn’t have the balls to send it back. So, his own fault.

I saved the best for last:

Short ribs  + beef medallion

My Entree Slow cooked veal + ricotta gnocchi + sweetbreads. I LOVED the gnocchi. I could lap up an entire plate of gnocchi for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Oh, and midnight snack. The veal incredibly tender, moist and really represented the best example of all-day slow cooking. (who knows if they really cooked it all day, but it sure was good) Sweetbreads were creamy and delicious. BUT….the dish was so incredibly rich and lacked a bright note/acidity or difference in texture to give my tastebuds a little contrast. All I wanted desperately needed was to have was an ice-cold mango gelato for dessert on St. Armands Circle. Husband understood my urgency and we booked outta there and got my gelato.

So, dinner came out to $120. Add in the babysitter, gas and gelato, we’ve just chi-ching’d a $190 date (wince) In case you remember high school or college economics, this was my opportunity cost: For $190 I could have bought: kids new shoes + replenish yearly stash of saffron + 2 killer shredded chicken burritos from the Burrito stand + a pair of summer flip flops + anti-snoring strips for husband + a quart of mango gelato AND pistachio gelato + fresh roasted coffee beans shipped from Caffe Roma in SF + giant bottle of my favorite olive oil Bariani shipped from Sacramento + a small jar of caviar + bottle of bubbles



26 Responses to “Date Night a.k.a. $120 dinner + $50 babysitter”

  1. Husband — 5/28/07 @ 1:32 am

    We used to eat out 3 times a night before kids? Did we skip every other meal?

  2. LunaPierCook — 5/28/07 @ 6:48 am

    No too long before I started visiting this here blog of yours, I posted an entry arguing with myself over whether or not I should write negative reviews of restaurants. Or, for that matter, negative comments about anything, along with posting whom I was talking about. I ended up deciding it wouldn’t be “negative reviews”, but instead, more like “constructive criticism”. It looks to me as though you do the same thing, and any chef or cook worth their sea salt would probably appreciate knowing the truth vs. your being just another “‘yes’ gal”.

    I find it interesting that you wouldn’t say the restaurant’s name … but poor Husband gets, “But he didn’t have the balls to send it back. So, his own fault.” Whassupwhidthat?? ;-)

    Bottom line? You come across as too sweet to say anything really mean. About a restaurant, that is. :-D

  3. LunaPierCook — 5/28/07 @ 6:50 am

    Dagnabbit, I did include a link to that post I’d made. Musta screwed it up … Lemme try that again:

    http://www.blogsmonroe.com/food/?p=225

  4. Melinda — 5/28/07 @ 7:11 am

    You’ll go out more when the kids grow up. They won’t want to come out (ie. be seen) with you and you will want to get
    away.
    Your review was great. Loved your pictures of the food and how it tasted. I’m not sure why, but I do.

  5. Lynn — 5/28/07 @ 11:32 am

    And that’s precisely why we almost never go out to eat. I mentally figure out how much it would cost me to make it at home and then I can’t enjoy the meal. Too many years on a tight budget, I guess.

  6. Laura — 5/28/07 @ 2:31 pm

    I love your writing, you crack me up. And your mental tally of all the things you could have done with that money is exactly why we never eat out anymore either–with or without kids. (We have them now but slowed down on the eating out about 2-3 years prior). Personally I still like the big blowout on a good meal, but husband is not so crazy about it. :( Your tally was also, and this is more important, hysterical!

  7. blondee47 — 5/28/07 @ 3:59 pm

    enjoy it now while u can because when they go to college every dollar u spend on urself u will mentally say “why buy these shoes when my daughter/son can enjoy the extra spending money”… and then god forbid they live in another city- then u will need the money to travel and visit….and let me tell u they grow fast. I am celebrating 30 yrs of marriage and my kids are 21 and 25 and we are the only parents who are still together of all my kids friends. PS i am 50 and hubby 51-we met in McGill University and married while still students….i had my daughter the same age she is now and she is years away from that! (altho i could enjoy a grandchild…well maybe a puppy!!) and guess what-it’s no longer fun to cook just for hubby..and my daughter lives in Toronto, while we live in Montreal….

  8. Amy — 5/28/07 @ 7:11 pm

    I feel too guilty when my bf and I go out to eat for the same reason, I could get so much more groceries for the same amount. The photos are really great though! Yum. :D

  9. I’m with Amy. Even if the food had been good, I’d still keep thinking of how much food or other things I could get for the same price. Don’t get me wrong, I like good food. But my tastes are pretty humble. Probably b/c my wallet is pretty humble. :P

  10. tigerfish — 5/28/07 @ 8:56 pm

    $190 could have been my one-month food+grocery bill! I think the more expensive meal I’ve eaten (usually for special occasions) is a SGD$60 buffet.

    The rabbit dish sounds exotic, but I’ve not tasted rabbit meat before. Is it close to “chicken” ?

  11. Restaurant Mom — 5/28/07 @ 10:23 pm

    Jaden, you crack me up! See, you don’t HAVE to go out to eat because all of your food looks just as good as the restaurant! Did you sit at the restaurant and calculate how much it would have cost you to make the same thing? Just curious because I’m not a great cook so I’m just grateful to have someone cook up something good for me. Also, since eating out is one of my favorite hobbies, I figure it is a good investment in what I like to do as the rest of the time I end up spending the rest of my money on my kids.

  12. Marvin — 5/29/07 @ 12:35 am

    Wow Jaden, even your pictures from inside of a restaurant are spectacular. I guess that’s one of the plusses of telling the server ahead of time that you will be taking pictures, rather than secretly whipping out your camera and hurriedly snapping away when no one is looking;)

  13. MeltingWok — 5/29/07 @ 4:30 am

    You made me take my dusty calculator out, think I’m down to 1-2 a week now hehe phew !:) Wow, the veal looks great ! I’ve never tried veal before :( How does this taste like ? erm..its not gonna cost me an arm and leg now yea ? :)

  14. SteamyKitchen — 5/29/07 @ 5:07 am

    Hi Husband- *kiss*

    LPC- Oh i know! poor husband. I think I need to write an Ode to Husband soon.

    Melinda- Yes, one day the kids will be too embarrassed to be seen in public with their Ma, esp if I keep writing these “stealth reviews!”

    Lynn- I still clip supermarket coupons, so I’m pretty frugal too.

    Laura- Thank you! I bet I could’ve added a couple more items to it too! Now…if only I could do this same tally for calories in and calories out…

    Blondee- 30 years! Congrats! I don’t think I even own a single thing for 30 years….maybe some photographs? I’m going to have to work on that. I so so so commend you!

    Amy- I usually don’t do the tally because we really don’t eat out like this that often! Usually its the $4 McDonalds happy meal!

    WC- humble wallet is a good thing.

    Tiger- yeah, I would say it tastes like chicken. I like eating rabbit, but sometimes all I can think about is the poor little bunny.

    Restaurant Mom- it would be too depressing to calculate grocery costs…I love eating out because that means someone else does the dishes.

    Marvin- Thank you! We were actually really lucky and there were only 3 tables filled in the entire place, and our hostess put us next to the window. Actually, they didn’t know I had a camera until we sat down. I guess rather than stealth photography with a HUGE camera (because I would have been really clumsy and prob knocked my water glass down) I just told them that I was taking pics.

    MW- Veal is amazing. Tastes like chicken. No…just kidding! It really depends on the cooking method. Because I think this dish was slow-braised, the meat was so tender, velvety.

  15. Janice — 5/29/07 @ 5:20 am

    Ouch! A few years back, I used to reason like you each time when my husband propose to take me out to eat in a fancy restaurant. Things are different now. It is less costly since we don’t need to pay for a babysitter anymore :). I agree with Melinda, you’ll go out more when the kids grow up.

    The photos are well taken, the dishes look inviting.

  16. Ady — 5/29/07 @ 6:25 am

    Jaden I’ve enjoied myself very much to read your story, the ribs seems to be carbonized.
    Come in Italy Jaden I’ll take you in many wonderfull restaurant for less money…..
    Do you like Italian food?
    Gnocchi?
    I know yopu love them…
    bye

  17. Ady — 5/29/07 @ 7:11 am

    I could cook for you,why not?
    It would be a pleasure….
    If you come ….

  18. cooknkate — 5/29/07 @ 10:04 am

    Now that we have a 13 year old who is capable of staying by himself without destroying our house, we don’t need to pay a sitter (well, we never did before, what with so many loving family members!)

    Our ‘date’ meals out tend towards the exotic unique ethnic places where the food is killer good but the decor makes you go “Huh?” and if you look at the floor too long you may feel the urge to start hunting for a mop. Or better yet, just don’t look at the floor. We just can’t justify an expensive meal when I can do that myself at home. For a date night, it’s about trying really good food that I can’t make at home and just sitting, sharing and talking and hanging out.

  19. houck — 5/29/07 @ 5:08 pm

    I can remember years when, depending on the craziness of work that week and the behavior of our offspring, I’d have gladly paid $190 to escape the homestead.

  20. Alan — 5/29/07 @ 9:01 pm

    Excellent post as usual, but what really struck me was, $50 baby sitter? Jeez. I guess you must have been gone a couple of days, either that or you’re paying way over the minimum wage. Good for you!

  21. SteamyKitchen — 5/29/07 @ 9:46 pm

    Hi Ady- I’ll come over anytime if you are cooking!

    Kate- yes, I think we’ll start doing that too….less money, better authentic food.

    Houck- lol! i love your words, “offspring” and “homestead”!

    Alan- $10 an hour is the going rate for 2 kids. Apparently there is a shortage of good babysitters in this area and there must be a babysitter “dealer” out there taking bids. You’ve got to pay good to keep the A+ sitters. Hmmm…but if I was a full time SAHM, $10/hr x 18hrs a day x 365 = a shit load of money.

  22. Dinner = $120, Babysitter = $150, Gas + Gelato = $20

    Spending quality time with your beloved = Priceless
    :)

    The food pix are awesome as usual, Jayden.

  23. I know EXACTLY what you mean Jaden! Eating out is a San Francisco-based luxury. When I lived in Southern California and in Arizona, I rarely went out to eat because of other commitments and the cost. I think the San Francisco fog makes you want to eat out more!

    Thanks for sharing the pictures and this “non-restaurant review.” And I’m glad that you and the hubby had alone-time!

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