My hubby and I make it a point to go out on dates every few weeks. We have two requirements for our "dates":
1. No children can be present.
2. Grocery shopping of any kind does not qualify.
Those of you with larger families will understand the second rule completely. Those of you who silently mocked it in your minds - may you have triplets and run out of milk at 10 pm on a Tuesday.
It's been a while since we've had a date night and our friends, Luke and Sandy, decided to give us one by volunteering to hang with our kids while we hit the town this past Friday. My hubby had recently m.c.'d the Nashville Advertising Federation's banquet (or award ceremony or whatever it was that forced him to be out for HOURS on a Saturday night) and as a consolation prize (I think they referred to it as a "thank you gift"), he received a $100 gift certificate to The Palm, a swanky downtown steak house catering to people who don't know what to do with food that comes encased in foil wrappers or paper sacks.
We dressed up and drove downtown.
I love downtown Nashville. I love Nashville period. It's loud, colorful, warm, friendly, eccentric, unabashedly devoted to all things country and all things Elvis, and for a place stuffed to the gills with famous people, it's downright unpretentious.
Except for The Palm. (and a few other choice locations of which yours truly has yet to be invited)
Don't get me wrong. I like fancy restaurants. I was impressed with the valet parking out front but when the tiny lobby boasted a laminated article bearing the proud headline "All the beautiful people in Nashville eat at The Palm", I'll admit to adopting a cynical sneer and making a sarcastic comment.
We were seated immediately, thanks to a reservation and a half-empty dining room. I took a quick glance around and was forced to conclude that all the beautiful people in Nashville must eat at a later time.
Our waiter greeted us instantly and proceeded to unfold my napkin for me and place it in my lap. As I was already reaching for it with the same intention, this nearly caused a small scene. Fortunately, our waiter was adept at the whole unfold-and-drape-napkin-for-helpless-lady routine and thus avoided any confusion on my part as to why his hands were aiming for my lap.
I hate to start out the evening with physical violence. Everything tends to go downhill from there.
We listened to the specials, ordered filet mignon with truffle and chive mashed potatoes and creamed spinach and reached for the basket of bread sitting on our table.
The French bread was fine. The dark bread was, oddly enough, infused with raisins. The light in the restaurant was dim enough that I didn't know there were raisins to be had until I bit into the bread and began to busily dissect the strange textures in my mouth until I had accurately labeled everything. It was not unpleasant, just...strange.
And why is it that fancy restaurants do not serve butter that can be easily spread across the bread?
The food was wonderful. I enjoyed every bit of it. And the service was prompt and attentive, for the most part.
But it was the end of the meal that really set The Palm apart from other restaurants. At one point, my hubby rose from the table to use the restroom and left his fancy cloth napkin carelessly discarded on the seat of his chair.
This is, apparently, against some secret Code at The Palm which insists that every table, even while it is occupied, must look as though no one has eaten there. We'd noticed that any small dish or piece of trash (I was using Splenda packets in my tea) we placed on the table was instantly whisked away but we didn't realize how serious they take the Code until our waiter followed hastily in my hubby's wake, snatched up the discarded napkin (yes, yes, the dirty discarded napkin), and quickly refolded it into a fancy little triangle to set beside my hubby's plate.
I nearly reached over and unfolded it again just to see which of the hovering staff would rush over to right the wrong but my hubby arrived back at the table in time to thwart my plans for the evening's entertainment.
When we were finished with our meal, the Code came into force again as the girl who cleared our plates snatched a comb (a comb, I kid you not) from her pocket and scraped any semblance of crumbs from the tablecloth.
We looked, for all the world, like we'd just sat down to eat.
The dessert tray was populated with cheesecake, a bowl of tempting looking berries, key lime pie, carrot cake, flan, and a piece of chocolate cake big enough to feed a small country.
As I had not been apprised of my options earlier in the evening, I had not displayed the good sense to leave room for any of those tempting desserts (well, flan isn't really all that tempting but the rest of it certainly was) so we've decided to go back some night and sit with all the beautiful people in Nashville, eating dessert and watching as our crumbs are whisked away with grooming implements and our napkins are refolded at every opportunity.