We ate at a new place in Largo last night. I had high hopes because I enjoy food of this particular, but nameless here, ethnic persuasion. Local press reports suggested lovely cuisine by folks who have retailed ingredients and prepared foods of this ethnicity for some years. I couldn't wait.
The restaurant took over the former location of a popular breakfast and lunch joint that featured outdoor seating on the bank of a bucolic pond, with turtles and egrets and babbling fisher-children. "Would you like something to drink before dinner?" our apparently [ethnic] waiter asked. "What do you have for beers?" I countered. "[Ethnic] beers," he responded hoppily.
I too was hoppy when I heard this. I am always hoppy to hear anything besides "Bud Light," the ethnic beer of Florida. So I asked for what I know to be the pre-eminent beer of the ethnicity in question. Some of my best friends are ethnic, so I pronounced the name of the beer correctly. I thought our waiter seemed nonplussed to learn that I had even heard of [ethnic beer]. But then he butchered the pronunciation himself when he repeated it. Uh-oh.
As it turns out, they didn't have Z--- [ethnic] beer, so I ordered a different one, named after an astronomer. Any beer named after a scientist can't be too Bud Light-ish, I figured. Accurately, as it turned out. A curiously complex Pilsener, with fruity malt flavors and good balancing hops from the appropriate continent.
Bread came. It was almost warm on the outside, chilled at the center. Uh-oh.
Judy ordered [ethnic beef dish]. I ordered [ethnic pork and mushroom stew] wrapped in an [ethnic starch blanket].
Have I mentioned that, despite the recent local press efforts, the place was empty except for a table of [ethnic] people who obviously owned the place, and a small gathering of their good friends and relatives, all speaking [ethnic]? I was sad at the emptiness, but buoyed by the camaraderie of the family group. Good [ethnic] restaurants are rare and should pack them in.
The food took a long time. Good food does not happen quickly.
O boy o boy o boy.
Ultimately, we gave up on bucolic and moved indoors. Florida-bucolic in August is a bit of a challenge. Did you read about the Russian who toasted himself recently in a sauna contest? We Floridians are made of sterner stuff. Beer, [ethnic] or otherwise, helps. But we moved nevertheless because our silverware melted and dripped onto the deck.
Eventually, the food arrived. Very good [ethnic] this and that. But Judy's potato [ethnic dumplings] arrived stone cold. You might think that with only two paying customers in the place, a new restaurant bent on making its bones would serve hot dumplings. After all, I might have been Anthony Boudain in disguise. A good disguise. We sent Judy's meal back. (After all, I had mine.)
To the restaurant's credit - I think - the dumplings and everything with them took a long time to come back hot. My guess is that [ethnics] do not approve of microwaving helpless food - thank you - and actually prepared fresh dumplings. They were good.
Remember the family-and-friends table out on the deck watching the bucolic turtles? For the rest of the meal, they paraded in to our table to beat their [ethnic] breasts. (Actually one of them had quite impressive - uh - never mind.) One promised 10 percent off our next meal. One offered 20 percent off this meal. Then the chef appeared. His name was [completely different ethnic name]. He bought me a beer, but he also could not pronounce the beer that they didn't have anyway. Why didn't they buy Judy another glass of wine instead? Old-country [ethnic] ethic. I didn't mind. I like beer better than Judy likes wine.
So. Will we go back? Maybe. I like [ethnics].