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Discussions with Damaris

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  • Damaris Chanza

Experiencing Fine Dining

Updated: May 27, 2022

When I was a kid, I thought Applebee’s was fine dining. Boy, was I wrong.

My parents rewarded good grades in elementary school by taking my siblings and me out to eat. Sometimes we would go to Chevy's or Friday's, but more often than not, we went to Applebee’s. I would get the fiesta lime chicken, and we would all split a dessert. It was something I looked forward to.

For bigger occasions like graduations, we would sometimes go to Benihana. I knew Benihana was more expensive, and the food was delicious, but I never thought it was fancy because a few of my family members worked there. Even when they didn't work there, they knew the employees. Although I knew it wasn't, seeing so many familiar faces made it feel like a mom-and-pop shop.

Now, I'm an adult, and when I go out, I have the misfortune of paying for my own food. I tend to go to places like IHOP, Red Robins, Chipotle – places at par with Applebee’s. When searching on Google for a new place to eat, I base myself on the dollar sign system. Most places I go to have one dollar sign, and if I felt like splurging two dollar signs. It's a system that has always kept me within budget, but I recently broke my system.

My boyfriend and I were on a date with the new Spiderman movie and a gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings as the highlights. The movie was great. When we went to Buffalo Wild Wings, we were uncomfortable entering due to an inability to social distance. We drove around mindlessly having the age-old argument of 'What do YOU want to eat.' Finally, we chose BoneFish Grill. We arrived only to be met with a forty-five-minute wait, and we were unwilling to comply. We noticed another restaurant next door, Flemings, and headed there. There was no wait.

We opened up the menu only to be surprised by the prices. This was not Applebee’s. We momentarily debated if we should stay or restart our search for dinner. We mentally prepared ourselves to spend roughly $200 on a meal for just two people and decided to stay.

We ordered the pork belly with goat cheese grits and fig demi-glaze as a starter. Our waitress brought us water and bread with butter while we waited. The water was crisp and clean; it tasted almost like how fresh plastic smells. It was bizarre. The bread came with regular butter, and onion butter served in small sauce bowls instead of plastic containers. The onion butter was good but too sweet for my preference. Soon our starter arrived. The pork belly lay atop a bed of grits slathered with demi-glaze and a hint of cilantro oil. Everything was excellent, except the cilantro oil. The pork cut smoothly with a butter knife, and the grits were perfectly cheesy.

At almost the exact moment we finished our starter, our entrees arrived. I ordered the sea bass with sautéed spinach and pickled onions, and he ordered the 8oz fillet mignon with mashed potatoes. My fish was in a vast bowl atop the spinach with the onions on top, surrounded by a light brown sauce with a few orange slices. The steak presentation was funny because it was just the steak on a plate with a fancy steak knife. The mashed potatoes were served separately in a small decorative pot.

I don't enjoy sweet and savory together because it's rarely balanced, but whatever sauce was on my fish was heavenly. It tasted almost like soy sauce but much lighter and more dynamic. I usually only tolerate spinach and have never tried pickled onions, but everything worked so perfectly together. My boyfriend's steak was so good he had to stop himself from visibly drooling. The potatoes with the steak melted in your mouth in buttery goodness. We were so excited we blew the budget even more and decided to get dessert.

Ever since Zeke made crème brulee in High School Musical, I have been dying to try one. Our crème brulee came with fresh berries and Chantilly cream. It was amazing. I didn't necessarily enjoy the flavor of charred sugar on top, but it didn't distract from just how delicious it was.

I've always wanted to go somewhere fancy but never did because of the money. I always thought the food would not be significantly better, and the price was inflated by the ambiance, good service, and costly ingredients. Flemings had all those things, but it was worth it. We blew our budget on a restaurant with four dollar signs on Google. It may have been impromptu and without celebration, but the more I ate, the more I couldn't contain my excitement. We left full and delighted.

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