Scrambling down Main Street for lunch last week I stood at Borton's hostess counter famished. I eyeballed the plates being delivered by two servers, coveting the mounds of salad being moved from tray to table. I began weighing whether I wanted chicken or shrimp on my salad and devised plans to save room for dessert, but when someone finally noticed me standing up front I was turned away because it was too late for lunch.
I returned the next night for dinner--dateless on a Saturday--but undaunted by the task of dining alone. Despite the sympathy stares of other diners (who no doubt assume you've been stood up), I have discovered that dining alone in a fine dining atmosphere is a fairly accurate test of a restaurant's service. A server for many years, I know that a one-top on a Saturday night is low priority, especially if it's a solo female who barely looks old enough to drive much less drink.
As expected, I waited some time before someone greeted me with two waters and a tray of sourdough rolls. Despite my insistence that I would be dining alone, the second water and second place setting both remained on my table the duration of my meal. With a little luck and quite a bit of patience, I managed to get a martini ordered. Then I waited patiently to have my food order taken. Finally an attentive manager (or perhaps owner) noticed my neglect and took my order himself. Based on his recommendations I decided against the chicken cordon bleu and chose a filet mignon with baby reds and Brie and mushroom soup to start.
Needing a quick fix of two of my favorite foods, I ordered an appetizer of beefsteak tomatoes with fresh Mozzarella. Garnished with red onions and vinaigrette, the simple appetizer eased my way into dinner as service improved and the Grey Goose began to hit the spot. Though I'd been appeased with hot sourdough rolls and pleased with the light appetizer, the soup won me over. Creamy soups are a favorite in which I rarely indulge, partly because of caloric content but mostly because after a long day of sitting around a restaurant kitchen waiting to be served, the quality is never up to par. I find that dairy-based soups are either too runny or they break or film over. I was most impressed by velvety and creamy consistency of Borton's soup and its flavor, which was an outstanding seamless shift from Brie to tones of white wine. With the addition of mushrooms and leeks and a slice of melted Brie on top, it was difficult not to empty the bowl and spoil my dinner.
As I waited for my entree, my server took the opportunity to chat me up. He'd noticed my furious scribbling on a sheet of paper and thought perhaps that I was in real estate. I declined to comment on the reason for such profuse note taking but continued to wonder how real estate was the logical conclusion.
Because I'd fallen in love with my soup, my entree could have been only mediocre. But the entrée was also outstanding. Cooked a perfect medium rare and lightly flavored, the filet was a nice thick, bacon-wrapped tender center cut. Any carnivore would have been impressed. Though the sides of sauteed vegetables and baby reds were simple, they complemented the filet well without fighting for attention.
The only drawback to dining solo is the exclusion of dessert. If I'd had an hour to sip coffee and wait for my dinner to settle I would have delved into dessert. Next trip I'll bring a date, leave my notes at home and hope they have Brie and mushroom soup.
--Rachael Daigle is a real estate agent in a parallel universe.