I have to admit that primarily, I am a homebody. I go to work everyday and when I get home I normally like to stay put. Not only that, I am a tough sell when it comes to eating out. Generally I can't see paying a sum that would buy me a week's worth of groceries on a meal that I could make myself. So what is it that will get me to go to a restaurant?
The first type of restaurant meal for me is the comfort meal. It is when you go to the neighborhood pizza parlor (Anna's Pizza #2), or your favorite Chinese take-out or sushi, or the corner pub (Mike's Place). The food will not make it into most blogs- no balsamic reduction or truffle oil here. This is the food you can count on, it is the same this week and next week. They know you by name, ask about your kids, take your check without checking ID. You know what to order, and more importantly, what not to order.Usually this kind of meal costs less than a week's worth of groceries. Our family goes to a place like this maybe 2 times a month.
The next kind of meal is at a restaurant where you have to wear something other than jeans. These restaurants have atmosphere, ambiance, real linens and good food. It is a treat to eat here. These are not chain restaurants unless they make som delicious specialty that is hidden among the many ordinary entree offerings (like the incredible calamari at Carrabas or the great lunch buffet at Nawab). These meals are about the equivalent of a week and a half's worth of groceries. For our family these are also the "adventure meals", when we try a new place or visit somewhere and go out to dinner, or if it is generally an expensive restaurant we go to lunch. This is a great way to reduce your risk, since many restaurants offer the same entrees at lunch at a lower price. We recently had a great adventure meal on a say trip to Richmond. We took advantage of a sunny day last weekend to drive up to the Capitol area where I had to drive for a meeting. After getting my bearing for my meeting we wandered down to the Shockoe Slip area and had lunch at The Tobacco Company. This place was an old tobacco warehouse made into an incredible restaurant. Good food, great atmosphere, great service but comfortable and not pretentious.
The third type of restaurant is the "occasion" restaurant. This is the place you go for an anniversary, birthday, graduation dinner or Valentine's Day. A culinary adventure with the best and hard-to-find ingredients, linens, attentive service. Just 5 years ago in our city, Newport News, most people seeking such a meal would have to go to Le Yaca, The Trellis or Ford's Colony in Williamsburg. But now there are a number of excellent and elegant restaurants to choose from. The newest of these represents a real coup by the Peninsula over Norfolk and Southside, with Chad Martin, former chef of The Blue Hippo opening Create, a small but elegant bistro in Hilton Village.
Restaurants are, by definition, festive, and are a way to play with food without having to clean up afterwards, and I am all for that. But my mission is to bring those festivities to your own home and the family table. More on that later!