Friday, March 25, 2011

The Grape dines out

Last night R. and I did something we haven't done in months.

We took the Grape out to eat.

In a real restaurant.

Not at some designed-for-kids burger joint or pizza parlor.

We ventured to a local spot R. and I frequent a deux on those evenings when we leave the Grape snug in his bed with Lila the Dog installed on the sofa, in case some emergency should befall our child or home while R. and I are holding fresh drinks.


We pay a lovely college student to sit on the couch next to Lila the Dog, in case some emergency should befall the household during our two hour absence.

Today I've been debriefing last night's restaurant experience. R. and I did some things right. We picked a place where the staff knows us as regulars and therefore might feel more tolerant of any minor disturbances caused by our adorable toddler.

We made the Grape walk there on his own two feet. No stroller for this three block jaunt. I hypothesize that kids do best in high chairs when they're physically exercised but not to the point of exhaustion.

We ordered wine and salads before we sat down. This is key because the clock starts running once the Grape plops into the high chair. We have fifty minutes - max - to scarf two courses, pay the bill and get the hell out.

We arrived at the restaurant at ten minutes before six p.m. Why? Because we enjoy the place too much to risk any wrath for showing up during prime time toting a small child. We want them to know we understand this fact: People eating after the Blue Hair and High Chair Hour do not find our kid cute. Even if the stars align in our favor and he behaves immaculately.

Note: I don't live in a cave. I understand that sometimes families with small children must eat out after seven o'clock. Which is precisely why God created the aforementioned pizza parlors and burger joints.

Lest you think I'm sounding too smug, I'll admit we did a few things wrong.

I have this crazy idea in my head that the Grape should eat vegetables. So I brought along a jar of peas for him to consume before his pasta and sauce arrived. Problems arose when the Grape insisted on feeding himself. Which meant he didn't want anyone holding the jar. After watching him land two spoonfuls in his mouth and another two in his lap, R. and I relaxed a bit. I believe we may have even exchanged a line or two of conversation.

The jar of peas flew off the table like a roman candle and and crashed to the floor. The pea gruel splattered all over someone's handbag, one that any half awake urban woman could identify as very expensive.

I dived for the bag and attacked it with three cloth napkins and a tirade of apology. I believe my catlike reflexes helped avert permanent damage. We started a laundry pile on the floor under my chair - one that would weigh five pounds by the time the Grape finished his red sauce. I felt a little badly about the lady's Prada, but seriously.

We sat down first. We were not aspiring to eat outside of our league. By which I mean we were not a fine dining establishment.

She placed her $3000 bag less than a foot from an occupied high chair.

Surely reasonable minds could see contributory negligence in this situation.

Happily, peas meeting Prada constituted the most significant of a trio of casualties which also included a full glass of red wine on my sweater and the better part of a vat of tomato sauce on the Grape's person. The kid likes things with some kick. I know he dumped his own penne on his lap in order to score a helping of my fra diavolo sauce. One soapy bath and almost twenty-four hours later, he still smells vaguely of garlic.

By this point, R. had been forced to raid adjacent tables for back up linens more than once. Neither of us had made much headway with our entrees. The Grape was getting antsy. By which I mean he was standing in the high chair yelling and carrying on much like a drunken spring breaker dancing on the bar at Senor Frog's.

We decided what he really needed to get through the home stretch of the meal was sugar. We ordered the tartuffo. His eyes boggled at the beach ball sized portion of ice cream, dusted with cocoa and hazelnut and topped off by roughly a full can of whipped cream.

Our ploy totally worked. The Grape shoveled the dessert into his mouth, wielding his spoon with accuracy neither R. nor I had witnessed previously. Only about twenty per cent of the magnificent tartuffo ended up on his clothes. None landed on anyone's accessories. At one point he paused and applauded. When he finished, he actually licked the plate.

Then made like he was about to smash it in an amateurish homage to Zorba.

That was our cue. We piled our laundry into as neat a heap as possible, tipped generously and beat a hasty retreat home, where we all stripped and sent our clothes (which looked like props for a detergent commercial) straight into the washing machine.

All in all, a successful outing. So here's my fair warning to the neighbors: next week we're going to attempt the French place across the street. Bon appetit, everyone!

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