This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shut Me Up

Last night, Tim and I had a night out on the town. Well, not all over the place, just one place.

Our favorite comedian, Robert Schimmel, was coming to Goodnight's and as soon as I heard he was coming back to Raleigh (this would be our second time to see him), I wanted to run -- not walk -- to get tickets.

Tim had it all set up and we decided we would try The Grille at Goodnight's, bearing in mind that my thought was that the owners of The Underground had moved 'up' to The Grille. We even noticed that the menu had been updated, although not quite in line with what we remembered from The Underground.

I was very skeptical and had a more negative view of what was to transpire. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am none-too-happy with Goodnight's 'driving' The Underground out. And it is truly speculative on my part, as I have no idea of The Underground folks decided to leave the business. But my attitude is a bit sour towards Goodnight's. BUT I want to give them a chance -- give The Underground folks a chance -- and try out the Grille -- the place I visit often to use the bathroom (still find this extremely cheesy...).

We arrive and are seated in an area that, well, doesn't really seem that fancy. I suddenly notice that there is a whole other section, near the front of the building, that is actually quite beautiful. Black molding and window sills, around old brick walls and big beautiful windows, with candle lights on white covered tables, setting atop hardwood floors. I thought: why wouldn't you sit people there? The aura was so much more in-line with their 'fine dining' approach. Whatever. I have something nice to say about the place, but I'm not sitting where the "niceness" is. So, I am still waiting to be impressed.

We meet our waitress, Sarah, who seems nice. But again, I'm thinking, she ain't no waitress -- she's a cute sales girl who knows nothing about the menu. Eye candy -- which actually is lucky for us because there is a male waiter that we could have ended up with. The curse of Tim -- when a male waiter is around, we usually get him.

Not tonight...we get Sarah.

So we order our drinks and the trick question that Tim throws in (it's not a trick for him, but becomes the "test" question for me, with regard to how knowledgeable my waitress/waiter is going to be): he wants an orange-y martini.

For the record, the first time he had an orange-y martini was at Bogart's, where the asian bartender -- who rocks and still works there -- advised Tim to try the Lady from Shanghai martini. How appropriate, huh? Anyway, he loved it (still does) and when we dined at Hayes Barton and Tim requested an orange-y martini, our waitress just nodded at him and said "i've got just the thing" and left and concocted something on her own, and then ta-da! Love at first taste (the martini, that is).

Since then, he's asked at other establishments and it's obvious when someone does not know anything about their drink menus. Not a big deal probably to most, but it's impressive when they do and just plain ordinary if you don't.

So Sarah suggested an orange-sicle type drink for Tim. It was on the menu and she seemed to sort of stumble along, so she wasn't starting off GREAT, but not below either. She -- at least -- was trying.

We get our drinks and yum yum, my Shiraz was the bomb. I had been looking forward to that first sip all day...

Before we order, Sarah mentions that the menu has been recently updated (this I know). I ask if the folks from The Underground are working The Grille. Sarah knows immediately and says no, that the Underground people decided not to continue as they had originally planned. So the Underground was no more (yes, I know that) but that she thought they would be starting their own restaurant somewhere else. Stay tuned... (she really said that).

Now, I am really bummed because the whole point of trying The Grille was to support the people from The Underground. Great. I could be eating somewhere else good, like The Irregardless Cafe, which is next door. But, we have tickets ready for us as soon as we eat and I decide that my bad time here would make good fodder for a blog posting.

We decide to order items to split: a starter, a salad and an entree. This has been our modus operandi for awhile -- a good suggestion for those who tend to eat all of their food to obscene fullness. It's quite enjoyable and REALLY filling...but you can get dessert in too, that is, if you weren't planning to drink more after dinner. I still have a comedian to watch!

Anyway, we start with Crispy Polenta with Wild Mushrooms and Goat Cheese. I am thinking this is a little "big" for these people to pull off. I don't even know "these people" but my bad attitude is there making assumptions.

When we got it and I took the first bite, wow. THIS is polenta? It was WONDERFUL and came out aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. The polenta was moist but firm and a touch of goat cheese gave it that nice tartness that goat cheese is known for. And the mushrooms -- well, I am a mushroom lover -- and this dish made me love it more.

We then had our salad: Bibb salad, Bacon, Blue Cheese with Buttermilk Dressing. This dish, for a salad, appeared fresh and clean and appropriately arranged to make it beautiful to the eyes. A very simple set of ingredients that made for one of the best salads I've eaten in awhile. The dressing was drizzled on, as it should be, and so, very little of this was on the salad. But it was enough to enhance the flavor of everything. The bacon was done perfect (no bacon bits) and chopped small enough to give a salty edge to each bite of the salad. The blue cheese -- one of our favorites -- was also titillating -- and a few finely sliced red onions were thrown in for the crunch. I was truly impressed.

Our last portion of the meal was the entree. I love steak but Tim and I agreed that no one -- especially this place -- could make a steak as wonderful as Hayes Barton. Remember, I have no idea what any of these items are going to taste like when I placed our order. We decided on the Tagliatelle, which is "hand rolled in-house" pasta, served with goat cheese and roasted peppers and tomatoes. I had wanted something a bit more meaty, but upon finding that the Bolognese sauce was made with the Veal Osso Bucco, I went for this instead.

Sarah had mentioned that the tagliatelle was one of her favorites, so I was going to test her out on this one.

When the dish came, it was again, very beautiful. The manager, I think, was the person who was bringing out our dishes. He was very sharp and non-creepy-restaurant-manager-type. When the tagliatelle came out, he apologized for the length of time it took to bring it to us (I was clueless, enjoying my second glass of shiraz), but the tagliatelle had not come out exactly the way they wanted and did it again (I think -- I didn't catch it all because I was 1) shocked that he was apologizing for something I had no idea had happened and 2) I wanted to dig in to the dish).

WOW. This pasta dish was incredible. Again, simple ingredients -- nothing but pasta, roasted red peppers, roasted tomatoes and a sprinkle of goat cheese. But it was soooo good because of the simple flavors put together. It was light but hearty -- surely a vegetarian's premier pasta entree -- that I think Chef Ramsay would agree was "spot on!"

We ate everything, which is easy to do when you split the meals *and* not worry about all the calories you've consumed.

I stand humbly corrected about my shitty attitude to The Grille and have to find a way to be more unbiased before I know the truth (which is so completely different than the media). The Grille, Sarah, the manager, were superb and I would definitely go back for another Goodnight's show.

Our seats were good too. By dining at The Grille before the show, patrons get a better seating choice. Our seats were too good. Right up next to the stage. I had to move a seat back (same table) because my neck was killing me trying to look at the first two acts. Or, I could simply look at their shoes. But that seemed weird.

Schimmel was hilarious. He's one of few comedians who can manage to make me laugh where I actually stop breathing. And I've seen his HBO special, um, maybe half a dozen times AT LEAST, and I can still laugh until tears come out of my eyes.

In fact, we bought the DVD, met Schimmel, who notified us about the lady, stage left, who was talking and texting on the phone his whole act. He said he couldn't wait to see her, have her come up and tell him what a great show he had so he could put her in her place.

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