In business you are always faced with decisions. Some are hard and some are easy, but for the most part you’re dealing within a realm that you understand. I’m in the data center business so most of my decisions revolve around data centers. Makes sense. But it’s the decisions you make when you are in unfamiliar territory that really define you. I was faced with this situation just the other day. I don’t mind telling you that during the entire process I felt pretty clueless and out of my depth. Who knew that choosing a dinner menu could be so taxing?
Just to provide you with a little background, we are planning on hosting a customer dinner in New York. Naturally this means going to one of those swanky places where a snotty waiter brings you a main course consisting of an attractively presented selection of two peas, a string bean and a radish with some type of garnish that you usually find washed up on a beach somewhere. Personally, I’ve never understood this forced union between art and sustenance. I understand that an artist can work in many mediums, my plate, however, is not one of them.
From a gustatory standpoint I’m easy to please. Pretty much anything cooked on a grill is agreeable to my palate and my dislikes are fairly mainstream, cauliflower or mushrooms, for example. Not even at gunpoint. When it comes to what you parents used to describe as “just trying something new”, I adhere to one rule that I learned in the college cafeteria line, “if you have to ask what it is, you don’t want it on your plate”. These words of cautionary wisdom have always served me well. There was one unpleasant incident with a tuna noodle casserole, but sometimes you just have to live and learn.
The problem in menu selection for occasions like this New York dinner is that for most of the alternatives I have no idea what they’re talking about. My idea of fine dining is Golden Corral. Although there is always a place for breaded everything and a vat of banana pudding at the end of the service line even I know this isn’t it.
My task was to select two options for each course. For the first course there were five options to choose from and I was immediately able to eliminate one. I have no idea what Hamachi is, but anything that mixes Red Shiso and Yuzu Citrus just sounds a little dubious to me. Next into the discard pile was the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare. No matter how you dress it up you can still get tuna for 99¢ a can and they were asking a little bit more than that. This process of elimination left me with Winter Market Salad (featuring roasted root vegetables), Three Cheese Ravioli and Wild Mushroom Risotto to choose from. Since even the thought of mushrooms makes me gag, the Risotto was the odd man out, and I’ll have the salad thank you.
The main course proved to a little trickier. The poached Maine Lobster featured Vadouvan spiced cauliflower—I have no idea what Vadouvan is but I do know cauliflower—so the lobster won’t be gracing the evening’s list of epicurean delights. The remaining three options were fish (Sea Bass), Chicken, and Black Angus Beef Tenderloin. Each of these had their plusses and minuses. You always need a fish choice at these types of things so even though it comes with Hon Shimeji and Wakame (I think they might be spices) the Sea Bass made the cut. The chicken was free range with Celeriac, Barley, Pine Nuts and Tarragon—I guess just salt and pepper would be too pedestrian—and you can get that anywhere so the tenderloin will be gracing the menu by default. Don’t get me wrong, I love steak but this one comes with beets and kale. I guess that’s why God invented the bread basket.
They say that, “lonely is the head that wears the crown” and I can relate. When fifteen people are literally depending on you for their next meal you want to make the best decision possible, even if you have no idea what’s actually going to show up on someone’s plate. Fortunately, a bad menu decision can always be rectified. I always book my hotel near a Burger King for just that reason. Bon Apetit.