23 May 2007
I hate punny titles but the flesh is weak sometimes, you know?
So yesterday Mom was in Boston for a big flower arranger’s convention (if you have to ask … you probably don’t want to know. But I linked it anyway, just for the hell or it.) And since Mom’s not in Boston that often these days, we decided to get together for dinner. Her choice, since it was her treat, and she wanted to go to Jasper White’s Summer Shack..
Okay, I’d been there before – at the Cambridge one (it’s a chain) with Dave and we thought the food was good and the seafood fresh but it was pretty damn pricey, considering what you got. I shared these concerns with Mom but whatever, fried oysters are one of her favorite things and the Summer Shack almost always has them – plus, did I mention she was the one paying? So I was kind of psyched, actually, since the Summer Shacks get a lot of press locally and are generally regarded in a pretty favorable light. I was hoping that Dave’s and my slightly disappointing experience was because we were eating out when we couldn’t afford to, which colored our experience, rather than the place itself being sucky.
I wouldn’t say it was a disaster, but I sure as hell wouldn’t go back there, even if it is on someone else’s tab.
For starters, the service was friendly and prompt. This is good, right?
Well, not so much when they are so eager to clear the table that the busboy has your plates in their hands before you’ve answered.
“Hey, I’m not done yet!” I said, and he reluctantly took his hands off my plate. (I wanted to eat my fucking corn on the cob, for chrissakes.) So the busboy went to clear Mom’s plate.
“Hey, I’m not done eating her fries yet!”
Granted, that one might have been a little counter-intuitive, and I think he did wait to see Mom nod before he had her plate, and it’s probably not a comment I could have gotten away with at all if I wasn’t a skinny bitch
but … dude had the plate in the air and his back to me when I said something. Which, given my protest from a moment earlier AND the fact that Mom’s plate was still pretty full, seems like it’s a habitual offense and not so much a one-off.
It’s not like it was a Friday night pre or post Red Sox game and the joint was hopping and they need the table; it was a Tuesday and I don’t think the restaurant was even half full – we’d been seated for probably 40 minutes, which I don’t think is unreasonable for a two-top.
Also, I wasn’t super pleased that when my lobster arrived, I had to flag someone down and ask for a bib (c’mon… I’m wearing a cashmere sweater and work clothes. How hard is it to think that maybe I want a bib? Lobsters spurt everywhere when you open them up – insert early ejaculation joke here – most people who’re lobster-experienced know this.)
Although, props to Jasper White’s for thinking ahead, since when the bib arrived it also came with a nutcracker (no, not the kind that’s like the bearded dude from the ballet) – which was good, since the “claws which come cracked for you”, as the waitress assured me, arrived sporting a delicate hairline crack across the top. And like many New Englanders, I like to enjoy my lobster – ALL of it. It’s sofa king expensive, how could you not? And the bib also had a couple of wet naps for cleanup afterwards, which was a nice gesture, although no substitute for going to the ladies’ and properly washing my hands.
So the lobster itself was nice and fresh, not particularly sweet but fine, I’m happy as long as the claws aren’t all horrible and shrunken and floppy. (Lobsters held in a tank for a long time will eventually lose weight and the claw meat will shrink.) And the corn was fine too, and my mom’s fries were more than fine, they were delicious. Good thing I made that busboy leave the plate behind. As were her fried oysters (although I still miss the big fat fried oysters I used to get in New Zealand. At, I believe, Ponsonby Fish and Chips. Somewhere on Ponsonby road, anyway.)
I can’t speak to Mom’s wine but the Australian Cockatoo chardonnay I had was not bad – and for 6 bucks a glass, not bad for a restaurant price, either. We each had two glasses, so I think Mom’s pinot grigio was also probably acceptable.
Also, okay, in a place called a shack I’m not expecting much in the way of ambiance, and I can’t say I was bothered or put out to see the giant fry-o-later ventilation ducting criss-crossing the ceiling or the painted walls. But: place is giant, like a cave, and with all the echoey acoustics of a natural ampitheatre. Would it be too much damn trouble for them to carpet the ceiling or something – it’s not like it’ll ruin the décor - to try to deaden the sound a little? We were yelling at each other all through dinner, although unfortunately not loud enough to drown the hoots and hollers from the group of bike couriers 40 feet away at the bar.
(Psychodrama aside: You know that as soon as Mom shouted, “You look so thin! Your face is gaunt!”, I started eating like I’d seen the locust cloud on the horizon and needed to fatten up for the coming famine.)
For dessert, I had something called Tollhouse pie, which was about what you’d expect: a big slab of undercooked cookie-dough-ish stuff inside a leaden pastry crust, topped with “chocolate sauce” – you know that weird black, almost gritty hot fudge sauce you see at make-your-own-sundae bars at hotel restaurants at brunch? That stuff. It came with “icecream” which, I foolishly, thought might be a scoop of vanilla. Nope, it was a big pile of soft serve, complete with little funnels from the machine. Ah, just like TCBY. I ate it anyway.
Mom had rhubarb-strawberry pie for dessert, which looked a little pale and gummy to me (for me, when I use rhubard and strawberries together, half the joy is seeing those fantastic garnet-colored juices bubble up) but she said it was good, although she left the pastry untouched as it wasn’t worth it.
Anyway. I probably wouldn’t have actually bothered to write all this up and trash the restaurant online if we hadn’t had one final insult added to injury. Upon receipt of the check, mom realized her reading glasses were missing, and, thinking back, thought that the too-eager busboy had probably rolled them up with the napkins and disposed of them. So she caught our waitress and asked her to have someone take a look. Waitress was back at our table in a remarkably short amount of time saying, “I looked in every trash can and there was nothing!” Uh huh. She wasn’t even gone long enough to locate the trash can, much less bother to look anywhere. So, fine, Mom should keep better track of her glasses, right, and not presume to, say, leave them on the side of the table we weren’t using?
Guess who also discovered this morning that her sunglasses were missing? I, too, had foolishly placed them within the busboy’s reach next to my purse on the table. Which, taken along with all the other things, made me think … yeach. Maybe it was just the fault of a shitty, hurried busboy. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to be working that night or had been screwed with double shifts three days in a row. Maybe the waitress really did look for Mom’s glasses. Even so … all of this together did not add up to my idea of a hundred dollar dinner. Even if it wasn’t my hundred dollars.
The breakdown of the bill, if you’re curious and still reading (hahahaha, I make myself laugh):
$80.33 on the bill plus $16 for the waitress. All for a one pound lobster, a fried oyster dinner, four glasses of wine and two desserts.
Summer Shack will henceforth, in my mind, be known as the Summer Suck. The Overrated Summer Suck. I have no idea how Jasper White acquired his reputation but dang, it ain't deserved.