Eating out, dining out.

Eating out, dining out.

So what is the allure of eating/dining out so much?  I live in a community that is populated with so many eating establishments that are always busy from the morning coffee shops, the lunch time cafe’s to the evening bars and restaurants. Come evening time, any day of the week, there is a steady line of cars headed downtown. And, they’re not all headed to the grocery stores which are often quite empty at this hour.

It’s not like the food prepared at most of these places is phenomenal or something that is so unique there is no way one could make this on their own.

I get the social aspect, but, frankly, the few times I eat out I find the ambiance actually annoying.  It’s usually too loud, too bright or too dark and the tables are usually kind of sticky gross. I’m not talking about “fast food” joints, but sit down dinner places with moderately high prices.

What am I missing?  The allure of standing around a bar, getting blitzed on over priced alcohol that is often a cheaper version then what I might serve at home and talking about the same shit with friends is lost on me.  Ok, I get that the people watching can be entertaining. But so is bird watching.

So, we ate dinner out last night. It was dear hubby’s birthday and he likes a good beer on tap, so I thought it would be nice to take him to the local brewery.  Fortunately, he said the glass of beer he had was actually quite nice. But the accolades for dinner out probably end there.

Being one with an auto-immune disease and super sensitive to gluten cross contamination I have to be selective about where and what I eat.  This evening was no exception despite my having contacted the brewery recently and their assuring me they could serve me gluten free food.  Hmmm…. well, the menu had a few little “wheat free symbols”: One starter, one veggie dish, two salads (questionable as one had blue cheese and the other is served with croutons), two more main dish salads with ground beef or Atlantic salmon each at about $20, and one main entree, grilled salmon.  Sucks if one doesn’t like salmon or salads. Yikes!

I ordered the garlic brussel sprouts side dish. They were “so so”.  I make better roasted brussel sprouts at home.  First, they weren’t evenly cooked. A bit too crispy on the outside and rock hard on the inside.  I like my brussel sprouts tender on the inside lending to a creamy texture.  These had way too much garlic and no other apparent seasoning.  I had to add table salt. Yuck!

I was pleased to see a “sort of” local hard cider on tap.  I ordered the Two Rivers Strawberry Apple cider. Granted, I’m a cider snob, but the only thing this had going for it was it wasn’t too sweet and it was fresh.  Otherwise, I would say it had a slightly off taste, maybe from some not so ripe apples.  Like the brussel sprouts, the cider too was bland.

I wanted to order the “wheat free” fries which are cooked in a dedicated fryer, but when the waiter comes back with the message from the chef, “if you’re sensitive to cross contamination, he wouldn’t recommend it as being safe”.  Grrr….. why even have gluten free menus?  Ok, but I need to eat more then just bad brussel sprouts if I’m going to consume a cider beverage and not feel it.  I ordered the seasonal veggies.  O M G, talk about boring!  Probably half a small green zucchini and half a small crook neck squash flash sautéed in way too much cheap oil (at least use olive oil folks), with a few strands of not even sweet white onion and again no other seasoning.  Had to add salt.  And then a bite of “what the heck is this”?  It was definitely a dried piece of pulled pork on my seasonal vegetable plate. Gross! Thank God I’m not a vegetarian or vegan.  And, seriously, seasonal vegetables for $8 and the only veggie is the squash that is currently selling for 0.99 cents per POUND at the local market. This is the end of summer when the summer bounty of vegetables is overflowing with goodness and diversity.

I was sort of hoping that I was being brave by venturing into the world of dining out again and maybe I could make this work. Sadly, that wasn’t the conclusion.  What I was reminded of again, is that it’s okay to buy the better cut of meat, the special vegetable I’m craving and maybe a pint of my favorite frozen treat despite their costing a tad more then my usual daily groceries.  Eating out is not cheap, not particularly healthy and frankly, doesn’t taste very good either.  So what’s the allure again?

For now, when I want a special treat and some good people watching time, I’ll still opt for that over priced and probably bitter cup of coffee from the local coffee shop after a serious bike ride.  Yes, for the price of one cup of not so great coffee, I can make myself a weeks worth of perfectly brewed Aeropress coffee at home. But, sometimes it’s nice to have someone else buy the coffee, grind the coffee, prepared it and clean up afterwards.

I’ll still be brave and try to figure out what the allure is of eating out so often.  I’ve chosen to eat out by choice a total of 3 times this year.  (Eating out while traveling is usually just survival and doesn’t count.) Once this year I bought a gluten free pizza to take to another restaurant.  Once we took our daughter to dinner at a 5 star, white linen place (and it was the exception, the food was amazing and the dishes were ones I truly cannot prepare at home (I’ve tried) and the price tag matched.) The third was last night for my husbands birthday dinner.

Ok, I have eaten at a couple of 100% dedicated gluten free bakeries/cafes when traveling and I could find them.  It has been wonderful to eat a “real” sandwich at these places.  They were in Morgan Hill, Sacramento, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara.  I so miss Miglet’s, the dedicated gluten free bakery/shop in my town. Sadly, most 100% gluten free places that I find and then try to return to a few years later have gone out of business.

I’d like to think that someday restaurants will understand food intolerances and want to serve my type of people.  For now, I guess last night was just a good reminder of why I don’t eat out.  Fortunately though, one big positive from last nights meal out is I don’t think I got really sick.  Felt kind of bloated despite eating nothing more then bad vegetables but so far I haven’t had any of the other food intolerance reactions.

Eating Out Statistics

From: https://www.zagat.com/b/the-state-of-american-dining-in-2016

We asked surveyors how many times a week they go out to eat (not counting breakfast) and ended up with a national average of 4.5 times per week. At the high end, Los Angeles surveyors eat out the most frequently (5.2 times per week), while the country’s least frequent diners live in Boston at 3.8 times per week.