Saturday, January 10, 2009

In My Next Life I Want to be a Restaurant Critic

I am going to start practicing now:

The other evening I had the opportunity to have dinner at The Lady and Sons in Savannah, Georgia.  I was looking forward to it because I love watching Paula Deen on the Food Channel.  Well, I don't really love watching her, because she's so loud and annoying, but I like the fact that her recipes often modernize the traditional Southern food I grew up on. I was very excited about the opportunity to eat at her restaurant. I expected to enjoy food with an interesting twist on traditional Southern food. 

Because we were a very large group, we were not given the option to order some of the really cool food from the menu.  We were only given the option of helping ourselves from the buffet. I was not thrilled by that, but I was with a group, and I did not plan the event, so I did not complain.

They seated us at a large table in the very back of the restaurant, up against the windows. Getting to the buffet was very inconvenient for the people at the back of the table. The table and chairs were  very rustic, and quite uncomfortable. There were no table cloths. The plates sat on paper doilies. The napkins were paper.  The plates were pottery.  Most of our party ordered beer.  They didn't bring glasses (even though I asked for one).  Ordinarily, none of that would have been a problem for me.  Hell, my idea of fine dining is bars that serve my beer in glass mugs as opposed to plastic.  My problem was that the bars where I usually eat cost less than $10 a plate. Our meal was $25 a head. For $25, I want a glass for my beer and a cloth napkin!!

Next they brought bread. We each got a biscuit and a hoecake.  The biscuit was okay, but very small. The hoecake was just nasty; it was greasy and otherwise tasteless.  I am a bread eater.  I was not happy about the bread. Things were not looking good.

We took turns at the buffet. The meat options consisted of fried chicken, pork chops and pot roast.  I don't like fried chicken; I passed on that. If I'm going to eat pork, I want it to be pulled pork with barbecue sauce, pork roast with some awesome glaze or crisp bacon. Otherwise, I pass on pork.  I make great pot roast, and I could tell by looking at the gravy that Paula's roast would not pass muster with me. I decided to skip the meat. No points off for that. I usually skip the meat at a buffet so as to save room for the best part of any meal -- the "go withs."

The starch options included mashed potatoes (presumably for Yankees who don't know any better) and perfectly cooked long grain white rice.  I made a bed of that on my plate to hold the veggies.

Veggies were: stewed cabbage, black-eyed peas, baby Lima's, collard greens, and green beans. At the end  of the line were the signature candied yams (without the marshmallows, thank you, Paula) and mac 'n' cheese.  

I skipped the collard greens (I vowed when I left home I would never eat collard greens or turnips again, and I have kept that promise for more than 35 years) and the green beans (also not a fave with me).  I loaded up on cabbage, peas and Lima's (the latter of which is my favorite veggie in all the world).  I tried a yam. 

I debated about the mac 'n' cheese.  Somewhere along the line in my life, somebody gave me the world's greatest mac 'n' cheese recipe.  My family loves it. People invite me to potlucks and request it.  The first time I saw Paula Deen on TV she made her mac 'n' cheese. I tried the recipe, and my entire family agreed that mine is better.  I took some of Paula's just to taste. It was good. Mine is definitely better. Daughter Dear and Wonderful Boyfriend agreed, but they said they liked the fact that she puts that layer of grated cheese on top. I can do that. I will do that next time I make mac 'n' cheese.  Then mine will be totally perfect!

Everything tasted wonderful!  The cabbage, peas and Lima's were perfect.  I loved the yam, which was not adulterated with (nasty) marshmallows.  The mac 'n' cheese was better than when I made Paula's recipe of it, but not as good as my recipe.

Dessert options were: peach cobbler, some chocolate brownie thing, and banana pudding.  I was disappointed that there was no rice pudding or bread pudding.  I opted for the peach cobbler.  It tasted like butter! It needed ice cream or at least a glass of milk to cut the richness. It was good, but way to rich for my blood, literally. 

All in all, it tasted exactly like dinner at my mother's house on any given Sunday when I was a kid, or at my house when I get a hankering for Southern cooking.  

After dinner, we went into Paula's store. The store is bigger than the restaurant, which is probably the whole point.  I looked around, but ultimately decided not to buy anything. I already know how to make all those Southern specialties, and I prepare them for my family on a regular basis.  I decided that $25 for a meal of rice and veggies with a dollop of peach cobbler at the end was profit enough for Miss Paula.  

Bottom line: The Lady and Sons serves perfectly prepared Southern comfort food that is sinfully overpriced. If you grew up on Southern cooking, but do not cook yourself, it might be worth it for the sake of sentiment.  Otherwise, I'm sorry to say, I thought The Lady and Sons was kind of a rip off.

I would not go back there.

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