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Monday, August 27, 2007

Am I a Freak?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm living in some alternate universe. I think my tastes are pretty normal, but every television show I like gets canceled, I can never find the furniture I want and I have no desire to eat at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Oh yeah, I also hate camping, even with showers, so quit asking me. We camp at the damn Westin.

I know that other people find things to watch on television because they're always asking me if I've seen this or that commercial or if I watched some show or another. We don't have a television, not because of any moral superiority on our part, but because we couldn't stop watching it when we had one. And I found it boring then, too, but I watched it anyway. Sick, huh? A and I indulge our mostly unfulfilled addiction by ordering entire television shows on DVD. With the exception of Law and Order (wait - we liked the Trial By Jury version and that got canceled), everything we've loved has gotten canceled:

Freaks and Geeks
My So-Called Life

Arrested Development
Absolutely Fabulous (
To be honest, only I like this one. Even the almost-as-odd-as-I am husband doesn't like it)

In a way, it's good that we like canceled shows, because they actually end, so we don't neglect the kids in our quest for more. But, we're always searching for the next fix. Weeds is a possibility, but we're not sold yet. And I hesitate to say it, because I don't want to be blamed when it suddenly ends, but we do like The Office.

It seems like every time I want something new for the house, I'm forced to find it online. Or, worse, it doesn't exist. I'm not handy or creative, so trying to make or build something that exists only in my head isn't an option. And even if I did make it, no one else would like it. I often have similar issues with clothes.

Oh yeah, I forgot this one. Two of the three priests who baptized our children left our church shortly after. The third guy is still there, but it's only been a couple of months, so we'll see if he makes it.

Although my freakishness isn't a new issue, I was contemplating it in light of the arrival of Ruth's Chris Steak House in my town, which you can read about in my local paper. I really like expensive stuff and, even though I'm making a real effort to shop locally, I'm not above chains, if they're good (Shout Out to Bruegger's Bagels, Starbucks, P.F. Chang's, Five Guys Burgers and Target.) Ruth's Chris is both expensive and a chain. My frustrated European husband swears that he hates chains, so it has the added bonus of totally irritating him if I want to go there. Alas, I do not.

I like things that are expensive, but only if they're good. I can't imagine that their steaks are better than the filet mignon I make at home (recipe later, and it's super easy, so keep reading.) Now, I'd probably be happy with the petit filet, because 8-10 ounces of meat is a bit much for me. But at Ruth's Chris, you pay 5-7 dollars for sides, too. So, if I wanted a petit filet (I'm guessing 5-6 ounces), asparagus, and a mixed green salad, it might cost about forty bucks (I'm not sure if they charge for salad dressing, but I guessed it would be included.) That's before drinks, which I like to order in excess. As an aside, I just tried to call them on my cell for an exact price and the message told me all lines were busy and I should call back later; love the personal touch.

According to the article in The State, one of the franchise owners said, “This is not a steak you can go get in a grocery store. It’s a superior product.” I think that Wil-Moore Farms, right near us in Lugoff, SC, provides pretty great beef. And I can get organic filets in a grocery store less than a mile from my house. I'd be surprised if Ruth's Chris' was better. But, what do I know? I apparently have freakish taste. Even though it's only a few miles from my house, I bet this restaurant is one of those places where after we left, one of us would ask, "Who were those people?" In a mid-size town like Columbia, you can't go to a restaurant (or even the beach) without seeing someone you know or recognize. At the beach, A is always asking me, "Do those people go to our church? They look familiar." The answer is usually yes, in part because, on really slow nights at home, we read through the church directory together and talk about peoples' pictures. Now you know how lame we are, probably because we don't have a t.v. to watch.

Even lowly Columbia has great restaurants, owned and operated by actual people we could actually meet. And when you go to a local restaurant, you don't always see the same thing. Both Terra and Motor Supply have a different menu every night and most local places have new specials regularly. If you know me, you know I like to eat food that's local and in season whenever possible. A big chain restaurant with an established menu can't offer that. And I know some people like routine and like to get the same thing, even when they're out of town. And good for them, but I just like good food.

In the interest of continuity, the restaurant runs a pretty strenuous training program for employees. Where's the fun in that? I don't want to be best friends with my waiter, but I like a little personality, and personalities are flawed. I've been to chains before where the service seemed too scripted and just plain cheesy, and not in an ironic way. I've been known to revel in bad service and even tip well for it. A and I have had more fun complaining about bad service (to each other! We're not assholes the "I need to see your manager, young lady" type) than appreciating really good service. Luckily, we think we're pretty funny, especially when we're being all negative and catty, in the privacy of our car, of course. We both agree that it's hilarious when a server mispronounces a foreign word. "Here's your roast beef. I'll be right back with your 'aw juice' " and "Soup of the day? It's 'de jawer' soup" come to mind.) I think Ruth's Chris might be too good for us to enjoy.

And three more picky little points:

1. The plates are 500°. I like my filet rare. Really rare. I used to order "slap it on the ass and put it on the plate," but sometimes that was overcooked. A 500° plate would overcook my steak.

2. In another article, an employee praised the franchise owners for their generosity, saying they offered rewards such as flat-screen t.v.s. It would compromise my morals to know that my waiter might be treating me well in order to get something that I consider a detriment to society. That's like telling me the staff gets paid in heroin. Or twinkies, bought in bulk from Wal-Mart.

3. I hate the name. I don't care about the story behind it. It sounds stupid.

So, if you made it this far, here's the filet recipe:

Use whatever size filet you want. I usually use 4-6 ounces.

In a big pan, melt some butter. Two or three pats, assuming you're cooking two steaks. In the butter, wilt a bunch of fresh baby spinach. I like the clamshell boxes from Earthbound Farms, but if you have local, great. I use one 5 ounce box for two steaks.

When the spinach is wilted, toss a little really good crumbled Gorgonzola or another blue cheese. I can't tell you how much, but it's less than you think, just enough to flavor the spinach. Let the cheese melt into the spinach and set that pan aside.

Now for the meat. Rub your filets with just a little bit of sea salt and pepper. Coat a grill pan with butter and sear the steaks on all sides to seal in the juices. Put the steaks, still in the grill pan, into a 450° oven and cook until they're as cooked as you want them to be. If you have a basic cookbook, you should be able to find a chart that tells you how long to cook something based on how done you want it and its size. You can probably find the information online, too. Or you can call me and I'll look it up for you. Don't feel bad about calling, either, I'll probably be glad to have an adult to talk to.

When your steaks are done, put a blob of the creamed spinach on a (slightly warmed, but not 500 freakin' degree) plate and put the steak on top of that. Now eat it.

This is so easy to do that I've actually made a single serving for lunch. When I do that, I cook the spinach in the grill pan, take it out (go ahead and put it on the plate) and stick the steak in the same pan. Because a lunch steak is small and I like them rare, I don't even put it in the oven; I do the whole thing on the stove. The single serving way also saves a pan, so you only have one to clean. Yay.

And that is why I will not be going to Ruth's Chris Steak House, but y'all have a great time if you go. And you can tell me all about it, especially if the food or service sucks.

Namasté, y'all!


Robin said...

Your recipe has me drooling, filet mignon is definitely something I've never cooked before (having being a vegetarian for 20 years preceding the last two has its disadvantages). I personally will never go to a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse simply because of the name. That's it. I don't like the name.

Oh, and hubby and I give a thumbs-up to Weeds. And my favorite TV show Firefly got cancelled too (and I'm an AbFab fan as well).

kbfenner said...

I'm so glad I found this--thanks, Debbie McDaniel! I,too, find that I am out of step with conventional tastes and my TV gets cancelled, etc. The Office (and House and 30 Rock, which are on the list chiefly for Hugh Laurie and Alec Baldwin)is it for current TV, and I await the remaining AbFabs to come out on Netflix --I am sooo Edina.
Cannot relate to Weeds--for one thing, I just can't get around the lawbreaking part--priggish lawyer that I am. Give me a martini or a single malt, please.
Local furniture--only at Bohemian, otherwise, online--love modern design and found some cool Italian/Scandinavian stuff. Did recover mom and dad's late 60s Parsons sofa.