Prior to meeting and marrying my wife, my method for eating out involved simply exiting the house and looking for a place to eat. There was no plan. I never gave the slightest bit of thought to where I was going or what I wanted to eat. I just started heading somewhere. Though nearly every such venture ended in disaster, my learning curve was such that it never, ever occurred to me to do a little pre-planning. If I were an explorer, I’d be the one that hopped on a Galleon, headed west, struck a rock and promptly drowned.
My wife is more organized, however. She refuses to exit the apartment without a plan. I’m not sure if this is because of her European sensibilities, the fact that she’s a woman, she’s smarter than I, or that maybe I’ve simply married a woman who loves to do research. If she were an explorer, she’d be Columbus or Vespucci. Or at least she’d be married to them and doing all the navigating.
With my wife at the helm, restaurant selection involves the following:
1. Establish what exactly we want to eat.
2. Establish the restaurants that make what we want to eat.
3. Look up the Zagat rating.
4. Look up the Citysearch rating.
5. Make a reservation.
6. Exit the premises.
This is simple, if not time-consuming. Despite my desire to simply follow old habits and exit the apartment first, I have learned to accept her structure. But I have just discovered the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Restaurant Inspection Reports, and I fear dining out will never again be the same.
I know for certain that we will be adding a new step to our restaurant selection procedure. It will be impossible for us to choose a restaurant without first consulting NYCDHMHRIR to see if they’ve been cited for having a cat in the kitchen or storing egg salad at unsafe temperatures.
My biggest fear is that I am easily impressionable. I still shun swordfish based on a few sentences in Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential which I didn’t even read myself but was merely told about. Now I can’t imagine what I’d do if I learned there had been mouse droppings in my favorite bistro. That’s all I would think about, even if the pate was awesome. Fortunately I am spared the grief today. It’s my birthday, and all dining-out decisions have been made by my wife and other parties. The destination remains a surprise so I won’t know until we get home if they clean their utensils properly.
As I fret over the future of dining out, the only light I see at the end of the tunnel is how this enormous database of culinary infractions can be used as a weapon. For example, I was once treated quite snottily by the host at Cafeteria and so it’s with great pleasure that I announce that the son of a bitch probably doesn’t wash his hands.