Just desserts

I am crushed. I just discovered a betrayal of monumental proportion. My favorite restaurant is deliberately utilizing sophisticated, pre-meditated, cognitive techniques in order to manipulate my behavior and psychologically pressure me into doing what they want me to do. This is one of those horrifying realities you try hard not to believe. But at a certain point, you can no longer deny the subversive tactics being employed against you.

I have a favorite eatery. It is one of those restaurants I never tire of frequenting. Their food is delicious, relatively low cal, fresh, filling and nutritious. And they have fabulous desserts. The greatest thing about their desserts is that nothing is ever over 475 calories. Plus the desserts are incredibly eye-pleasing, decadent and small enough to avoid any kind of post-repast guilt or remorse. I always order dessert at this restaurant. Until yesterday.

Yesterday I met my mom and sister-in-law at my fave spot late in the afternoon. I just wanted coffee since I’d eaten several hours earlier. But both of them were hungry and ordered lunch. After they’d finished eating and our table had been cleared, our server came by, dessert tray in hand, and began laying out clean napkins and silverware for dessert. “I don’t think anyone is going to indulge,” I kindly remarked to save him the trouble of replacing all of the utensils and painstakingly describing each of the 10 stunning desserts before us.

He continued placing the silverware, though, as if he hadn’t heard me. My sister-in-law chimed in, “I don’t think we’re going to order dessert.” Again he ignored us and started to describe the first item on the tray, a healthy peach melba housed in a miniature shot glass.

It was then that I realized something astounding. I felt guilty. I felt guilty that he’d gone to all that trouble to lay out the table for dessert and I suddenly felt compelled, out of some kind of misguided sense of duty, to indulge in one of the tiny, tasty treats. I didn’t actually want to eat dessert. I’ve been very disciplined the last few days, adhering to my daily weight watcher point limit. Dessert was the farthest thing from my mind. But I was going to order one simply because I suddenly felt compelled to not hurt his feelings. Rationally, I realized the absurdity of this. But emotionally I’d been hooked. This realization, however, ignited my inner will. “We don’t want dessert!” I announced emphatically.

The server was taken aback by my assertive stance. He looked stunned, and hurt, like I’d shocked him, wounded him, rudely interrupted him. “But I have to finish,” he stammered. “It’s restaurant policy.” And at that moment, everything became clear. “You mean, that’s why you kept placing the dessert spoons and napkins on the table even though we said we didn’t want anything?” I inquired. Then he confessed, “Oh yeah. There’s a whole psychology to getting people to order dessert.”

Feeling guilty? Try not ordering one.

“Please don’t tell anyone,” he fearfully implored, “And if anyone asks, I did describe every dessert. OK?” We assured him of our loyalty and he defeatedly collected the spoons, napkins, and dessert tray and slunk away. His disappointment was palpable.

My sister-in-law picked up the tab. I bet she left him a hefty tip in response to his despondent demeanor. But wait a minute, maybe that was simply another form of emotional manipulation. Maybe he was merely feigning dismay in order to secure a few more gratuity percentage points. I wouldn’t put it past him.

It really is true. Once trust is destroyed in a relationship you can never go back.

Leggo my Eggo!

Stay away from my dinner!

I eat out a lot. Partly because I hate to cook. But even more because I abhor cleaning up. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s not as healthy as eating at home. But it’s fast, fun and makes my life a whole lot easier. But here’s the thing; I apparently missed the memo to all food service professionals regarding clearing away dirty dishes the nano-second they become “inactive.”

It happens everywhere, and it’s driving me batty. The minute you take your last bite, or someone seems to think you’ve taken your last bite, a person emerges out of the shadows and surreptitiously swipes your supper before you can say Wolfgang Puck. It’s particularly problematic if you were saving your orange garnish for a final palette cleanser or hoped to sop up some spaghetti sauce with a piece of leftover sourdough.

I’ve tried to remain silent on this subject and just go with the flow. But, A, I’m mentally incapable of going with the flow. And B, We hit an all time high on the annoyance Richter scale the other night and I just need to talk about it.

My husband and I had a lovely meal at the White Chocolate Grill in our neighborhood. The food was delicious, the waiter attentive and the atmosphere was elegant yet comfortable. All was well. Until we got to the final thirds of our entrees. That’s when the vultures began circling. One black clad server stealthily snagged the remainder of my husband’s rotisserie chicken as she swept by in such a smooth and fluid motion, it was as if she had performed a Houdini sleight-of-hand maneuver. Luckily his reflexes are sharp. He grabbed the plate back and asserted loudly that he was still working on his dinner. After a few stunned moments, we relaxed back into our meals. But as I distractedly raised my water glass to my lips, I noticed the remnants of my Ahi salad had been snatched. I called out to the young thief. But, alas, it was too late. He had disappeared into a sea of ebony outfitted employees. “I guess I’m finished,” I sadly conceded.

Then, as if carefully choreographed, servers approached, lifted and removed each and every plate, glass and utensil that adorned our two-top. My husband had to ask for a new water glass because someone had commandeered his as he carelessly lost sight of it while lamenting the loss of his sugar-snap peas. At one point, he was so irked that he placed a leftover empty salad plate at the edge of the table to tempt one of the passing waiters. But as soon as she eyed it and moved in for the kill, he swept his napkin over it and slid it to safety beneath the table. Then, not finding this at all amusing, she outstretched her hand like a stern school teacher who had discovered the classroom clown hiding a perilous pea-shooter. “I’m going to take it anyway,” she chastised, “so you might as well give it up.”

At this point, I looked around in search of cameras or a grip or gaffer in case we were victims of some new Ashton Kutcher reality show. But, lo and behold, I found none. We finally called over the manager and inquired about this over-the-top team effort to rid our area of dirty dishes. “Full hands in,” he replied professionally, “Full hands out. It keeps us efficient.” It wasn’t hard for us to read between these lines as we eyed the cue of hungry incoming at the hostess stand.

Before he got around to offering us a free bread pudding we didn’t want, we thanked him, laid down our cash and excused ourselves. After all, we know when we’re not wanted.