When does "It's the thought that counts" replace "If you can't make it properly then don't bother" when baking a birthday cake? When the kids want to surprise you? Of course! At a high end restaurant? No way ! Even if it's free? Still no way!
At Lawry's Prime Rib Saturday night the hostess asked if we had a birthday in the party (just the two of us) so I told her it was mine. Now, I didn't expect balloons and streamers or for her to get up on the table and do the Can-Can while singing "happy happy birthday" but I did think 'a little treat" may be in store for dessert. Thank goodness I was right and it was a "little" treat, in the form of a "little" birthday cake. A pappy strawberry shortcake type thing made with what tasted like packet sponge mix, frozen strawberries and synthetic cream (the shaving foam type you find on Golden Corral desserts)
We left the kids and the sitter watching Dr Who while we headed to Lawry's. Doctor Who is a long-running, award-winning British science fiction television program that depicts the adventures of a mysterious alien time-traveler known as "the Doctor" who travels in his space and time-ship.
I chose Lawry's The Prime Rib in Dallas, partly because the last time I was there the food was good and partly through nostalgia - maybe I was thinking about my culinary tour of London coming up - You can't get more British than "roast beef and Yorkshire pudding" their signature dish. (Actually you can, it would probably be Chicken Tikka Masala - but that's another story for another time) Lawry's, if you haven't eaten there opened its first restaurant in Beverly Hills, California in 1938. Lawrence L. Frank and Walter Van de Kamp co-founded the original Lawry's The Prime Rib and much of the splendor of the meal was in the way each part of the dinner was prepared and presented, like the famous "silver" carts so the prime ribs could be carved tableside.
Silver carts gracefully swanning the dining room were nothing new to me, I spent two years in the kitchens at the Savoy Hotel in London. I remember the days of loading a rib of beef onto the beautiful ornate silver trolley and piling roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding around it as the "trancheur" in his heavily white starched jacket, creased black pants and white apron looked on. However, looking across the dining room at Lawry's made me think about the kids at home watching Dr Who. My gosh ! the Daleks are coming, I thought. As the young chef opened the hatch of his culinary spaceship a bright light shone out revealing not little green Martians but two Texas size hunks of beef.
My wife had chosen the Filet Mignon wrapped in applewood bacon served with au gratin potatoes so it was delivered to the table plated. The steak was cooked perfect but had no seasoning on it at all; neither did the au gratin potatoes. Bland and boring, maybe that was what the plastic pots of Lawry's seasoning were for on the table- they should pass some through to the kitchen. I had chosen the prime rib, carved table side - from the silver Dalek
At the Savoy the portion size was usually determined by just how much you tipped the trancheur prior to him slicing the beef. At Lawry's it is far more structured. The California Cut
- A smaller cut for lighter appetites, The English Cut - Three thin slices, The Lawry Cut - the traditional and most popular cut, The "Diamond Jim Brady" Cut - An extra thick portion that includes the rib bone and The Dallas Cut - A double-sized cut with the rib bone as served to the Cotton Bowl teams. I went for the Lawry's cut. The beef was OK; it was the end piece of a joint that had probably climbed into the spaceship in planet kitchen some hours before. It came with complimentary mashed potatoes. One of my pet peeves is mashed potatoes under seasoned and just tasteless. Why go to all the hard work of peeling them, cooking and mashing them and then the easy part "seasoning" them is ignored. Mashed taters need butter, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Trust me, I spent almost a year at the Savoy making them three times a day and I near perfected the dish. Side dishes were extra, so I paid for asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Almost raw, not even al dente and the hollandaise had split too. I guess "If you can't make it properly then don't bother" doesn't just apply to the "free" birthday cake.
Needless to say we didn't do dessert, pushed the cake around the plate while we waited for valet parkers to bring the "Tardis" to the front door and then time warped to Loft 610 in Plano for some modern day food.
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