Friday, December 30, 2011

Smokin' Service

Today we present another episode of “Great Moments in Dining:”

St. Pauli Girl and I recently spent a weekend away where we had the chance to enjoy dinner at a cozy wine bar/restaurant. We sat down in a good mood, as we were fortunate to get a table without a reservation on a Friday night. But then, it was only 6:00 p.m.

Within minutes of being seated our waiter arrived, much like the rolling cloud of smoke preceding the forest fires that engulfed Bastrop, Texas, earlier this year. I’ll call our waiter Marlboro Man, not because he looked like the fabled cowboy but because he smelled like he smoked three cartons a day. Anyway, things started off smoothly, as he quickly fetched our wine and came back for our food order.

Perusing the menu, we couldn’t find anything new or unusual that we wanted to try. Our best bet looked like “Fish of the Day.” So we asked Marlboro Man what it was.

“I don’t know. I’ll go find out,” he said, then darted back to the kitchen. St. Pauli Girl arched an eyebrow at me. Sloppy management or poorly trained server or both?

Yes, I agreed, but at least he admitted he didn’t know and set out to get the correct answer.

He came back, leaned on a chair on the opposite side of the table, and said. “It’s wahoo.”

We nodded our heads and waited for the description of how it was being served.


Apparently, they were just going to throw a wahoo on a plate. Finally, St. Pauli Girl and I both said in unison, “Is there a sauce or something with it?”

“Yes,” Marlboro Man said matter-of-factly.

Great! We smiled and waited. Again, nothing.

The long silence finally threw Marlboro Man into action. “It’s some kind of lime reduction thingy.”

To spare all of us more pain, I responded, “I’ll have the ribeye.”

Dinner was served and Marlboro Man was quite attentive, constantly checking our water glasses. I guess to avoid interrupting our conversation, he resorted to raising his eyebrows and making an “ok” sign with his fingers as he walked past our table. I began responding with a “thumbs-up” sign.

After a decent meal, we decided to not force Marlboro Man to recite the dessert list because he probably would have said, “Yeah, we got this chocolatey thing. And pie and um … some dessert.”

We asked for the check and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, he came back and set the check on the table.

“Have a nice night,” he said. Then he walked away, leaving a trail of fresh smoke in his wake.

I inhaled deeply. “Ah yes,” I said. “Just coming off a Friday night mid-shift break.” I sniffed the air and closed my eyes. “Camel non-filtered, vintage 2010.”

When he brought the credit card slip back, he thanked us again and gave us another “okay” sign for good measure.

For the tip, I drew a picture of a “thumbs-up.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BCS Without the "C"

Like everyone else outside of the confederacy, I’m trying to figure out how we got stuck with a “supposed title game” of Alabama versus LSU. This seems to be the result of the common knowledge that the SEC is the best college football conference. But how do we know that?

I decided to ask an expert, Colonel Zebulon “Bobby Lee Jeff” Davis:

Me: Let’s get right to it. Why is the SEC the best football conference?

Zeb: Because it’s the SEC.

Me: Um, okay. Can you expand upon that?

Zeb: It goes back to Biblical times really. On the eighth day, God created thy pigskin and planted it in Tuscaloosa, Athens, Baton Rouge and Gainesville. And on the ninth day, he saw what he had wrought and planted more pigskins in Nashville, Lexington, Oxford and Starkville to create losing teams as well.

Me: I’m not familiar with that version of the Bible.

Zeb: You’re reading the wrong version, like the King James or something. My version is the General Neyland version.

Me: Look, I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just want to see some proof. Why do you think the SEC is so superior?

Zeb: Well, we got better generals, er coaches. We got your Saban, Miles, and Richt. Those northern hordes have Tressel . . . uh, never mind. Okay, Paterno . . . never mind. Hmm. Well, they have McClellan, McDowell, and Burnside, et cetera.

Me: Granted, the SEC has done better in bowl games lately. What do you think accounts for that?

Zeb: Look at where the games are at: New Orleans, Miami, Orlando, Houston, Jacksonville, Dallas. They’re on our home turf, so it’s like we’re being invaded. Our boys rise up and fight a little harder because of that.

Me: I think we can all agree that we’d like it settled on the field and LSU already beat Alabama. Why a rematch?

Zeb: LSU is undefeated. And Bama beat all comers and only lost in overtime to LSU. And they’re both in the best conference in the universe. That’s an easy case.

Me: But why is it such a great conference? What are the facts?

Zeb: How about six straight BCS titles?

Me: But that’s the past. We shouldn’t rely on that to pick out the best teams and conferences. Let’s take a look at current statistics. The Big 12 has the best non-conference record with a staggering 27 – 3 record for a 90% winning percentage. The SEC is second, with an 88% winning percentage.

Zeb: And how many SEC teams did the Big 12 play in that staggering record?

Me: Well, just one.

Zeb: And?

Me: Arkansas beat Texas A&M.

Zeb: Case closed. SEC is better.

Me: But it was a close game and could have gone either way.

Zeb: I think those were Pickett’s last words.

Me: Okay, let’s look at the conferences against the other BCS conferences. The Big 12 only lost 3 non-conference games all to BCS conference teams while the SEC lost 3 to BCS teams and 3 more to non-BCS teams. Out of 44 non-conference games, the SEC scheduled just 12 against BCS teams while the Big 12 scheduled 9 teams out of 30 non-conference games. Both conferences had a 67% winning percentage in those games.

Zeb: We can’t schedule that many games against other BCS conferences because of our murderous conference schedule. Remember, the SEC is the best and toughest conference. Besides we play all directional teams from Louisiana and Arkansas as well as Chattanooga and the Citadel.

Me: Directional teams?

Zeb: Any team with a direction in its name, like Northeast South Central Louisiana, Central Northwest Arkansas, et cetera.

Me: The “best” should be proven on the field, not by you shoving your fingers in your ears and shouting “SEC! SEC!” Doesn’t this just go to show that we need a playoff?

Zeb: I think you got something there. But if we had an 8-team playoff today, it would include LSU, Bama, South Carolina, Vandy, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi State and the Bama junior varsity.

Me: What? How do you figure that?

Zeb: Because all of those teams were undefeated outside of the conference. Since they only lost games to teams from the bestest conference in the country, they are better than everyone else.

Me: I give up! Good thing the college basketball season has started.