Posh Chowder
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After the waiter rattled off a list of appetizers, he trotted off to the kitchen; and my friend Jane turned to me and asked, "What is frog whaa?"

"Oh, Foies gras? That's goose livers."

"Goose liver? Why did the waiter say it in French?"

I shrugged. "It tastes better in French."

Jane was surprised that a gooey lunchmeat had morphed into an expensive appetizer. Not that she was complaining. Who could complain? We were seated at a table decked in white linen and crystal.

Fifteen minutes earlier, during a sudden downpour, we had dashed into this posh restaurant. We looked like wet poodles. Without reservations, the best we could hope for was shelter in the Ladies Room.

The hostess looked us over with a discriminating eye. Apparently, she decided that our appearance was deliberate. Only the filthy rich had the chutzpah to look cheap.

  
 
We received the royal treatment, a center table and swift service, even though we were the only customers wearing shabby chic--shorts and junk jewelry. Others were dressed in money.

We sipped water from crystal glasses until the waiter brought our order. He placed a juicy, crimson N.Y. strip streak before Jane, and she grimaced.

"I don't think I ordered a blood transfusion," she said.

With one swift swoop, the horrified waiter grabbed the plate. He hurried the steak back to the kitchen, slipping and sliding on the spilled juice. We winced and looked away. This Frenchman was toast. It was not polite to watch toast.

However, we underestimated him. Within five minutes, he returned with a well done strip. He apologized in demonstrative Frenglish until Jane wanted to crawl under the table. Geez, what drama. At last, he backed off to deliver the next order.

The raw strip went to a Goth babe who was sitting with Count Vlad.

Finally, I dipped my silver spoon into the corn and crab chowder. The waiter had described it as "exquisite." I sipped and sipped. I didn't grimace. Without a doubt, it was the best dishwater I had ever tasted. The chef had dragged a crab leg through it, tossed in a few kernels of corn, and garnished it with diced, hot red peppers.

"How is the chowder?" asked Jane.

"Fine." I went into rapid eye blinking. "Really. It's fine."

I didn't want to make a scene and gag into my linen napkin. I pretended to be completely occupied with nibbling bread. I wasn't going to complain about the chowder, particularly when a matron at the next table sipped the slop delicately down to the last drop.

When the waiter returned to the table, he noticed that I had barely touched the chowder. "Don't you like it?" he asked.

More rapid eye blinking. Ever so slightly I shook my head. I could not bring myself to speak. It was unthinkable to send the chef a good recipe.

The upshot of our culinary adventure was far more than we expected. The bill left on the table in a black tux tablet was a shocker. It listed nothing except a $4 charge for the water.

The tip, of course, was excessive. We didn't stick around to watch the waiter faint.



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