Eat Right Around Chicago

Why I'm Scared of Prix Fixe

I love everything about dining out. 

I love being escorted to my table, assessing the area like I'm buying a house - looking for quiet neighbors, great view, comfortable weather. 

Yes, I'd love water - tap please. 

I love cloth napkins. 

I love opening the menu for the first time, evaluating it for the tastes I crave, knowing that I can choose anything I want. 

I love contemplating the wine and when the server has a suggestion and describes it with descriptors that are meaningful, not just "fruity" or "dry". 

I love the anticipation - will the server be personable, will we love the specials, will I remember my meal, will we comment on the way out, "that was the best meal we've had in a longtime". 

I love that you have to look right at your dinner mate when you talk and because of this intimacy, you learn so much about each other and solve so many of the world's problems (but only if the food is good). 

I love that the size of the table matters to me and that I like to look out the window, rather than into the restaurant. 

I love it when the server truly loves food and respects time rather than being too rushed or moving too slowly.  I love it when they tell you that you should try this, or that they don't think that is all that - and you can tell that they mean it. And I love it when they're right and you share a look that says, "wow, that was a little bit of heaven in my mouth". 

I love it when the food makes me proclaim, "holy shit, you have to taste this," or "this is just stupid," or "I think the Chef loves me," or "AMAZING!" or when I can't say anything at all because I'm weeping. 

I love dining out for these reasons, and so many more. 

Therefore, it is with a heavy heart and abashment that I confess:  I am scared of Chicago's restaurant week and I'm scared of prix fixe menus.    

What could possibly scare me about a week of local restaurants creating lovely prix fixe menus at a fair price?  Chefs putting their favorite flavors together, carefully considering their best bites and offering perfectly portioned prix fixe fare?  All the while, venerated restaurant reviewer, Phil Vettel guides you through the over 170 Chicago restaurant options to help you pick-n-choose what's right noon and night.  

I have been reading The Stew, following Phil's taste buds around Chicago, but yet here I sit, belly full of a boring bean soup that I prepared for my mid-day meal, writing about my fear of the fare, rather than the fare.  Conjuring ridiculous, but true statements like, there is nothing to fear but the fare itself.   

That is it.  I fear the fare.  I am afraid of being faced with delicious, mouthwatering foods that despite their accolades, I do not favor.  I agonize over disliking the thoughtfully created prix fixe menu!  I am paralyzed by my distaste for the taste of salmon, mushrooms, undercooked meat, raw seafood - just to name a few.  This absurd hesitation is rivaled only by my uneasiness when I consider the generous amount of calories and fat in picks I can't pick.  I cannot possibly abandon a Chef's decision, opt out of a starter, half my entree or skip a dessert in an effort to "eat right"! 

Alas, I gaze out my window, phantom aromas of restaurant week waft through my panes. I must overcome my fear.  I am going to deal with my trepidation and in case you are experiencing the same distress, here are my tips to start : 

  • Review the usual menu.  If most options sound like duck-fat fried pork belly with a side of bacon grease and a dollop of creme fraiche, it may not be your week to try. 
  • Read Phil's reviews.  Phil Vettel is keeping a diary of his restaurant week hits, so check it out and if he gushes over the greens and delicious vegetable dishes, it may be your next stop.
  • It's OK to leave a bite or two.  Don't waste, but you also don't have to join the clean plate club.
  • Stay active.  Keep up your exercise for restaurant week.
  • Choose wisely.  Pick the most revered spots this week, and not a place you've dined.  
  • Relax.  It's just a week.  
I feel better and I can already taste it.  I'm off to OpenTable.com

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