Monday, April 18, 2016

Swimming With the Scallops

Not the scallops in question, but lovely Orchids scallops none the less.

Cincinnati Magazine has come out with its annual list of the city's best restaurants. It's always a much discussed issue — a veritable what's-what and who's-who of dishes, chefs, old favorites, new favorites and soon-to-be favorites.

Always on the list is Orchids at Palm Court, and this year was no exception, with it coming in at number 3. 

From Cincinnati Magazine: 

To enjoy dinner in its hallowed French Art Deco dining room is to keep one foot planted in Cincinnati’s storied fine-dining past while sampling the very best of Todd Kelly’s modern yet grandiose sensibility.

Hallowed French Art Deco. Storied fine dining. Grandiose sensibility.

Basically, if you're looking for a place to pass out in your food, you couldn't pick it a better place than Orchids. 

I happen to know this from experience. 

Happy Birthday!


It was Boss Man's birthday. We were all seated in a back booth and I was just about three bites into my roasted chicken with rosemary gnocchi (thus far, it was exquisite) when the Boss Man said: 'I think I am having a reaction to something.'

We all stopped eating and looked at him. 

Indeed, he didn't look well. He was ashen, sweaty, disoriented.

As we stared at him his face went gray and slack, his eyes crossed and his head slowly fell into his plate of scallops.

I wondered: Did we get the bill already? Was it THAT much?

When he raised his face up from the pool of scallops a second or two later — scallops with green garlic panisse, artichokes and saffron nage — Carolyn thumped him on the arm and scolded him for joking. His wife, Roz, sternly told him that he wasn't funny.

For a few seconds we were confused. Is he joking? But he doesn't look well, and you can't fake that. He was still ashen, pale.

It was his 63rd birthday. Maybe this is what happens when you hit 63? 

We kept staring at him. He couldn't focus his eyes on any of us. 

He clearly wasn't joking. 

Booth Healthcare (Think of All the Money You'll Save!)

Roz turned him to face her. She took his hands into hers and commanded, "Squeeze my hands. Squeeze my hands." I don't know if he squeezed her hands or not but he verbally responded with an exasperated, "I'm not having a stroke."

I sent Ray to the hostess stand to tell them we were calling 911. If we were going send this stately joint into a tizzy of paramedics and IV bags, I wanted them to at least be prepared.

Then Boss Man looked at Roz plaintively and said, "I don't want to go to the hospital... Can we just go home?"

It was one of the more human moments I've ever witnessed. 

The irony here is that not 3 minutes prior he was annoyed with Roz for testing him for a stroke and annoyed with me because I was going to call 911. (Later, he would be annoyed with Carolyn. I think Ray is the only one who came out of this unscathed.)

At the hostess station, Ray (who has been a firefighter and medic for 23-years) ushered the hostess through a series of questions with 911 dispatch —  Is he breathing? Is he conscious? Is he ambulatory? Can he look at you?

I looked across the room at diners enjoying their Maine lobster, smoked lamb loin, and seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras.

I hope the paramedics don't knock over their $200 bottles of wine,
I thought. 


I admit, I was somewhat excited by this possibility. But at the same time, I thought, if he can walk, maybe he's better off in the lobby. 

I envisioned paramedics rushing into the dining room with a giant stretcher and cases full of AEDs and saline, knocking over fancy, high-backed chairs and tables, sparkling water and carefully plated dishes of lamb Wellington.

Wine stains! Chairs turned over! San Pellegrino everywhere! Running! Screaming! Scallops! 

How Not to Make A Scene in Fancy Restaurant: Go to the Lobby

I asked the Boss Man if he was capable of walking to the lobby.

Roz looked at him and told him to move to the edge of the booth. 

He just sat there.

"Slide over here," she said.

"I did," he told her.

He hadn't moved at all.

"Do it again," she said.

Ray came over and quietly said to him: "I am going to walk to beside you and hold onto you. I'm going to help you to the lobby. If you need to stop, tell me."

He said this so smoothly and so confidently it was as though he escorts 63-year-old Boss Men through fancy restaurants every night. The whole thing was orchestrated so calmly, I don't think anyone nearby even knew it was happening. Afterward, Ray told me he thought for certain that the Boss Man was going to collapse.

"Embarrassing or not, I was waiting for him to pass out so we could just get the stretcher to him," Ray told me in the lobby. "It makes our jobs easier when people aren't conscious. Then we can do whatever we need to do."

The Boss Man is perhaps lucky Ray didn't whap him over the head with a $200 bottle of wine to make him more compliant. "Just doing everyone a favor, sir!" 

Within a few minutes the paramedics arrived and took his blood pressure. 

This is a very dramatic way to get Ray to pay the dinner bill, I thought. 

And speaking of dinner, there sat all of our food on the table, abandoned and barely-eaten as we rushed around the medical emergency.
I wondered what would become of my roasted chicken. 

Is it poor form to ask for a go-to-box if someone is having a medical emergency? What if I get hungry waiting in the emergency room? I mean, this could take a while, right?

These were all questions I seriously considered while the paramedics told us that the Boss Man's blood pressure was like, 7 over 2. Or something like that.

(I would later learn that the Boss Man scolded Carolyn for not shoving his uneaten scallops into her purse for a snack in the emergency room.) 

Is This A Terrible Story? Or A Great Story?

Roz and the Boss Man are regulars at Orchids and the maƮtre de, Charles, was gravely concerned.

Could it have been the food? Was it something he ate? Did he have a reaction to something?

"Don't be ridiculous," Carolyn said. "He eats trash off of the floor. It wasn't the food."

Charles looked at me quizzically. I confirmed that, Yes, this is true — he eats discarded food from the trash. Without asking questions, Charles gave us the cake that Roz had specially ordered for the occasion, in case we wanted to toast to his health in the ER.

When his blood pressure didn't bounce back the paramedics hauled him away in an ambulance. I felt certain he'd had a heart attack and, truth be told, was pretty shook up by the events. I thought of all of the things I've written about him on my blog and what sad reminders they'd be if something serious had really happened.

But, if he recovered and it was simply him just face-planting in the scallops, what. a. great. story.

I told Roz I'd drive their car to the hospital for her so she could ride with him in the ambulance. 

Visions of me speeding through the city behind an ambulance in one of the Boss Man's sports cars — the Porsche 911, or, OOH OOH OOH! Maybe the Ferrari! — danced in my head.

She handed me the keys to the Audi.



Better than my Civic. I guess. 

Does This Mean I'm in the Will?

I pulled the Audi into the emergency room parking at University Hospital and flew into the ER, blowing right past the metal detector. 

Did you know there is a metal detector for visitors in the ER? Me either. But yeah, good idea. 

I rushed to the check-in desk and told the woman that the Boss Man had just been brought in.

“Relationship?” she asked.

I gave her my 'I'm about to ugly cry face' and croaked, "Daughter."

I tried to sound as desperate and as pleading as possible.

She wrote down my name and then wrote "daughter" after it. 

YESSSSS. Victory!

I considered asking for the piece of paper as evidence to later insist I be included in the Boss Man’s will.

Hey lady, this is going to sound crazy buuuut, can I have that piece of paper? It would just really mean a lot to me, being his DAUGHTER and all. So simple yet so profound what you have written there. I'm going through a hard time, can you tell? Just sliiiide it over to me. Thanks.

Thirty minutes later the ER docs decided to admit him. Before we left, I went back to the ER where he, Roz and Carolyn were reading 'All My Friends Are Dead,' the book I had given him during dinner.

Not exactly the book I'd have chosen if I knew he was going to end up in the ER on his birthday... Or is it EXACTLY the book I'd have chosen if I knew he was going to end up in the ER on his birthday?

On the way home, Ray and I stopped at McDonald's for Big Macs. We were starving.

The Kraken Gets Released

Early the next morning Roz texted that there was no new information.

And then, about 10:30 — with NO warning  — the Boss Man came storming into my cubicle, angry and pale-faced, with tape and gauze pads covering his arms and an IV pole practically swinging behind him. 

He was livid.

"Geezus H! What are you doing here?! Did they release you?!"

He had grown impatient waiting for the hospital to discharge him, so he just left and stomped across the street to his office.

“I’m calling Carolyn! She's going to be SUPER mad," I said. "Does Roz know you're out?!"

“Don't you dare! You've called enough people," he yelled. "You've cost me thousands of dollars!"

Official Review: Splendid

Honestly, him passing out was the best thing that's happened to us because it led to a make-up dinner at Orchids, which we spent making endless jokes.

Are you well enough to order seafood this evening? Perhaps you should get the steak. We don’t want you to pass out again.

What wine pairs best with scallops infused with unconscious face?

Should I bring scallops over for Thanksgiving, in case you want to pass out in them?

And we were able to try all sorts of different menu items — roasted chicken, braised short ribs, butternut squash soup with granola, marinated beet salad. The flourless chocolate torte.

All of which were wonderful. And after desert they just kept bringing us more sweets, I think because the first meal had been so... adventurous.

They were plying us with so many desserts I fully expected there to be a pie in the car when the valet pulled up.

In the end, there never was an official diagnosis for the Boss Man's face-plant into his scallops other than perhaps he was dehydrated and not taking his blood pressure medication properly.

And Orchids, both times, was splendid. The food, the service, the ambiance: all wonderful. 

Dinner at Orchids is especially great when you actually get to eat all of it.