Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ruby Tuesday’s

Festus, MO

Sure, we’d been there before, but we decided to go and have something different. Usually I get a steak, and they make a pretty good one, but on this day I simply wasn’t in the mood.

First, we were going on Sunday rather than our usual Saturday, Adam’s new job required him to work on our normal night. On Sunday morning I woke up, Angel was already out with the dogs, as usual. I knew she wouldn’t be up for long. I’d been up most of the night myself tending to some work systems to protect them from the switch back from Daylight Savings Time. I was groggy and sluggish but still managed to trek to the Circle K convenience store to get a cup of dark roast coffee. I just can’t seem to get a good cup at home, our water just doesn’t allow for it.

So I sipped my coffee, watched CBS Sunday Morning and wolfed down a microwaved sausage biscuit. Angel took advantage of my being up and headed in for a nap. This is typical of our Sundays, her napping and me babysitting our dogs as they snooze in the warm sunny spots by the sliding door. Bailey, the grand matron of the pack, patrolled the back yard warding off squirrels, motorcycles and some unseen things.

At one point her resonant baritone bark seemed more focused, more determined, I slipped out the door to the deck to see if she’d spotted a deer, rhinoceros, or wandering vagrant. I couldn’t see what had her attention, and she broke off the alert after a few moments and continued her patrol.

The morning was warming up, the fallen leaves rustled in the slight breeze. I was just standing there enjoying the moment, thinking about how long it would be before it would be too cold to just stand out there without a jacket. Into my field of vision came a small bee. It was staggering in flight, showing poor control. It was late in the year for bees to be just flitting about, no pollen bearing plants anywhere around. Just as my mind comprehended that this was a small bee, and how it was odd to see one this late, it clumsily dived and landed directly on my face, just below my left eye. In less time than it took for me to think “Hey, there’s a bee on my face!” The critter buried it’s stinger into my fleshy upper cheek. I believe I yelped since I am prone to do such things. I pulled it away and slammed it into the ground where it disappeared into the leaves and grass, dying a slow agonizing death if there is in fact any cosmic justice in the universe. My face burned fiercely. I was suddenly fully awake.

I powered up my laptop to find out what to do, whether or not to wash/ice/medicate it. I couldn’t recall being allergic to bee stings, but then again allergies sometimes do not start until later in life. I already felt some swelling and I thought I could feel the burning poison seeping deeper and deeper.

I found a site that had pretty specific instructions, so I washed the stung area and applied an ice pack. Actually it was a bag of frozen lima beans. I kept an eye on it and for the next hour it did not seem to be getting much worse, though it had swelled and reddened and had freezer-burned into it the logo from the lima bean bag. The web site mentioned that Benadryl was recommended to stop the swelling. I knew Angel had some but I decided to wait for her to wake up before bothering with it. I also recalled that Benadryl makes her woozy. This I feared greatly. She has a much higher tolerance for over-the-counter drugs than I do. I get dizzy form M&M’s and the stronger stuff, like Ibuprofen and antihistamines, are darned near narcotic to my sensitive yet handsome system. But I had no choice, Dr. Internet said I needed to take some Benadryl.

So the rest of the day, I froze my face with lima beans, suffered the drowsiness and general mental degradation of Benadryl/lack of sleep from the night before, and checked my otherwise beautiful face in the mirror every hour or so.

By the time we were ready to go out, I wasn’t as hungry as I usually am. I was in fact a bit queasy, bitter, and melancholy.

THAT’s why I didn’t want steak. Steak is best when you are feeling good, on top of the world.

The Place:
Just down from Lowes (which sits on top of a family cemetery, but that’s another story) Ruby Tuesday’s is one of our former regular places. It’s a stand-alone and fancies itself a sports bar, though there were not many sports persons there on this day.

We were immediately seated by one of the six young ladies, all clad in black, that were hovering at the door. We were shown to a table, a hybrid, with a booth seat on one side and chairs on the other, this pleased us all. We ordered our drinks, tea, tea and Coke. And our waiter introduced himself in a lilting manner. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

We scanned the menus, I was looking for not-steak. There was plenty to choose from and in quick order I decided. Adam didn’t take long either. Angel struggled enough to send the lilting waiter away for a few more minutes. She finally surrendered to her reluctant choice.

We ordered and were brought a small plate of garlic cheese biscuits, a new item on their menu. Overhead at the bar a sports competition was underway on the ceiling mounted television set. A helmeted team of large men in green jerseys were standing around pulling on various body parts as some referees conferred on a matter of obvious universal importance in the middle of the field. Yikes, what a tedious enterprise. All the other times I looked up at it, there were only commercials for beer and large pickup trucks.

The Food:

I ordered the crabcake dinner, with a baked potato and grilled green beans. Angel asked for the barbecue ribs, baked potato and broccoli (yuk). Adam the Smokehouse burger, sans tomato and onion rings, with a side of fries. We all ordered the salad bar, because RT’s has the best salad bar in the county.

We piled our salads high with four types of greens, five different shredded cheeses, onions, peppers, cucmbers, mushrooms, slaw, apple salad, grapes, bacon, bologna, carrots, tomatoes, and our choices from nine different dressings (of which I drizzle on three, Thousand Island, Bleu Cheese and a vinaigrette.) Adam and Angel LOVE the dark, thick croutons, I don’t. Everything about the salad bar and the individual salads was excellent, fresh and plentiful. Except for the slaw which was very, very bland. We asked for another round of those cheesy biscuits, this could have been the meal in itself, highly recommended!

Crabcake:

This was not as easy a choice as it might appear. I was biased. I KNEW the crabcake was not going to be as good as I hoped, it never, ever is. I’ve had the best crabcake in the world. Nothing else has ever been remotely as good. There are those that might disagree with me on this, I do recognize that people have opinions that do not square with mine, I do not for the life of me understand why, and I certainly do not respect it, but I do recognize that such a confounding state exists.

The Captain’s Table, Solomons, Maryland.

It’s a small, old, slightly warped and weather worn restaurant on the shore where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay. It’s behind the Day’s Inn, where I spent a couple of months back in 2001 after getting a job with the Navy at the nearby base. Too pricey for casual meals, it was a great place that Angel and I enjoyed on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and ‘a desperate craving for cream of crab soup’ during the five years we spent in Maryland.

If it weren’t a thousand miles away from my current residence I’d go there as often as fiscally possible. The crabcakes are perfect, the soup, simply to die for. I don’t even know what else they serve.

Enough about that though, back to reality, present time.

The Food: (cntd.)

We were served, the plates sizzled and the waiter warned us about the hotness of the plates. My crabcake was burger-sized, grilled to a lovely brown. The beans were almost charred and glistened in their coating of oil. The potato was substantial, and topped with butter, real butter and sour cream. There was a dipping sauce for the crabcake, which I tasted and scooted away. Too spicy, I like the subtlety of crabcakes, I don’t want or need to hot-wing them up.

I prepped the potato, which basically means I shredded it, peel and all, to make sure none of the dairy toppings went to waste. I tasted the beans, tender, grilled, very good. The first bite of crabcake was satisfying, not really bad at all. There was definitely crab in it, real crab, not that ‘Krab’ you see in grocery stores in the Midwest, the stuff with the curious orange striping.

Not too much breading, this is where many places absolutely blow it. Crab has a sweet, delicate taste and can be smothered by too much breading or mayonnaise, though it sings beautifully when the proportions are correct.

The next few bites were okay as well. About halfway through though I became bored and frustrated with it. I dared not speak what was on my mind. I offered Angel a bite, then another. She didn’t sense it. I couldn’t say it, but there it was. I was actually preferring the potato over the crabcake, a sin in anyone’s Bible. I’m sorry, the crabcake was too salty. There I’ve said it. The potato, even with all that butter and sour cream was not salty, the beans were not salty, it was the crabcake. I’d swear an oath to it, but I’m not supposed to declare anything too salty. I will say it wasn’t WAAAY too salty, just too salty for my delicate taste buds. It wasn’t awful, just not up to my already lowered expectations.

Angel let me try a chunk of her ribs, which she tossed at me from the end of her fork. I’m not a good judge of ribs, I find them all too greasy. But she was going crazy over them so I told her it was quite good. It’s not beneath me to lie to her (or anyone else) to keep the peace. Adam didn’t finish his burger, but not because it wasn’t good. He’d worked the night before so his sleep/eating schedule was off, and his salad had been enormous. We boxed it up and took it home.

Summary:

All in all a very good experience, even with my issues with the crabcake. I did finish it. The combination of an exceptional salad bar, those wonderful biscuits and overall high quality more than made up for a single petty weakness.

The tab came in under fifty six dollars before tip, not cheap, but the food was mostly top-drawer. The price is typical of this caliber of chain restaurants, so comparatively not bad at all. We will go back, and of all the chains around this is my personal favorite. Maybe not crabcakes again, but they’ve got plenty of other stuff to choose from.

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