The place is still gorgeous. Having breakfast out on the sunny deck (fried eggs and onion bagel with coffee) was a soothing joy. The wind made the heat pleasant and I even got a bit of sun. Even the run to a strange hybrid of pharmacy/grocery store unearthed charming surprises.
A walk on the beach and dip in the warm ocean water made the early afternoon. The pelicans were gracefully grazing the ocean’s surface and the cloud of dragonflies in an odd ritual was fascinating.
Then it started to go wrong.
Our first mistake, visiting the pool.
In all, the pool/ hot tub area is a tasteful place. There was a pleasant cross section of polite elderly and polite Spanish speaking folk. The sun was out, the breeze was right, everything was going nicely.
As usual, when things are quiet and relaxing, you know what’s going to happen and who’s going to screw it up. Enter; three of the white trashiest white trash bunches you can possibly imagine, arriving like the Mongol horde with their loud, rude mouth-breathing DNA chain in tow.
Now, if this was just a travel weary crew that was looking to unwind after arriving at their destination, that’s cool. The issue is that they brought their Sally Jessie Raphael worthy squabbles to air – loudly – so we ALL got to enjoy them. So we endured the sparring, screaming, rotten brats fiddling with the handicapped equipment without doo-rag wearing loaded parents saying a word and filed out of the area, group by group, ceding ground to the ambitiously obnoxious.
Weren’t people like this why Disneyworld was created? Why are they two hours south of that destination? Am I going to get lucky and maybe hear that they are going to drive on to Cuba?
Anyway, to forget the damned, the bride and I make plans for dinner. She is in a chicken type of mood, a fare that seems to be in short supply in this seafood and steak climate. I decide to take a monumental risk and find the location of a supposedly well-received Greek restaurant twenty minutes’ drive away, name...well...let's call it The Parthenot. The menu has a plethora of chicken dishes and (of course) offers one of my very favorite foods of all times – stuffed grape leaves or Dolmades. In my experience, Greek restaurants also have some of the best coffee. That goes well with another dessert fave, baklava.
I really should have known better, so I must take a portion of the blame for what happens next. It’s not like there is a significant Greek community to support such an establishment, regardless of comparable climates.
The first indication that my judgment was flawed hit us as soon as we left the car. Greek music was blaring from inside the building. We open the door and are greeted by a substantial crowd and – get this – a blond haired, barely eighteen looking belly dancer, outfitted with Steve Nick’s eighties ensemble after it was passed through a wood-chipper and dancing to the odd discordant Greek parody music..
The look my wife gave me was not “Good choice”.
Since we were there and the collection of families were encouraging this cultural mish-mash (Really, would you accept Geisha Girls waiting on you in a Chinese restaurant?), we were lead to a table, our drink and appetizer orders taken (in the local tradition, they do not have a full liquor license, so ouzo was out of the question). The only thing missing, other than cultural relevance, was napkins and silverware. Apparently the wait staff was a distracted by the floor show as the patrons.
Thankfully, onion rings (Angie’s fave) are finger foods. The problem was there weren’t even curtains to wipe our fingers on. Since Angie had a new blouse, bought for the trip, it was up to me to shoot up a flare gun to get someone’s attention at this oversight.
We let that pass and thankfully the odd show came to its conclusion, dropping the volume of the discordant music from ear-splitting to merely obnoxious. Added bonus; we are presented with actual utensils – things are looking up, right?
The food comes and I look down at my plate, spotting 8 odd looking tiny lumps of grape leaf covered fair, next to a pile of rice ‘pilaf’ that appears to have come from a boil-in-bag mix. Regardless, I venture forth and pop a dolmade in my mouth – and nearly gag.
I cut up another one and look at it, then a third to make sure I’m not hallucinating. I’m not. I’ve just been presented with a $15 plate of Greek rice roll sushi that was boiled for a period of time that could be measured geologically. Maybe the rice is better than it looks? Wrong again. There is no orzo and the seasoning mix is like someone dropped the spice tray into the pot.
“Uhm…waitress?” I grab her attention when beer #2 is presented.
“Is everything alright?” She cocks her head like a German Sheppard that has heard a high-pitched tone.
“I ordered dolmades, you know…stuffed grape leaves.”
“Yes, that’s what that is.” She points down, in case I’ve mistaken my plate for the bowl of sugar packets.
“There is no meat in these. No lamb, no beef, just…rice pudding.” I point down at the plate as well, signifying that I can indeed identify an entrée.
“Yes, that’s how we make them.”
“But you call them dolmades.”
“Yes, that’s what they are.”
“No – there are not. Stuffed grape leaves have ground lamb or beef or both with seasonings. This is rice wrapped in mulch.”
“But…that’s how we make them. Is the rice alright?”
Obviously one of us is missing the point. Angie, sensing an eruption, shakes her head and focuses on her far better prepared (albeit, in no way Greek), chicken dish, called a Greek taco (apparently the intent is to offend several cultures at once).
“The rice isn’t pilaf and these are not dolmades.” I try again.
“Do you need more lemon sauce?”
“Will that make them spontaneously sprout ground lamb?”
“No…” she takes a step back, “But I can bring you a plate of lamb.” She offers.
Great, a kit form entrée. She hurries off before I can confuse her more and brings me a small plate of what appears to be, and actually is, gyro innards.
“This is processed gyro meat.” I point down again, lest we revisit the plate confusion.
“Well, you wouldn’t want a big chunk of lamb, right?”
God forbid, why would a part Syrian and longtime Greek food enthusiast want a plate of icky lamb? I realize this is a futile discussion.
“Does an actual Greek person own this place?”
She thinks for a half minute (no word of a lie) and comes back with ‘oh yes’.
“Are they here?” I slip my steak knife under the table.
“No.” she shakes her head after another very pregnant pause.
“This is inedible.” I push the plates away.
“Would you like something else?”
“Yes, the check.”
“We can give a complimentary dessert.”
The mind boggles. If this is how they butcher a several thousand year old simple Greek dish, the thought of what they could do to baklava is terrifying. Since I don’t want a squashed Twinkie with honey and peanuts ladled on it and doubt they could master the intricate art of coffee, I stick to my plan of getting the hell out of there, ASAP. Angie is on board with this as only 1/3 of her entrée is deemed consumable.
That comes sans my initial entrée, as it should. I interpret this as an indication and agreement that neither us blight the others presence again. On that, Ms. ‘but that’s how we make them’ are in utter and complete agreement. McDonalds could not have violated Greek cuisine any worse than this place. I’d say I’ve given her something to consider as well, but realize that is highly unlikely. Next week she’ll probably be working at an Applebee’s anyway – or moves up to belly dancer (at least she was brunette).
So, day two would up with us back on our wonderful deck, listening to the sound of surf while consuming cocktails and munching on far superior day-old leftover pizza and cashews. At least the night ended well and provided a few cynical laughs before bed.
In truth, we got very lucky the night before in finding top-notch surprisingly authentic Italian cuisine in a place it had no right to exist. My failing was thinking that was possible in a place that actually claimed to cater to that ethnic menu. Live and learn.
Tomorrow we’ll go to a close by Thai restaurant and sample their chicken fried steak.