Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 7:19 a.m.
I knew it was bound to happen at any moment and, finally, it did: our relationship had gone from four-star steakhouses to budget beach brunches.
But that's not necessarily as bad as it sounds. My job requires me to dine at some fancy-schmancy place at least once a week and, oftentimes, I drag my poor fella along. It's not always romantic. I spend some of the evening taking notes, our conversation mostly consists of culinary critique, and we are usually seated near other journalists, some more entertaining than others. So when the weekends come around, it's understandable if he isn't exactly in the mood for more.
So this past Sunday, when we both woke up late, still exhausted from the week and
dreading the thought of doing dishes on such a gorgeous day, I rejoiced when he recommended we find someplace for brunch. We searched online and found choices ranging from high-end hotel restaurants to snooty Worth Avenue joints and even seedy downtown eateries that probably just serve the same crap they normally do but slap a Bloody Mary offer down and label it "brunch."
Forget Bourdain, because Benedict is good.
Now before you call me out for ignorance, yes, I have read Kitchen Confidential, thank you very much. I know Anthony Bourdain considers brunch "a dumping ground for the odd bits left over," and I'm sure he's at least somewhat correct in his assessment. I hear one should never trust a skinny chef, but I typically do pay him heed. Probably even the fanciest of hotels are displaying the seafood left over from Friday morning's delivery and have managed to make their unused, slightly browned veggies into some sort of terrine, but it's no matter to me. I've cooked worse for myself from food I found in the fridge that probably expired a few weeks earlier.
I'll eat at a brunch buffet any day. However there is one caveat: I refuse to pay a lot for the privilege. So when I stumbled across Aruba Beach Café
's website and found they were serving up a smorgasbord
for a mere $13.99, we were in.
We must've stumbled in around 11 a.m. and were instantly greeted by a jovial hostess and heavenly sounds emitted from a live steel drummer. I looked around and realized I had never been to this place during the day -- only at night for the bar scene. I sure wasn't about to tell my date about any of those nights.
Soon, without even asking, we were seated close to large windows overlooking the pier. Waves were crashing high that day, and the slight chill in the air signaled that all the white-legged folk on the sand were more than likely tourists.
Soon the conversation turned to islands we've visited and cruises we've taken. He told me about the time he pretty much stayed in a cabin the entire trip, too exhausted to do anything but eat, sleep, and gamble. I told him my horror story about being the only woman who showed up for the singles gathering on a Celebrity cruise
and finding that all the other "singles" were men my dad's age. By the time our coffee and OJ had arrived, he and I had already decided we're due to take our first vacation together and that cruising was the perfect escape plan, especially now that we'd entered the sacred world of coupledom.
Smiling at the thought of floating in the sea away from the rest of the world, we grazed the buffet and found biscuits with gravy, cheese blintzes with cooked apples, smoked salmon and capers, along with fresh fruit salad, home fried potatoes, pastries, bagels, muffins, cereal, sausage and bacon, and waffles and yummy Bimini bread French toast. I even had eggs Benedict [with hollandaise, of course, the sauce Bourdain called "a veritable petri dish of biohazards"] and lived to tell about it.
Now I'm not going to lie to you and claim this was the meal of my dreams, buy hey, the price was right and this experience at Aruba led to an invitation to escape with my man for a few days, so I think it was well worth it.
Aruba Beach Cafe is located at 1 Commercial Blvd. in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Call 954-776-0001, or visit arubabeachcafe.com.
Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try and eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.