In the end, we made it to Holland, Michigan with most of our nerves intact. ‘You don’t look too worse for the wear,’ my mom remarked when she greeted us at our vacation rental. If she’d seen us after the first day of driving she wouldn’t have been able to say the same.
One of the perks of vacationing with family (built-in babysitters?) is the possibility of finagling some time away without the kids. The professor and I were able to do just that, and snuck away one night for dinner without the little people.
Prior to Michigan, we’d had exactly two meals without kids in the nearly eleven months since Percy arrived. The first time was for lunch when the baby was a week old while Jason’s parents babysat the boys. The second time was for takeaway Chinese food..in the car…on the way home…because the babysitter had called and said the baby was crying. Thus it’s safe to say our expectations regarding a night out are fairly (incredibly!) low at this point.
It was nine o’clock by the time we arrived in ‘downtown’ Holland for our big date night. While Jason drove, I scanned the dining brochure we’d found in our vacation rental for some suggestions on where we might dine. Nothing jumped out at me. So when we found a parking spot by the Alpenrose restaurant, we walked in. Even though it violated my primary criterion for restaurant selection: signage font.
The sign was printed in a loopy cursive that looked neither hip nor interesting. Not good. The menu also promised to deliver an ‘authentic taste of the alps’. Which seemed, to me, an overly ambitious sort of endeavor.
The restaurant was fairly empty on account of the ‘late’ hour, and I was actually glad about this since I find dining in noisy environments decidedly unenjoyable. Which is probably why I find nightly dinners with three boy-children somewhat difficult.
Our Alpen waitress had a bit of a mullet – or whatever one calls that girl-on-the-basketball-team-in-the-1980’s look. Sort of spiky on top. Combed back at the sides. A little long in the back. Call me crazy but it made me leery that the food I was about to ingest would be a far cry from cutting edge.
I took a look at the wine list, since it was our big night out and all. Even though we’re typically too cheap to order wine. The list was printed with a biggish font reminiscent of one used for books in the large-print section of the library. And featured unsophisticated words like ‘peachy’. Much as I like peachy white wines, I worried I was going to end up with the riesling equivalent of Riunite. So I stuck with my water and turned my attention to the menu.
I chose the Ploughman’s platter, which sounded like a rustic version of a charcuterie platter. With camembert and blue cheese. And french bread. And pickled things. It had an asterisk beside it indicating it was a ‘house specialty’ so I figured it was a safe bet.
Our waitress returned several minutes later with the aforementioned Ploughman’s platter. And a house salad for Mr. Johnson, who’d ordered prime rib for his entree. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of items on my platter, until I saw the Ritz crackers.
At the top of the plate there was a little crescent of five, artfully arranged….Ritz crackers. Where the french bread should have gone, I guessed. (‘We’ve secretly replaced our usual french bread with these store-bought Ritz crackers. Let’s see if she notices’.)
But what could I say, really? Maybe they were out of french bread on account of the ‘late’ hour. Maybe I’d misread the menu. Either way, I’d be putting camembert…on ritz crackers. And it was all kinds of wrong. Further inspection revealed that most of the platter was all kinds of wrong. Weird pickles. Olives. Hardboiled egg.
Blech, blech, blech.
So for dinner I basically ate ritz crackers. With camembert. And strawberries and grapes. Whilst the professor gnawed on an enormous slab of meat.
When our plates were empty, our waitress returned and asked if we had saved any room for dessert. Before my better half could say ‘yes’, I quickly protested that we were much too full. Contorting my eyes and pointing to my gut for added emphasis.
We paid the bill and hustled to the nearest coffee shop for a latte and a brownie.