Fine dining is a very lucrative industry. It seems that everyone wants to have that one meal every once in a while that is worth splurging on. We all see the places on TV and want to experience “fine dining” at least once in our life, but is it worth it? Is it going to change your life like many would have you believe? I am not speaking for every place, but in my experience with it, it was far from worth it.
As a student in the Napa Valley, I was immersed in a culture that was all about decadence. From the pizza places to the Michelin Star restaurants, fine dining was everywhere. For a majority of my time there, I avoided these places, despite being a student at one of the top culinary schools in the nation. This was mainly due to the fact that I just did not have the money most of the time. Toward the end of my time there in November 2013, I celebrated a birthday. We decided to try out one of the local restaurants called “Goose and Gander.” I made the reservation for 16-20 people, and they let me know that we had the option of trying a tasting menu. After telling them that we would decide when we got there, as we did not have a tally of people yet, they told me that was fine, and we were good to go.
When we got to the restaurant, we were looking at menus, when all of the sudden they started bringing us food, explaining to us that they decided this was the easiest way to do things, and would save us money in the long run. While we were confused, we (stupidly) decided to just enjoy the meal rather than cause a scene. They brought us stuffed peppers and fried olives as an appetizer. Some of us loved it, and others didn’t. Next was an arugala salad with cranberries. It was a good salad, but again, nothing to write home about.After that came the main course, which consisted of roasted chicken, grilled salmon, and New York Steak. The steak was the highlight, though the grilled salmon and the chicken were both very good eats. There was a dessert tray, complete with an individual chocolate cake for me, the birthday boy, and we were all full. A solid meal over all, but nothing we couldn’t have at a lower tier restaurant. Then, the bill came.
The girl who took the bill had a look of death on her face, and initially refused to show me how much (they were treating me, despite my protests). As the bill got around, the look spread like the plague. $1,500. Now while this may seem fine, this was under the assumption everyone ate (which they hadn’t), and this was about double the price of the menu items, which they told us would be more expensive. This may be fine for a group of businessmen, it was not for us. Especially since we had never approved of the fixed menu, and they told is it made the most sense cost wise. The honest statement would have been that it was more convenient for them for us to do that, and they were assuming we were big spenders. This was our fault, as we did not ask the price initially, and decided to trust them, but when we started questioning them, that was when the real fun started.
A manager there (whose name escapes me) said that he agreed with me over the phone to this fixed menu. This was all fine and dandy, other than the fact that I never spoke with him over the phone, and never agreed to the meal whatsoever. After lots of scrounging, and loaning of money, we got the pay figured out, and accidentally gave him $300 extra. He “kindly” asked if this was a tip, I guess as a thank you for the overpriced meal, sub par service, and quality of lies. Lisa, my friend from school. Let it be known we wanted that money back. Despite being caught in his own lie, and building the whole menu on top of that lie, he didn’t knock a penny off of the bill.
We were at fault here. We should have figured this out beforehand instead of trusting the restaurant. While I am sure there are plenty of great experiences to be had in fine dining establishments, this was not one of them. If I had to go back, a simple pizza place with my friends would have been much more satisfactory. While they did not make me pay, that made it sting worse in that they were paying for my overpriced meal, based off of lies and assumptions.