How to Enjoy a Great Meal at the Trendiest Restaurant in a Major City on A Saturday Night Without a Reservation, or the Case of the Purloined Apricot Brandy Duck Flambe and Steak diane…..

This worked in Capitol Hill in Denver in the 1980’s, so perhaps today technology presents some issues, such as if you show up and say you have a reservation for two at 7:30 pm and the staff can’t find your reservation and the establishment schedules their time slots exclusively through Open Table, you may have a bit of explaining to do,  but you could possibly just blame Open Table’s buggy system, but I suggest you speak with a techie person about what terminology you should use to make this sort of scam effective in 2017, as my friends all know I am so technically challenged I am now asking my university student son how to answer my smart phone.  While I joke in an exaggerated manner about a lot of things with a special fondness for reductio ad absurdum, including my health issues, this is really true.

As a young single woman on the prowl for a suitably affluent mate in the 1980’s, I met a pediatric pulmonologist who practiced at National Jewish Hospital (specializing in lung disease at that time) at a charity fundraiser where I was volunteering.  I don’t know if the same holds true in these times of Tinder hookups, but back then charity fundraisers were a great way to meet eligible men, as at least x percentage were single and eligible and these people tended to be successful professionals of some brand (although you wouldn’t likely find any Walmart Associates) and a person who attends a charity fundraiser is usually a decent person in a moral and ethical sense, as their attendance signifies said attendee at least cares about something/someone outside their own selfish interests, although admittedly for some this is an ego boost or designed to promote their own business/financial interests.

As I wasn’t in the income bracket to afford to attend these fundraisers, where one might pay ten times the value of the meal or event as the proceeds support a charitable activity, by volunteering – make sure you are doing something that allows you to mingle and isn’t terribly hard work, like the person who writes the name tags or checks off the reservations, so you get to observe and plan which targets you will approach, and most often they do the approaching if you are an attractive, intelligent, personable female, and these are the only types of females the charity allows to volunteer in a public manner anyway.

I believe I was about 24 and Dr. David Epstein was around 30 or so, and I know the last name is correct, but I am not certain of the first.  Look, this was more than 30 years ago, okay?  Dr. Epstein smiles at me and his pupils widen, indicating interest, likely sexual interest, as I write his name on his badge and welcome him to this overpriced, poor quality meal where he will be able to mingle with high-level persons who are likely to be useful to his professional advancement and success, as well as perhaps a few attractive, eligible and not obviously sort of gold-digger women, such as myself.

I didn’t and don’t see myself as a gold-digger, as my intention was to be the best and most helpful, supportive, partner I could be, and thus be an asset to any successful professional.  On a date, with my broad base of interests, I could be an interesting and fun, witty conversational companion and even if nothing romantic ever transpired, we often remained friendly and in touch sporadically, and I knew if I needed information or even assistance I could call on this network.

I get that things are different today, and these things were present back then in lower status social groups, although now it seems universal, that sex is expected, not even just one of many options, as either the primary event for a date or at least the finale.  That wasn’t my gig, and these guys certainly could hire the best in that department or find someone willing to quickly and easily provide these services if that was what their immediate need happened to be.

So, if some YUPPIE, that was the word we ladies used back then for a young guy who might not have exactly made it but already was doing very well for his age, had a high status car (I didn’t care about the car, just what it symbolized and at least guys with these kinds of cars kept them clean and not full of crap that had to be moved out of the way when you got in) and a date meant dinner at a nice restaurant, perhaps a concert or play, and maybe finish off with dropping into a trendy place for jazz and a drink or just coffee at some little all-night place.  I remember riding in the car with some guy and he pointed out a bright red sports car (don’t ask me the make I don’t pay attention to these things) and the guy noted, “What a sexy car.”  Now those two words, “sexy,” and, “car,” just don’t go together in the same phrase for me.  I don’t see anything sexy in a car, just comfort and status, but I get guys who obsess over their cars and all their friends and family joke and call it their baby.  We all have stuff like that but I obsess more over books.

Don’t ever go to the guy’s place for a drink or invite him in until you know him well.  You are tired or need to get up early for work or some other plausible excuse, but say it with a smile and give him a passionate kiss and then hug him and pat him on the back like you would a little boy, as he is a little boy at heart and wants some mothering too just as much as he wants other things that you are not providing at this time.  All that is on your schedule, certainly not his, as this little boy, although he may drive a BMW and have titles in front of his name or at the end of his name like Dr., JD, CPA, PhD, or not have any titles, such as a successful investment banker or stockbroker, he needs much more than some temporary entertainment, he requires someone who will understand his needs, help him in areas that are not his strengths, whether it is organization, common sense (brilliant people like my boss with the multi-million dollar medical practice often lack certain practical, common sense skills, like being able to recognize that someone is taking advantage of them or is planning to scam them due to their significant assets and focus on their area of specialty, such as surgery) or minor social deficits – scientific and techie nerds are fine but no social misfits for me.

Another important issue about humor is that sophisticated forms of humor like satire, parody, etc., require high intelligence, (I really like intelligence  in any  person, and then this was especially important in a romantic prospect.)  I am not talking about physical humor like slipping on a banana peel or crude sexual dick jokes – why is this so funny, don’t all you guys have one, so what?  One friend of mine snarkily asked about some guy who thought he was God’s (sexual) gift to women, “What, do you have two?  Now that would really be something.”  When she related the incident to her mother, mom replied, “Well, perhaps he does have two, the way he comports himself.”

Back to Dr. Epstein.  Once I completed my table duties, Dr. Epstein was waiting for me to finish I believe, we bantered about all kinds of humorous incidents in our lives.  See, some of these guys work very hard and might have a lot of job stress, so they enjoy fun in their off-hours, certainly don’t talk about your problems (some stupid girls do) or talk about the latest awful thing in the news or on the political scene, well, at least don’t focus on that for the majority of your conversation, as you will then be associated with something negative, rather than with a pleasant memory of laughing and forgetting all your work stressors for the moment.

As one friend of mine noted that it must be genetic that Jews, I think only the Ashkenazi variety like myself, have this self-deprecating, schizoid style of humor most lack an understanding of.  Certainly this is a survival of the most adapted trait, and humor allows one an entrance where otherwise it would be closed, and helps people who have suffered greatly and survived feast and famine in regard to regimes and religious groups that would accept and do business with them one day and slaughter and drive them out the next.  British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli famously said, “Jews are a nervous sort; 1900 years of Christian love have made them so.”  I suspect that when Disraeli said, “them,” he really meant us, as although his father had him baptized Anglican so he could have better opportunities in life rather than doors shut in his little Jewish face, and I also read something about the dad getting pissed off at a rabbi, well, that is what rabbis, do, duh.  The British PM felt he could do more for his people as a goy, really suspect as to his sympathies, while his good friends and counterparts like Montefiore worked openly on Zionist causes.

I would be suspicious of someone who lacks a sense of humor, especially the ability to laugh at themselves and their own foibles.  There was one guy I long-distance dated for a bit and I thought he was very spontaneously witty, as he always had this appropriate line for any situation.  Later I saw he repeated the same lines, and as he was an extremely successful insurance salesman, it seems he had a memorized list of stories and one-liners to entertain and connect with his clients and prospects according to their area of interest and perhaps social/ethnic/religious/racial/whatever group, and that is what makes a good salesperson, a chameleon who can make their prospect feel like they are one of them and support all their beliefs, loves, hates, etc.  To bond the relationship in even greater trust, the salesperson needs to express the sort of things their target is likely thinking, in areas of the big 3: politics, sex, and religion.  A smart person will pick up the cues, and be careful not to make a fatal error here.

Again, sorry for the rabbit/rabbi trails, I will report the funny stories Dr. Epstein related in regard to his work.  It seems the latest was a kid, son of some Saudi royal (don’t take this too seriously, as at least back then the Saudi royal family consisted of 20,000+ persons, so it wasn’t exactly unique, just an elite billionaires club you might find anywhere of privileged idiots and assholes.  While our affluent subjects usually work for a living, even if it is for daddy’s business or foundation (like one friend of mine Larry I might discuss in another story) in Saudi most royals live on large stipends and don’t need to or desire to work, and many wouldn’t even receive much of an education.  This sort of thing is not thought highly of in the US or most of the world.

So this Saudi royal kid around 3 or 4 arrives with his entourage of about 30 family members along with numerous nannies and servants dragged from Riyadh who attended to his every whim before he even opened his sacrosanct little mouth to issue decrees to his anxious slaves – and they were slaves in that society as these, “employees,” were from the lower socio-economic classes of either poorer Muslim-majority nations such as Pakistan, or non-Muslim majority nations such as Nepal and many came from the Philippines.  In fact, there was such an epidemic of abuse of Philippine household staff like maids and nannies, including sexual and physical abuse, the Philippine government forbade any Saudi or Gulf States visas for maids, nannies, and other household staff, although professionals such as nurses, hospital staff, etc. were allowed.

There were instances of Philippino maids that had fled to the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and other nearby wealthy Arab enclaves because they had been raped or sexually assaulted by their employers or their family members, (was this part of the job description under, “other duties as assigned?) many had been beaten or otherwise physically abused, and I recall reading about one woman where the toddler scion had incurred some minor injury endemic to male toddlers (such as my own) perhaps falling and getting a nasty looking by not medically significant bruise or busting his lip, which can look really alarming as lips bleed a lot but no medical treatment is required except perhaps a hug and maybe a lollipop.  In many cases these, “domestic workers,” signed a contract of an indentured servant nature, where their flight and expenses would be covered by the employer and in return the employee would be required to work a suitable sentence, and would not be allowed to leave their country prior to completing their period of servitude.

For example, I wasn’t exactly pleased, and told a babysitter as much, when I discovered she gave my young son brownies prior to dinner as I had asked her to only provide him with  healthy snacks such as cheese slices, yogurt, fruit or veggies, even celery with PB, because Michael was so insistent with his begging, crying, demanding and protestations of hunger and malnutrition (he was quite a skilled negotiator even prior to his third birthday.)

However, I just verbally sort of laid into her with my frustration that she failed to follow my instructions due to the demands and manipulations of my toddler, but while I considered I might never use her again except in an emergency when I couldn’t find someone else, it wouldn’t occur to me to grab the nearest implement like a broom or umbrella and proceed to beat her with it.  Well, it might occur to me, but I would never enact these sort of fantasy thoughts, as this is both illegal and poor manners in regard to a person visiting your home.

So this Saudi royal arrives at National Jewish Hospital in Denver as it has, at that time, at least according to what Dr. Epstein told me, the reputation as the best place to treat pediatric respiratory diseases.  I believe the hospital was created, along with facilities in Arizona, to treat TB, which was no longer a significant problem.  Also, the dry climates and clean air of Colorado and Arizona were deemed medically beneficial for those with respiratory diseases, some which lacked the treatment options we have today and with some, there was no viable treatment option except a healthy climate. Sadly some person doing a study on air pollution discovered that the corner where NJH was located was the most polluted location of downtown Denver.

So, this Saudi precious darling arrived at National Jewish Hospital (yeah, I know what you are thinking) with his doting brood of attendants that likely booked an entire floor of some ritzy hotel in Denver (Molly Brown perhaps, or do their tastes run to standard stuff like a Hilton resort, or perhaps they own property on the La Costa Golf Course as I am told this was Mafia property at one time.)  My eligible bachelor doctor explained, with disgust, that he diagnosed this kid with asthma, and it wasn’t even severe asthma, and he suspected the numerous stuffed toys and ornate brocade blankets that were dust mite magnets as well as held all sorts of nasty stuff not good for anyone, much less a child with asthma as additionally these could not be washed (yes I know children’s toys today are more likely to be washable and hypoallergenic) while not the cause of this scion’s illness, certainly exacerbated it.  He was also perplexed, as he not aware the caliber of Saudi medicine, even during the 80’s was so poor no health professional was located within their country that could diagnose a kid with something as obvious as asthma.

I have asthma also which is rather mild unless I encounter an allergen or irritant like cigarette smoke.  But as a child, my asthma was more severe, complicated by the fact that there were many allergens in the geographic area where I lived.

So, physicians and staff sent the entourage home with medication, and treatment for asthma wasn’t as advanced as it is today.  They also sent instructions commonly given to parents of children with asthma, that the child’s bedroom needs to be basic, just bed, hypoallergenic linens, and furniture that is easy to clean with no dust gathering items out in open.  They staff also provided instructions on cleaning, including that of linens and instructions on making his home environment as medically beneficial as possible.  I believe they did allergy testing and provided injections to be taken home and given by a nurse, as there are foreign nurses who work in the Kingdom, as they put it.

Interesting that there was a Kuwaiti guy in one of my health care management classes.  He told me that medical care at that time in his home country at that time was abysmal.  Most of their doctors came from Egypt, and a system of bribes in that country allowed a person to graduate medical school and practice who was not fit to mop the floor.  Wealthy people went to London or some major foreign city for treatment.  I know some of these Gulf States counties contracted for foreign medical professional and support staff to build modern hospitals and hire qualified staff.  But even this was beset with bribes and dysfunction as back then (now too?) a member of the royal family had to be involved or a partner in any business endeavor, and let’s just say things weren’t exactly kosher.  I know, not the best choice of words.

So, of course, after becoming acquainted at this charity event, Dr. Epstein asked if I would like to go out afterward.  I don’t recall what we did, as we already had eaten dinner, perhaps we went to a piano bar or some place to hear music and get drinks, and one thing we had in common is neither of us were big on drinking more than one alcoholic drink.  I guess because David was short, about as tall as I was at the time, only 5’3, or maybe he was a bit taller.  I don’t know why some ladies don’t like short guys.  As I am short there isn’t the issue of towering over a guy and feeling awkward.  Some cultures don’t find this problematic, such as the Arab and other Mideastern cultures, where you could see King Hussein and the Shah of Iran, both rather short, with towering beauties for wives, they stand proudly beside.  I even spoke with an Israeli Arab Christian when I was there, also in the 80’s, and he agreed this wasn’t an issue in his culture, but Americans and some others can be so dumb sometimes.

David drove a black BMW, luxury model but not the top one.  Now I know little about cars, although I get guys really get into all these details of power and performance.  I just notice the status of the car, and yes I know the difference between the basic and luxury model, and the hierarchy of cost and status of cars.  Even my older son when he was little learned to notice status cars (must have been precursor of elitism which mom shares as he won’t go into a Walmart) and this little 2-year-old would say, “Cedees,” for Mercedes, and as soon as he learned his alphabet he could say, “BMW,” and would pick out these cars in parking lots, likely due to recognizing the symbol.

The incident in question in the title occurred during our first real date. Gosh, sorry, I know other people complain I take so long to get to the point because there are so many interesting turn-offs, although we do get there finally.

David picked me up after work on a Saturday – I think he had to work or had to come in on call.  We didn’t have any exact plans and he drove to Capitol Hill or some other trendy area – David likes trendy.  I like trendy too, but a restaurant must have good quality food and service with ambiance a plus but not required, well it is nice for a romantic evening.  This was prior to my gig writing restaurant reviews for The North County Entertainer many years later, but I already was a critic, pretty much of everything I used or paid for, as I notice details of things that are important to me.

Capitol Hill was a gay area back then when gayness was not exactly accepted in the mainstream, but basically cool among the trendies.  I recall there was a grocery chain called, “King Soopers,” and people would commonly call the store in this area, “Queen Soopers.”  A person who found their photo in the newspaper in Denver of themselves in front of that store with the headline saying something about, “Queen Soopers,” filed a nuisance lawsuit as he didn’t like being identified with this title just because he happened to be shopping at the store at that time and it is true there was never any signed release for a photo where one could identify the person. Someone at the paper wasn’t paying attention to their legal department, I presume, but he only got $5,000, I would think because he didn’t  have the money to hire an attorney and it would be difficult to prove there were much in the way of real damages.  That settlement check likely paid for more than a few nice meals and entertainment in said trendy area, though.  Too bad I didn’t get myself in that photo-op.

David found a place to park, quite a feat on a Saturday during prime time and in a prime space.  We walked a bit to look at eateries and decide where we might like to eat.  Neither of us planned our evening, so neither of us made a reservation. I tended to go to places more close to my home in also trendy Glendale, at one time (or perhaps still?) the city noted for having the most clubs in the US, which surprised me.  Glendale tended to have larger establishments, unlike the smaller ones in Capitol Hill and other downtown Yuppie neighborhoods, I guess due to real estate leasing costs.

So we find a place we think we will like and go in and speak to the Maitre D.  He said, “What is your name, we have a 90-minute wait.”  David and I shook our heads at each other as we were both a bit hungry, and this seemed like too long a wait.  So we went to the restaurant next door and asked the lady at the front how long the wait was.  She said an hour and fifteen minutes or so.  This also wasn’t much better, so guess who had a bright idea?  David suggested maybe we should drive someone outside this trendy area where we could at least eat our dinner before next week.  The problem is the really good places all require reservations.

I would have loved to go to Cafe Giovanni on Market Street, which was rated as the top restaurant in Denver, but reservations there need to be made far in advance.  Another really hot new place with a hot new chef was Dudley’s, and once I was on a date with a different guy, named Johnny who worked for his dad’s company as a rep  We stopped in late, but not on a weekend, perhaps it was their slow day like Monday or Tuesday, just to have dessert, as they make all these delicious work of art desserts, and they had a table for us, as we explained we already had dinner as they were closing in an hour or so.

Dudley’s was gaining ground on Cafe Giovanni’s, at least this is what I heard.  While Gio breathed sedate class – I went there for lunch once and the tasting menu was so fun, tiny bites of all their specialties.  The trio of desserts I relived in future dreams, and one I recall in most detail was an angel cake type roll, filled with Grand Marnier soaked orange slices.  But Dudley’s drew a younger, less reserved crowd, with its hot new chef who always had his latest experiment brewing.  Cafe Giovanni’s was reserved and elegant, while Dudley’s with its hot new chef always offered something surprising and delightful, and dedicated fans thrilled more to the suspense than the food, I think.  Dudley’s closed suddenly after only being in business a couple years, despite its growing success.  I heard a rumor it got busted for cocaine and knowing the clientele, as well as the devotion of the staff in pleasing its patrons, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Johnny was a really fun guy as he had an expense account so dinner or whatever was always on dad.  I know it is bad form to pad your expense account, but if the boss is your dad, I would think that falls into a different category, as what is family for?  Our expensive meals and entertainment on dad meant nothing, as Johnny informed me that he once dated a single mom and bought her diapers, baby stuff, and food at a convenience store owned by a gas station, which he paid for with his company gas card.  I met the dad, who liked me, of course as the nice Jewish girl stereotype, who would be a good influence on his son and make him settle down at 30, and I think his mother had died of cancer a couple years ago.  Johnny visited me on a business trip when he went to a sales convention in Chicago.

The convention was stuff like tools or something not really interesting to me.  So Johnny so considerately asked if I would like to go get a mani-pedi, massage or facial or something at the hotel that hosted the convention, and I don’t even recall which one it was.  Sure, what a nice offer, I have never had a date or a boyfriend offer to treat me to this sort of stuff. I don’t think it is because they wouldn’t want to, but these things are not on the radar of most guys, but what was on Johnny’s radar, of course, was how to maximize his use of dad’s resources, as certainly he wasn’t going to suffer any negative consequences for such behavior, and dad probably knows and is laughing about it, maybe even the diapers.

I spotted a place that I  recalled a friend saying she had gone there for her and her husband’s anniversary and it was so special as they did tableside service.  This wasn’t so common back then and is even rarer now, as this practice is so cool and fun but very expensive for the establishment as it is labor intensive and requires very skilled labor and enough of it to satisfy all the requests of the patrons.  Tableside service is where they might do a duck in brandy and then flambe it in front of you, and part of the service is style, with the staff putting on a bit of a show.  Once at a hotel where I won a weekend for two in some writing contest, hubby and I ordered our Caesar salad and it was made for two in front of us, including the dressing was made on the spot and the person asks you exactly how your want things, as everything is made to order.  My son loves creme brulee, and dishes like Crepe Suzette are made in this manner.

So I told Dr. Epstein to let me handle this, and we went inside.  I walked up to the Maitre D and effortlessly said, “Table for two, 7:30 pm, Dr. Epstein.”  I really think the “doctor,” part might have been helpful, as we were escorted to a table without any check of the reservation list, which back then was low tech, as in written on paper.

The menu looked scrumptious and we were hungry and sorry, I don’t even recall the name, but it likely isn’t there any longer, although my favorite sushi place is, right near one apartment I had in a house built in the 19th century called, “Sushi Den,” the first time I was brave enough to eat real, raw sushi, not just California rolls.  I didn’t grow up with a very exciting or expansive palate, and when growing up I don’t think there was even one sushi bar in the DC Metro area.  The first time I tried sushi was when on a trip to California at the age of 18, but I just had cucumber and CA rolls and failed to venture father.  I suppose I succumbed to the sushi bigotry I was brought up with, which includes such discriminatory ideology as, “Yuk, raw fish, that is disgusting, who could eat that?”  Currently, sushi is our family’s favorite food.

I ordered an incredible duck with apricot sauce and brandy, while David picked Steak Diane, as he was much more of a carnivore than me.  I had a glass of wine recommended by our sommelier while David, not a big drinker anyway had a coke as he was on call, but didn’t think he would get called in and mentioned that considering how good this meal was he might forget to change the batteries in his pager, or some other excuse if someone dared to interrupt our evening.  His practice was like this, as there were rarely emergencies someone else couldn’t handle, as he didn’t do surgery and basically anyone could give the advice to go to the ER if  necessary.

While I was digging into the duck, with David entranced by the steak, our waiter came by and asked, “Excuse me, what time did you say your reservation was?”  Now I doubt they suspected that such an upstanding member of society as a doctor and I am sure they heard us discussing the crazy stuff that went on at the hospital, would allow his date to fake a reservation just because they both were hungry and not in the mood to drive somewhere to find a place to eat not so trendy and in demand, but perhaps they thought we or they made an error as to the time.  And likely the couple who had the 7:30 reservation showed up a bit late, and now were waiting for their table.  Sorry to those people whose table we stole.  I promise never to do it again.  Well, maybe I don’t, but you can’t really do this so well today.

After the waiter left, David whispered to me, and it wasn’t sweet nothings as you might imagine.  He said, “I was wondering if he was going to remove our food.”  I can’t imagine what an establishment could do even if our subterfuge was discovered and they certainly can’t prove, more likely they figured either their staff or myself were mistaken about the time or date of the reservation.  Last time I looked, stealing a reservation was not a crime in any state, and as our order was going to be triple digits once we finished dessert and coffee, why would they do anything?

David and I had a third date that was our last, but we remained friends.  I learned on date three that David’s father had been killed in the Vietnam War, and he had a lot of bitterness about that, especially toward God and religion of all kinds, and that wasn’t something I felt would work in a serious relationship.  He also invited me to come in for a “night cap,” after our date, and I pled fatigue and realized this wasn’t where I wanted to go, and he might likely expect things to move along if we had another date.

Once I ran into him, telling him I had been sick and as I had no insurance at the time, I went to the ER at Denver Med Center to be treated. David was upset at me and asked why I  hadn’t called him, as he would have taken care of me.  I guess I don’t like to bother or take advantage of people in that way.

For some reason, I went through this phase of being sick almost continually for about six months, and I have heard this occurs sometimes in early 20’s, just immune system issues?  It was nothing serious but I had one case of strep after another, and one case of bronchitis after another, and colds would bring on asthma requiring me to go to the hospital for treatment, as the medications I use today were not yet developed.  My dad informed me that he had not told my grandmother I was sick as he didn’t want to worry her, however, he had no problem telling her I was rarely working (with temps when I felt better) so dad told me, “your grandmother just thinks you are being lazy.” Yeah, thanks.

When I went back East for my grandmother’s 90th birthday party, she took me to her doctor who was very thorough and was an expert on vitamins.  He discovered an infection in my gum, a pocket by a wisdom tooth, which I didn’t end up removing until I was over 50 and had worse problems.  Wow, some doctor checking my mouth, and then he put me on some supplements.  Things got better after that, whether due to the treatment or not.

I did look up Dr. Epstein and he wasn’t at National Jewish, and as this is such a common name I don’t think I could find him the way I sadly discovered my former boss had died in 2008 at the age of 66 due to cancer.  Well, David, I hope you recall that little adventure with fondness, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you tried it for yourself sometimes, of course having your date be the “front man.”


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