When going out to dinner, I expect a pleasant dining experience. I’ll usually order something I am familiar with. Still, I always try to make it something that I couldn’t get in my own kitchen. Foods like shrimp, caviar or lobster are foreign yet fascinating to me. Of course, if I can get it for free or someone else is paying for it, even better.
I had my first experience with shrimp at Beefsteak Charlie’s many moons ago, prior to a concert by The Police at Madison Square Garden. They were famous for their all-you-can-eat shrimp and salad bar, which also came with all the beer, wine or sangria you could drink. While trying to find out just how much beer we could drink, I decided to hit the shrimp bar and find out what all the hype was.
I piled enough “free” shrimp for five people onto my plate and began to chow down, dipping them in the tangy cocktail sauce. After chomping on a few of the disgusting-looking little monsters, I didn’t see the allure or why people enjoyed them so much. They were too crunchy for me, and their little legs kept getting caught in my teeth.
Then I noticed someone at another table removing the shrimp from the shell and shedding the legs before eating it.
Oops, my bad.
They were indeed much more palatable when eating them the way God intended (and everyone else did).
I tried caviar once while in Las Vegas at a work-related convention. Staying at The Mandalay Bay, I was invited to dinner with several consultants at the Russian-themed Red Square restaurant.
Since the consultants were footing the bill, they ordered a few platters of various caviars, something I had never encountered in my life. Although most of the selections were palatable (yet tasteless), the most expensive one looked (and smelled) like fish bait. There wasn’t enough vodka in Russia to get me to try that one.
Then there was the time I chickened out after ordering a boiled lobster.
On our first anniversary, my wife and I spent the weekend at the Montauk Manor, taking advantage of their room and dinner deal. We had our choice of several entrées, including steak and lobster. Since I never had lobster before, I ordered that.
While waiting for our main course, I noticed the couple sitting at the table next to us preparing to eat their just delivered boiled lobster dinner. Recalling my debacle as a first-time shrimp eater, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to study how people eat a boiled lobster in the shell.
First, the waiter placed a large, oversized bib on each of them. Next, the guy grabbed one of the claws and cracked off the appendage. Bits of shell and melted butter flew everywhere, like shrapnel. He then buried his head into the claw, tearing the meat out with his teeth like a Neanderthal. My first thought was this guy didn’t need a bib; he needed a tarp.
I looked at my wife with a panicked expression of fear. She simply said, “You should have ordered the steak.”
I’m not sure I want to tackle food that requires wearing a bib, like an infant. I don’t feel the need to break shells with my bare hands like Fred Flintstone. I already spill enough food on myself while eating regular food, rarely escaping a meal without a stain somewhere.
As the couple continued to attack their dinner like velociraptors at feeding time, I got cold feet, grabbing our waiter’s attention. I told him to forget the lobster and bring me a steak.
To this day, I’ve enjoyed lobster in salads, soups or prepared in the already opened tail. But I’ve never ordered a boiled lobster again. A man has to know his limitations.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.