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Friday, August 5, 2016

DINING AT 15 CRAIGSIDE

Recognize this flower?


I'll provide the answer at the end.  

Dining at 15 Craigside is okay, maybe even good.  But, as our chef says, this is a cafeteria, not a restaurant, so be realistic.  He's right, so I felt compelled to provide variation.

I pay slightly over $4000/month to stay here, and three meals/day are provided, plus weekly room cleaning with bed sheet (they make the bed) and towel change.  But food quality is of most consequence here.  One never gets tired of home-cooking, but there is something about a cafeteria that can be unfulfilling.  How best then to optimize dining for the rest of my life?

First, our "cafeteria."  If you invite a guest to dine with you, the cost is $14 for breakfast, $18 for lunch and $24 for dinner (I'm rounding off to the next dollar).  I eat, perhaps, 15-20 meals/month (it adds up to around 90/month), so I'm wasting gobs of money.  But the end of my tunnel is near, and I'm optimizing the final stage of my journey by "living life my way," which is a pervading theme at 15C.  They thus love the fact that they don't have to feed me three-fourths of the time.


Almost all my meals for which I show up are at dinnertime, where I join special tables on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  I  try to keep the weekend free, although I regularly join my Wednesday night table on Sundays.  I would say that these dinners are among the highlights of my now two-year stay here:
  • Monday:  seven of us, led by our mixmaster (I'll keep names out of this discussion) and his wife, weekly prepare the most exotic cocktails with fanciful names (like Sex on the Beach, right).  The colors on occasion are fabulous.  This couple also brings local desserts such as layered rice cakes and ginger senbei.  There are nights we seriously think about asking for a few wheelchairs to take us back to our apartments.  15C tolerates us, for we cause no trouble, and, actually share our drinks with various other tables.  One of the staffers donated a bottle of expensive shochu from Haleiwa, and almost got us on CNN News.  Alcohol and appetizers are frequently donated to this table by other residents.
  • Tuesday nights are led by my next door neighbors, and the members keep changing.  We sometimes go upstairs for ping pong. 
  • Wednesday night is my regular group, the same seven, usually, and we feel comfortable with each other.  We normally imbibe two bottles of wine, sake or sochu, but sometimes have no-alcohol nights.  We sit for almost two hours just talking.  This table, with the Monday night group, pushed through a barbecue option, and the administration bought us a really spiffy grill.  
  • Thursday night is for academics, as most of us taught at universities.  The discussion seems more political, international and such.
As people move in to 15C, I would be interested in a weekend table dedicated to higher gourmet, like truffles, caviar, foie gras and ridiculously expensive wines.  Maybe not necessarily weekly, but say monthly.

I chair two committees here:  the Dining/Nutrition Committee and Dining Out Committee.  The latter has sponsored outings twice/month to places like Hy's Steakhouse and The Pig and the Lady.  Our van takes us there and picks us up.  The problem is that we thus miss the meal at 15C.  It's like when I go to Zippy's for an $8 bento, I remember that I am missing that $18 lunch at home, so am really spending $26.

I have thus suggested that we complement this going out with dining in.  We have a room in our solarium on the top floor with a wonderful view, right next to a full kitchen, which is rarely used. 


Say once a month our chef cooks us an epicurean feast for which we pay something extra.  I average more than $100 for each outing, so would probably better appreciate an equivalent meal for half, and probably less, where we can bring our own wines. Steak is never served in the Dining Room, and good thing, because it would be done terribly.  The key to fine dining is temperature and timing.  Half a pound of a Costco blue plate rib eye cannot cost more than ten bucks extra.

The staff could also learn how a real restaurant works, which would mean they would be more prone to find a better job.  But that would be okay with me.  All the suasion I've applied,  though, has failed to influence the management. As the current chef is reluctant to assist, we might need to experiment with a few companies specializing in this kind of service.  Ultimately, I hope for a total partnership with 15C, for something like this option could enhance their marketing prospects.

This week, the 15C president, vice president, dining committee chairman and next chairman met with our counterparts at Arcadia.  I proposed that once/month we send a dozen from here to there, and they do the same, where our van would shuttle us back and forth.  We can thus have something different for dinner, and so can they.  This would be at no extra cost.  This option actually exists, I think, but you need to find yourself there/back and pay a fee for the meal.   Everyone agreed mine was a better arrangement.

Finally, every so often I order take-out for $1.50, so I can eat in solitude on my lanai.  But more than that, I always enhance the dish with fresher vegetables, butter, truffles, whatever.  Here, chili with sashimi, sake and beer:


You don't see the speakers, but I have a bluetooth system that plays from my iPod.  Fried ahi/eggs, miso soup and chu-toro sashimi with the usual drinks:


 The other night I had corned beef and cabbage:


Yesterday for lunch I added truffle oil/balsamic to the salad, fried some broccoli and onion in fat from Japanese wagyu beef, to place over the lasagna, fried the cheese bread in truffle butter, and had them with a splendid Bordeaux:


Could those flowers be mint?


No, for if you trace the stem to the plant, the flower is arugula.  The basil and arugula in my meal came from my herb garden.


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Tropical storm Omais will become a typhoon and head in the general direction of Japan.  In projecting my flight path leaving Honolulu on Monday (which is Tuesday in Japan), my plane will be in the vicinity of the eye off the eastern coast of Tokyo:


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