... the journal

The Guest
Refrigerator Door

The next fridge door belongs to my friend Charlotte.

This came from Hawaii.

* Discussion *

What's your worst
dining-out story?

Talk about it here.

Read the forum that was banned by one reader's office computer because it has "sexual content." I must be having more fun than I thought!


The Hammer of Eden
Ken Follett


The Music Man
on DVD

Pictures from the Cincinnati are now up at Steve's Club Photo page.
Pictures from our Family reunion are on my own Club Photo page.

That's it for today!



2 August 2001

A group of us meets in San Francisco every year for a dinner to remember Gilbert. We choose a different restaurant each year. In the first few years of the 15 we have been doing this we went to restaurants he used to like, but over the years, most of them have closed, so we've moved on to other places that sound interesting.

The choice three years ago was The Russian Bear on Clement St., an area filled with all sorts of interesting ethnic restaurants.

The Russian Bear used to be a Chinese restaurant, someone mentioned, and tossing in a couple of giant stuffed bears and a few fishnets around the lobby did not significantly alter that fact.

Our group of 12 people met in the bar downstairs. Walt and I were the last to arrive and several others were sipping wine already. I caught the eye of the woman behind the bar and ordered my usual -- a Manhattan up with a twist. She gave me a rather blank look and told me, in halting English, that someone would be there who would make my drink.

Soon a gentleman came downstairs and stepped behind the bar. Ah. The bartender! "Bartender, I'll have a Manhattan up with a twist," said I. Not yet having mastered the intricacies of the language, I think that his comprehension stopped at "Bartender."

He asked me what was in a Manhattan. I told him bourbon and sweet vermouth. His eyes lit up. "Vermouth" was a term he'd heard before. He grabbed a tall tumbler and went looking for vermouth. I pointed out that he had the wrong size glass and showed him where his Manhattan glasses were. I saw him frantically looking at some sort of electronic bartender gizmo behind the bar, trying to find out how to make a Manhattan. He asked me again what the ingredients were. Somehow out of "bourbon and sweet vermouth" he managed to extract "vodka, vermouth and orange juice." At that point I told him to forget it and I'd just have a glass of white wine.

Walt checked the label on the Chardonnay the bartender poured and decided he'd try it too. Only it turned out they had no more white wine, so he had to opt for red. In the meantime, Henry and Will were getting $6 gin and tonics.

The bar had not exactly been not quite a stellar experience, so we decided to head upstairs to our table.

Now remember I said this had been a Chinese restaurant in the not too distant past. You've all seen this kind of place--you know--the cozy atmosphere downstairs and the huge hall upstairs with the dance floor and the long tables. We got upstairs and there was one very long table full of Russians, who obviously had had their share of vodka already, and then there were a lot of empty tables. We were escorted to one of the empty tables. These two groups comprised the entire population of the restaurant at least for the time we were there.

Things looked up when the menus arrived. Nice selection of foods and a familiar looking face to take our order--the bartender was now the waiter. We ordered starters--salads and soups and after some attempt to communicate with the waiter through sign language and limited English, Marie managed to get some caviar, though, alas, no black caviar was available. She also ordered a bottle of champagne, again with some difficulty in making the waiter understand exactly what it was that they wanted.

Suddenly someone from the other group decided to go to the stage and play a CD. "Hava Nagila" blared out at top volume, nearly knocking us out of our chairs. After the song ended, the music stopped and conversation resumed.

The starters arrived, along with another round of "Hava Nagila." Only this time the Russians got up and started dancing. "Hava Nagila" segued into a lot of Russian dances, all played at such top volume that conversation was impossible, and Henry had to run out to the car to get ear plugs for Marie. The DJ looked familiar, and was, indeed the bartender/waiter. This, we figured, explained why our main course was so long in arriving.

We watched the Russians dance and, watching them in the cracked mirror which lined the walls, I decided I felt like I was back in some production of Cabaret. Walt said he thought he had stepped into a Fellini movie. One somewhat zoftig, less than youthful woman really got into her dancing and sashayed around the floor seductively while a tall balding man gyrated with his partner. Several women danced together. Someone produced a witch's hat to wear. It was all very weird.

Sometime after an earsplitting "Macarena" (we're not sure if this was a Russian version or not), the DJ finally decided to be a waiter again and bring us our dinner. Most of us had ordered Chicken Kiev. When the starters arrived, I noticed that on the shelf under the shelf that held the salads, there were several plates with chicken kiev piled on them. Those plates disappeared as we received our starters and the length of time between the starters and the serving of the chicken kiev may explain why it was rather dry and missing the necessary gush of butter that you are supposed to get when you cut into chicken kiev. However it was edible, but they had somehow lost Henry's main course.

The champagne, which finally arrived, was from New York, had a label that said "spumante" and I gather from the reaction of the three who drank it, that it will not be appearing soon in their wine cellars.

Dinnertime conversation was somewhat limited by the fact that none of us could hear each other over the noise of the music.

When we finally finished, the waiter asked if we wanted coffee. Marie said she did, though the rest of us were going to wait and have coffee at Jill's instead. The waiter asked Marie something, to which she replied "nyet." He was pleased.

Marie's coffee arrived and she told us that "now that she had mastered the language" we didn't have to wait around for her, and she could finish up by herself. But we stayed. There was a lull in the music at this time and we wanted to take advantage of things to actually talk to each other.

When the balding gentleman decided to be DJ and start the macarena again, at even louder decibels, we knew that we'd hit the wall and it was time to make a hasty departure.

When we chose our restaurant the following year, needless to say, The Russian Bear didn't make the cut. Now, in fairness, this evening happened 3 years ago and perhaps it's improved since then--but we aren't going to chance it.

One Year Ago:
It's All a Game

Some pictures from this journal
can be found at
Club Photo

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Created 8/2/01 by Bev Sykes