My in-laws have been in town for the past two days, which is a fairly exhausting task for a variety of reasons, not the least of which because you suddenly find yourself taking on the responsibility of two other people's happiness and enjoyment for 48 hours. I love my in-laws and get along fabulously with them, but I am an apprehensive host at best, an overwrought freak at worst when contemplating how to entertain visitors.
When my husband informed me a few weeks ago about their impending visit, I immediately started thinking about dining options. Dining with my husband's family is always an event -- appetizers for everyone! Cocktails! Salads! Sides galore! Everyone gets a dessert! I certainly don't mind all of the fuss around eating, but it does put a certain level of (entirely self-imposed) pressure on someone with my level of guest anxiety to make the best dining selections in town. I immediately went to my favorite Foodie Resource for our area, the D Magazine Side Dish blog, which always has the most up-to-date information about area restaurants. Such blogs are a great way to find out special deals at restaurants, holiday menus, chef gossip, and honest reviews. Many local papers have similar resources, and I would advise you to seek out your local paper's food blog.
A brief aside: I use the term foodie with great hesitation, given its recent (in my mind) negative connotation, essentially meaning Cocky Food Snob. I'm also pretty sure that given my proclivity to (GASP!) order both Caesar salads AND the dreaded calamari at fine dining establishments that any foodie cred gained with my willingness to spend good money on meals out has been lost.
During my free moments at work, I perused the Side Dish archives and Open Table to locate the perfect dining establishments at which to feed my in-laws. As I made my selections, I informed my husband and he complimented me, "Mom and Dad will be ever so impressed at our dining diversity!" Excited, I yelled "I KNOW! That was totally my point!" at which time he informed me that he was joking. I get no appreciation around here, obviously.
Where did we eat? Well, we made some last minute alterations to two of our plans (of, uh, three) but we ended up with a diverse selection of eateries.
Initially, for lunch, it was my intention to at Brackets, which is new to Dallas. As the restaurant is a sports bar/pub, I thought it would be a nice selection for that initial meal, which always tends to be a bit awkward as we all get used to being around each other. I thought the sports bar element would provide good background noise for any conversational lulls. Ultimately, we ended up eating at R + D Kitchen. We switched venues because R + D is located in a shopping center (great place for a nice after-lunch walk) and because there is outdoor seating -- we had an unexpectedly beautiful 75-degree day on Saturday and I wanted to take full advantage. I also didn't mind a chance to eat my favorite salad on earth -- the Newporter.
For dinner, we dined at Hibiscus, which is my favorite restaurant in Dallas. Everything I've ever had there is amazing, and they have the best Ice Box Pie on Earth (I may have indulged in a taste of gluten on that one). The restaurant has perfect ambiance, and has been the backdrop for many anniversary and birthday dinners in our marriage. I think its always nice to share something like that with family in town.
For brunch this morning, we dined at the Common Table, an impulse decision because my initial choice of Cafe Istanbul (link has music -- be warned!) just wasn't sounding good (although, it would have made me look so culturally diverse!). This was another spot chosen based on patio access. The menu was fantastic, and for myself, who doesn't really like breakfast foods, it is key that a brunch menu have lunch style selections. It was the perfect way to end a great dining weekend.
So what about you? Do you spend this much energy prepping for out of town guests? How do you decide what to share about your city's dining scene with visitors?