Saturday, March 5, 2011

an observation at the dinner table

            As Jason and I dined at The Waterfront restaurant at Viaduct Harbour last night I realized that very soon we would be back to American dining.   That thought made me cringe a little.  
Let me explain.  

           In America it's all about how much food you can fit onto one plate.  Gigantic portions, huge plates, bottomless drinks.  Prices are reasonable so you don't have to think twice about ordering the huge burger.  You know that by ordering the huge burger, you will automatically get french fries and maybe even potato chips or some other nasty side dish.   

          In New Zealand (and virtually all British influenced countries) dining out is about the experience.  Service is a bit slower and it's more of a wine and dine affair rather than an all you can eat buffet and kids eat free kind of place.

          First, you order an appetizer to share around the table.  A bread platter, crackers and cheese, antipasto platter are all pretty common appetizers.  Second, you order an entree', quite commonly a pumpkin soup of some sort or salad.  Third, you order a main dish.  I know, a 3 course meal sounds like we're all eating much more than anyone in any state of America. False.
side note:  I still order a main or an entree', not both.  It's just not in my blood. 

          Food portions are normal here.  Plates are never filled to the brim.  Food will take up the very centre of the plate and nothing more.  This dawned on me last night when Jason ordered steak.  I was visioning a huge slab of meat being brought out with enough french fries to feed a family of 5 and mashed potatoes covered in butter.  Wrong again.  The waitress brought out a piece of meat smaller than my fist with an even smaller serving of mashed potatoes.  

          In New Zealand there is no such thing as free refills.  If you order a Sprite, you get 1 cup of Sprite. All I know is that drinking a gallon of pop with your dinner is not the best choice in the world-even if it is free refills.  Actually, I'm probably the wrong person to be giving opinions on pop.  I hate the stuff and would rather die of thirst than drink it.  
 side note:  when Jason first came to visit me in America I heard him tell people back home that all restaurants in America have free refills. They couldn't believe it.  

         At first I felt robbed every time we went out to eat.  The prices on the menu look ridiculous at first glance.  You have to take into account that you don't tip, ever, here.  It's weird no one does it and no one expects it.  So, partly the price reflects the non-tip and it also reflects in sales tax already being calculated. Have I mentioned that before?  All prices are sales tax inclusive.  So if you buy dinner for $23.90 you pay $23.90.  

         One more complaint about American restaurants-the grease.  Really, is that the only taste America has to offer?  Every time I've gone back to visit I struggle to eat out.  

       Of course, I need to end this on a good note.  America has something that New Zealand will never have right.  Mexican food. 


McKenna said...

That is crazy. I guess we don't realize how skewed our food industry is until a little kiwi like yourself points it out! That makes we want to go to NZ and eat out just to get the experience! Love you :)

{kim} said...

Ah, I give you a month until you're back eating like us Yanks. I can just picture you shoveling in chips and salsa.

LeashyLoo said...

I still feel robbed when we go out for dinner here. I feel like things are overpriced and you don't get decent portions. Hence the reason why we rarely go out. I guess I'm too North Americanized in this sense - I like to get my money's worth!