Thursday, February 09, 2006

We're Sorry About Your Restaurant

Yesterday at lunch, Aunty Meg and I were discussing the fact that we're getting an El Torito Grill closer to home, and that while we know the menu differs from the regular El Torito, as long as they have the Mexican Caesar Salad, we're cool. It's something about the dressing that makes it addictive. And we went and talked about now I needed one.

Dining out with Tenley is an experience. Ten's never been real fond of highchairs, and our eventual solution to this was to request a booth and block her in so she could move back and forth and stand up and eat. Sometimes this is not so good of a thing since a) Tenley is not shy about eating off anyone's plate that might have something she's interested in, b) she has no idea what a napkin is for, and c) sometimes she'd rather just sit in your lap and eat whatever you happen to have. You don't have leisurely meals either, because when Tenley's done she's ready to leave and she expects you to be too.

So like a nice enabler, Jeff took his addict wife and overactive kid to the El Torito for dinner. We had to wait 15 minutes for a booth, so that meant I spent 15 minutes chasing Tenley out of the cantina. I tried to explain that the sign that said "No one under 21 admitted" meant 21 years not 21 inches, but all she knew was that those people had chips, and they were playing something funky for a sister to dance to.

We finally got our booth, and 5 minutes later Pedro the Uninterested Waiter came by to tell us he would bring us chips. No problem- Tenley was happily coloring and that gave Jeff and I time to figure out what we were going to have besides the salad. A busboy brought the chips and salsa and narrowly missed getting nailed by the blue crayon that Tenley threw out of her way as she lunged across the table for the chips. Pedro finally came back for our drink order, and we would have ordered then too, but he was distracted by the table across from us with 7 kids of varying ages and 2 oblivious adults. Five minutes later the drinks finally came and we got our orders placed. I can't tell you how long it took for the food to come, but I can tell you that we said "Tenley! Take bites!" "No, too much!" and "Chew that one first!" about 3-5seconds apart and no less than 30 times each. When the salads came, she happily plopped down in her Daddy's lap and stole all the tomatos and tortilla strips out of his.

Eventually, the food came and that was when my good intentions of rice instead of fries went horribly awry. Tenley loves rice, but the concept that food does not stick to the fork like velcro is lost on her. So she was very adeptly scooping up forkfulls of rice and then turning the fork upside down as she crammed it into her mouth and the rice went cascading down the front of her all over the table and the seat. Feeling that that technique wasn't working so well, she threw the fork down in disgust and began cramming handfulls of rice into her mouth with the excess going everywhere. She took a few bites of chicken out of her taco...but then her eyes landed on my plate and lit up.

There they were: 2 huge dollops of sour cream. Ten came right over and started dipping her fingers in the sour cream...but that wasn't going fast enough for she so then she was trying to grab handfulls of it like the rice and getting it all over her face and sleeves as she licked it off her palms. Jeff and I grabbed our napkins and started damage control as Tenley turned around and started finger painting the wall behind the booth with the leftover bits on her fingers. As Jeff was wiping the left hand, she used his distraction as a chance to examine his plate and discover that he had more sour cream and guacamole. She dove for his plate as soon as he was finished with her hand.

Fortunately, Pedro the Uninterested Waiter chose this moment to come by so Jeff and I practically threw our plates at him. Robbed of sour cream and guac, Tenley decided to have some of her fruit. Well, she decided to put the pineapple in her mouth, suck all the juice out, and spit the flesh of the fruit back out into our hands. At our next Pedro sighting we gave him her plate. Pedro went to get her sundae that comes with the nino meal, and I think he may have churned the ice cream from scratch himself of the length of time it took him. This gave us a chance to survey the damage. There was more rice on the seat of our booth than I saw in some of the paddies in China. Tenley was trying to pick it out of the crack between the cushions and eat it. The floor was covered in rice, fruit pulp, and bits of tortilla chip. There was rice in my shoe, and enchilada sauce on my shirt. Jeff had sour cream smears on his shoulder. Tenley was trying to lick a smudge of guacamole off the table.

The bowl of ice cream arrived and she flopped into Jeff's lap with her mouth hanging expectantly open like a codfish. The problem with feeding Ten (particularly at that angle) is that she wants to see the food going into her mouth, so she continually drops her chin, and you miss. So within 5 minutes Tenley had sundae all over her nose, chin and cheeks. We pushed the bowl out of reach and attacked our daughter with wips the way a pride of lions attacks a sick zebra. As soon as she was fit to face the world, I grabbed her and made a break for the lobby while Jeff began waving his credit card and stalking Pedro.

We politely suggested to the manager that he just dynamite the booth we were in, and I think he thought we were kidding. We weren't.

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