Saturday, May 18, 2013

Not-So-Mellow Mushroom

There's a reason I finally learned to make pizza. That reason is the Mellow Mushroom.

It's been a couple years since we last ate at our local Mellow Mushroom. Maybe it was the burnt pretzels, or the burnt pizza crust, or the fact we waited nearly ninety minutes for the burnt pizza to reach our table, but whatever it was I knew I was done with the place. The real shame of it is how excited we were for the restaurant to open. Mellow Mushrooms in other cities had never failed to please. Their service is timely and their food noticeably unburnt, both of which are qualities I admire in restaurants.

As a result, we were justifiably delighted to hear someone was going to open a Mellow Mushroom only a few miles from our house. We watched and commented as construction progressed.

"Did you see they hung their signage?"

"Did you see they paved the parking lot?"

"Did you see they're going to have an outdoor patio?"

My Lovely Wife and I were so anxious to have a Mellow Mushroom nearby, we couldn't even wait for the kids to be available to try it out. The first day the restaurant was open to the public, while the kids were at school eating peanut butter sandwiches, we were sitting on the covered patio dining on delicious items from the Mellow Mushroom lunch menu. And it was good. Good enough for us to recommend the restaurant to our friends and family.

As time pressed on, however, we noticed inconsistencies in the quality of food preparation and long waits for tables (which is good for the restaurant) and for the delivery of food to the tables (which isn't any good for anybody). People around town started grumbling. We started grumbling. That last time we tried the restaurant, the ninety-minute wait for burnt pizza was the straw that broke the caterpillar's hooka. I found a Mario Batalli pizza dough online and we never looked back.

Then, just last week, the local high school jazz band performed at the restaurant to raise funds for the band program. Our Daughter and her boyfriend, Señor Awesome, both are in regular band and Señor Awesome is featured prominently in the jazz band, so we thought: "What the heck. Let's give Mellow Mushroom another chance and help raise money for the school band at the same time."

I would like to list now the reasons why we should have stayed home, eaten our own homemade pizza, and simply written the school band program a check.
  1. Non-burnt pretzels, served promptly: This sounds like a promising start, but in hindsight it really wasn't. All it did was draw us into a false sense of security about the rest of the meal.
  2. A Confused Waitress: For obvious reasons, a bad omen. When you tell the waitress you want a cheese pizza with basil and Roma tomatoes (both items from the list of toppings in the menu) and she doesn't understand what you're talking about, you know you're in trouble. And the fact no one at Mellow Mushroom seems to realize cheese pizza with basil and Roma tomatoes is commonly known as a Pizza Margherita also says a lot about this place's pizza bona fides.
  3. One-Hour Wait Until Management Steps In: Yes, one hour. In an industry governed by ticket times and the expediting of food from the kitchens, it took the assistant manager one hour to realize we had not yet received our food, but only because we called it to his attention. At least he was kind enough to assure us our meal would be on the house.
  4. Another 45 Minutes After Management Stepped In: We waited impatiently for a total 105 minutes from time of order to the time our pizzas were placed in front of us. During that time, I somehow managed to refrain from pointing out to the assistant manager that pizza normally takes five minutes to prepare and ten minutes to bake. Allowing the dough to rise is the only time consuming process, but I have to think if any place of business is going to have a ready supply of risen pizza dough, it's a restaurant that specializes in pizza.
  5. A Confused Waitress, Part 2: After being reassured multiple times by multiple people we would not pay a penny for our meal, the waitress came to the table to ask how we wanted to split the bill. She might have gotten a tip if, just once during the two hours we sat at her table, she had refilled our glasses.
The manager arrived in time to apologize and offer us certificates for free food the next time we dined at his restaurant. Fortunately, he neglected to provide us the promised certificates before we left.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A, E, I, O, U and Sometimes 5

You'd think the dyslexic member of our family would be the one whose writing required deciphering. While the German does come out with some interesting new vocabulary when speaking, and although he does create unique spellings for many words, it doesn't normally take much effort to figure out what he has written.

My Lovely Wife, on the other hand, who suffers from no learning challenge of which I have been made aware, seems incapable these days of scribing a single legible sentence.

By her way of thinking, her penmanship is clear and concise, but that doesn't seem to help the rest of us too much. We struggle and squint like we're trying to figure out one of those puzzles from the funny papers. You know the kind where the letters are all jumbled up and you have to figure out which letter is used in place of whatever other letter? Think that, only indecipherable.

Her most egregious offenses appear on the weekly shopping list.

"What does this say?" I frequently ask, pointing at a series of unrelated squiggles on the magnetic notepad stuck to the side of the kitchen refrigerator.

"That says grape juice," she explains, as if I am silly for even raising the question.

Grape juice.


Because no matter how long I stare at the words, the best I can come away with is "Care Jews."

I'm not sure if those are anything like Care Bears, or if there is some important issue My Lovely Wife wants the world's Jewish population to take more seriously, but there was no way I was getting grape juice out of that hieroglyph.

It wasn't always this way.

Twenty years ago, when we first began dating, I could read her writing without any trouble. It's as if the English alphabet ceased to exist sometime within the past few years. Probably not all at once, but gradually and unnoticeably over time, until all of a sudden it became impossible to discern. One day I was able to pick up a note in her handwriting and easily read "Call your Father back" and the next day that same message seemed to say something more like "Growl soy Feather dank."

As her handwriting continues to decline in legibility, perhaps my premature senility might make the entire matter a non-issue. She can happily jot down all the meaningless scribbles she wants, and I can pretend they mean whatever I want them to mean.

For instance, that might not be "dry dog food" scrawled haphazardly at the top of the grocery list. Maybe it's My Lovely Wife saying "I love you."

Works for me.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler