A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Piano Recital and an Expensive Late Lunch

My wife and I attended a piano recital today at Brookdale's Experimental Theater. Helen Benham's piano classes performed for fellow students, family and friends as part of the Music Department's curriculum. We really enjoyed ourselves.

Some of the students were beginners, but they memorized their pieces superbly and did a great job playing for an audience of about 120. A number of the more advanced students, even one of the beginners, played music they had also composed, which was a special treat. Among the student compositions, I especially enjoyed Matthew McDermott playing his Cascading and Amanda Bateman's Dreamer. Barbara Spann, an adult student from Matawan, played and sang the African American spiritual Every Time I Feel the Spirit. The flutist Sally Noble, of Cliffwood Beach, played Telemann's Sonata in G Major for Flute and Keyboard, accompanied by Ms Benham on piano. I wish the music was on CD so I could listen to it again and again. Everyone played so well.

After the recital we dropped in at Basil T's in Red Bank for some pasta. We weren't expecting the relatively high prices we found there, so we quickly changed our dining plans to fit our budget and ordered as economically as we could. Even so, three beers, a pizza, a burger, and a shared salad cost us over $75 after tax and tip. I guess it's our bad for not pre-screening the place for price. I had fond recollections of the Copper Kettle and forgot that Basil T's was more exclusive -- exclusive in the sense of excluding some folks from eating there except on special occasions. That's us.

On the positive side, the mesculino salad ($13.50) was enough for three, and my wife and I took half of our salsiccia pizza ($18.00) home with us. Their stout pints from the microbrewery( $5.95 each) were quite good. All was good under the circumstances until the bill arrived. That was when I found they had charged us $6.50 to add lettuce, tomato, onion and cheese onto my daughter's hamburger. Her burger panino ($13.00) appeared on our bill at a whopping $19.50. Unbelievable!

Add American
Add Tomato
Add Raw Onion
Add Lettuce 19.50

I thought it must be some sort of mistake. My wife, less surprised at such goings on, commented that it was like visiting a used car dealership. My daughter, ever practical, said it was ridiculous for an expensive restaurant to nickel and dime its customers.

When the waiter came to pick up the bill, I complained to him about the extra charges and the manager quickly removed them from the bill. But incredibly she then visited the table, not to express her concern at our being dissatisfied but to scold us for not reading the menu and to make it clear she was doing us a favor by removing the charges. She'd not be able to take such charges off the bill in the future, she explained. That exchange told me so much about Basil T's business plan and its view of its customers.

I'm sorry, but no one charges for lettuce, tomato, and onions. Cheese, yes. I think we'll all agree that McDonald's charges more for a cheeseburger than a hamburger. It's not all that common at fancy restaurants, but I can accept a charge for cheese, I guess. If they dare to charge for lettuce and tomato and onions, they should hang their heads in shame when you call them on what can only be an utter lapse in judgment.

I felt like telling her not to worry, that we wouldn't be returning anytime soon, but I didn't want to put a damper on our visit. After all, it wasn't their fault that they seek clientele with more cash in their pockets than we can usually muster. We had made do and our visit had been, by and large, quite pleasant. The waiter had been very polite and the food quite good. But I doubt we'll go back, even for special occasions. Management's tone is all wrong and we won't support that.

We skipped dessert and coffee and went to Zebu's in Holmdel for coffee and conversation. I stopped in at Barnes & Noble to pick up a book I heard about on the radio the other day: Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, by Winifred Gallagher. While I was there I picked up the latest edition of NFT: Not For Tourists Guide to New York City. Take it from someone who needs to get around in the city -- Don't be without NFT.


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