A late afternoon email reminder about this week’s Fleur de Licious spurred me to talk my husband into dinner out last night (not a hard task). The hard part was choosing from the multiple downtown restaurants offering $25 and $35 three-course dinners. I love this idea – an excuse to try a place you’ve been meaning to check out, or to get in and out for the usual cost of an entrée at a higher-end restaurant. I narrowed it down to White Oak and Theatre Square Marketplace, both offering $25 dinners. A contender was Proof at $35. My husband settled on White Oak. Unfortunately I wish I’d chosen something else. There’s a particular sinking dismay that comes from a disappointing meal at a restaurant. Thoughts of other, far better way we could have spent the money overtake me. Thoughts of how much better we could have prepared a dish at home. Thoughts of how much nicer it would be to be tucked into the couch in front of a fire at home instead of involved in awkward exchanges with a waiter when you just do not like anything on the plate. What’s more, I had heard good things and had high anticipation for White Oak. Their focus on local seasonal food appealed to me, as well as their twist on Southern classics. I’m so sad that nearly every bite disappointed. Sweet potato fries were not the tasty treat they are at Havana Rumba. They were a limp, burnt affair that we sent back. Chicken and dumplings were infested with bell peppers. That’s fine if you like bell peppers but I loathe the taste and smell. And I don’t know about your grandma but mine certainly never added bell peppers to dumplings. My husband’s “Louisville” fried chicken, local and organic it may have been, was under-seasoned and over-dry. And the saddest of all was a vegetarian cassoulet. A cassoulet is a beautiful rich simmered stew of beans and vegetables – with pork, duck, sausage or other meat in the original French version – crowned with toasted breadcrumbs. On my plate was a pile of dry white beans mixed with sweet(?) cornbread. Some things should not be attempted in a vegetarian version – that is if no effort is given to flavor it other than a heavy hand with black pepper. The sweet carrots on the side were tasty – they were the only thing I ate. The chard "gratin" was just chard scattered with a few panko crumbs and the braised greens were drenched in vinegar. Luckily the dessert was a saving grace. I ate my entire slab of bread pudding and scraped up the sauce. I wish I could report on a better meal – I wish had had a better meal. Don’t write White Oak off, but do try something other than what we had (unless you prefer peppers in your dumplings). It’s just too bad we’ve spent our eating-out money for the week, because I’d love to try several other of the Fleur de Licious dinners.
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