There are some pretty major perks to living on a military base overseas. Josh gets paid a cost of living allowance (COLA) each month that shifts with the exchange rate, so pricey Japanese food and fun are budgeted for. We have access to American shopping on base, and discounted travel packages for day trips and longer vacations around this part of the planet. And every once in a while, some of the service organizations on base (like the Navy Exchange store and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) will throw a weekend bash to thank us for being reliable (captive) customers. This was one of those weekends.
Josh and I didn't have any big plans. Since we're not in the market for any major purchases and neither of us cares about skateboarding demos, we planned to avoid base most of the weekend. But then I got an email a couple days ago and scored tickets to dinner Saturday night - prepared by Chef Robert Irvine, the host of Food Network's Dinner: Impossible! SWEET.
Dinner: Impossible is a great show. The chef, who was in the British Navy and used to cook in the White House, gets shipped off to some crazy location and has to oversee dinner preparations for a big crowd under awful circumstances. Cook a gourmet meal for 200 people in a single day, in a tiny galley, on a moving train. Done! Oversee at-risk high school students to make food for an upscale crowd. Possible! It's a lot of fun to watch, and the food always looks and sounds incredible. And since there was an Edwin McCain concert on base later that evening, we decided to dress up and make a night of it. It was so cool - as soon as we got in the door, there he was! We even got a picture.Then we walked through a buffet line and loaded up our trays. And can I say, we were so excited! We're both a little bit foodie, getting more so as we expand our palates in the East. At home we eat very well, rich vegetarian meals with lots of spice and oomph. We watch food shows, I read food books and blogs, we love food. Our expectations of a meal from a chef of this stature were very high. See?
Little bites of everything: we tried baked crusted salmon fillet with apple salsa, fried chicken drummettes, macaroni and cheese with shrimp, braised Asian-style short ribs, seaweed and calamari salad, homemade coleslaw, Nicoise salad, warm German potato salad, and seafood gumbo.
And it was all bad.
We left half of the food on our plates. The salmon was overcooked, the chicken soggy, the short ribs were so salty I actually grimaced, and the cole slaw was swimming in mayonnaise and had no other flavor. The gumbo tasted like it had come out of a can - a government surplus can. We didn't even try the desserts, we were so bummed out.
So, I can say that getting our picture taken with the chef was the best part of dinner. That and the Edwin McCain concert! He and his band ROCK, and he's got a bigger voice than I ever realized. Plus he's a Greenville, SC hometown boy, which is just a bonus. Thanks, Edwin!