Our smokin' hot babysitter was watching Jalen, Mrs. Bootleg was wearing a new dress and I was pulling into the valet parking section at Fleming's – La Jolla. The makings of a great night? Well, the wife was with me, so we'll set the ceiling at "pretty good" and go from there.
We had about 15 minutes to kill until we were seated, so we ambled over to the bar. Now, when I first met Mrs. Bootleg, her alcohol of choice was 7 and 7s. After a few years, she switched to wine then went on a self-imposed prohibition when she got pregnant. She abstained from alcohol for a long time, even after the boy arrived, and now is content to steal sips from my beer when I'm not looking.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to see the wife order a glass of wine. Her own glass of wine! She went with something called "Spellbound". Now, I'm no oenophile, but I'm assuming it's the sign of a classy joint when your wine comes in a (less gaudy) pimp goblet and is served with a smaller glass that contains – what I assume – is some of the wine run-off. Kinda like those $5 milkshakes where the excess strawberry goodness comes in that metal canister.
Meanwhile, I asked for a Maker's Mark on the rocks which, somehow, the bartender mistook for "Manhattan". Initially repulsed by the sight of the Maraschino cherry floating in my drink like some kind of delicious whiskey Jell-O, I found this bartender's version of "The King of Cocktails" to be soo-POIB. Solid 4:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth; not overloaded with ice and filled to the top of my glass.
Adequately lubricated…it was time to up the class (and the check) of my usual TBG food reviews. Please give yourselves a moment to familiarize yourselves with their menu.
Sweet Chile Calamari - I suppose if you're with a woman long enough, there are certain elements of a marriage that are as predictable as the sunrise and no sex. Me and Mrs. Bootleg really only live by two appetizers: calamari and crab cakes. If we're at Chili's, we'll get the Southwestern Egg Rolls, but that's the ONLY time we deviate.
The only question here was whether to get the squid or the crab. I argued that we couldn't get both, since that's what one would do at a sports bar at happy hour. Besides, we had a lot of eatin' ahead of us. The wife thought I was insane. We'll see who wins this one.
Anyways, the calamari was crisp, thick and firm – served with a sweet, peppery sauce lightly drizzled on top. A little more of the sauce for purposes of dipping, dunking and/or spooning straight into my mouth would've been appreciated, but otherwise it was the best calamari I've ever had. Grade: 5
Jumbo Lump Crab Cake - Two appetizers. I just know that our server was thinking we'd be milking the snack foods for hours while eschewing the entrees. Our server described these as crab "medallions", instead of crab "cakes". Obviously fresh, with chunks of crab meat falling everywhere once our forks broke the breading. The chef hit it with a citrus-spicy sauce thingie, too. Obvious complaint: they could've been bigger. Unfortunately, that little nit costs you a perfect score, Mr. Medallions. Grade: 4
Spinach & Portobello Salad - I doubt I would've eaten either of these things 20 years ago, but as I've gotten older, my palate has become more sophisticated…classier. Ooh, and it had freshly-fried bacon bits in it! Bacon makes it better! Served warm and topped with a goat cheese crouton, this is the salad that birthed every other salad that's ever come after it. It's the Africa of salads. Before the white man stole the spinach right off the plate. Grade: 5
Creamed Spinach - Not sure if there's a more underrated, underappreciated side dish than this one. Sure, it looks like creamed crap, but next to a hunk of cooked cow, there's nothing better. Like all the other sides at Fleming's, this is served/priced a la carte. I was ready to order seconds, after eating this creamy-green bliss. Made with fresh ground pepper and shredded parmesan cheese, I'd come back just for this. And, the cream ruins all of the spinach's health benefits. It's win-win! Grade: 5
Chipotle Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese - Anyone looking for a new word to replace "extreme", "gritty" and "pwned" in the lexicon of overused words n' phrases need only nominate "chipotle". Ten years ago, this would've just been called "spicy mac n' cheese". "Chipotle", apparently, is supposed to indicate an extreme level of spicy grittiness or something. This was solid, but unspectacular. No real spice to it, but a decent amount of gooey. Mac & cheese will always be one of those foods that Black people simply do better. Hey, I didn't make the rules. Grade: 3
Prime Ribeye 16 oz. - It's really not that hard to make a great steak. First you need the right cut and it don't come no better than ribeye and all it's
Crème Brulee - French for "custard cooked with a blowtorch", I didn't have much room left for what's traditionally a light dessert. Decent for the few bites I had, though. Crispy on top, creamy underneath. Just OK. Grade: 3
Needless to say, The Camerons set a new record for restaurant credit card impact last night. And, God bless her, Mrs. Bootleg said, "I'll pay for dinner, since you did buy my pendant."
I wonder if she thinks this gets her out of getting me a real gift.