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Dec 31, 2006 03:32 AM

Holiday Menus In The RDU Triangle

I'm looking for Chowhounders willing to share their good and bad experiences with restaurants putting on special menus for holidays such as New Years and Valentines. Many of the nicer restaurants will try to cope with the crunch on these occasions by creating a limited menu at a fixed price.

Did you think the selection was sufficient?
Was it value for quality?
Was the mood/ambience appropriate to the occasion?
etc, etc, etc.

All of you going out to eat on New Years Eve, here's a chance to help your local brethren! I vacillated too long on selecting a venue for tomorrow night, but Valentines Day isn't too far off to start thinking about advanced reservations.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. My husband and I went to Frazier's for dinner last night- never been there before last night. We had reservations at 6:30 and being new to the area I got there slightly late- 6:40. Apparently they gave my husband a little bit of a hassle because I was late and it was going to "cause problems." Seriously, 10 minutes should NOT throw you out of schedule that much. My husband insisted they weren't that bad about it, but I'm kind of turned off that the hostess actually said something to him about it. And I did notice that there were four people across from us finishing up their wine and I believe they asked them to "wrap things up," which to me is an utter NO NO.

    The mood in the restaurant was festive, the music was perfect and the service was OK, but not fantastic. I think "mixed results" would be the way to describe it. There were a lot of servers (a manager & chef even) all asking us if our meal was okay during every course, and it was somewhat distracting- especially when you are trying to have a romantic dinner. We both had to stop talking a few times, which was kind of annoying. I think the best meal I've ever had was with all that stuff happening around you without you noticing, rather than the serving staff putting on a big show to have you notice.

    However, the food was comparable to a lot of the excellent food we've eaten in the past and the price was very reasonable compared to what we normally spent in Miami (about $150 total for the entire meal/cocktails & tip). While the food was fabulous, the service kind of crushed it for me, so not sure it would be on the top of my list to go back.

    What we ate:

    Fraziertini (skyy vodka, peach schnapps, & blood orange juice) - Really a perfect cocktail. Not too sweet (schnapps tends to do that) or overly alcoholic.
    Sidecar (brandy, triple sec, fresh lemon juice) - also another perfect cocktail. The bartender knew what she was doing.

    They did offer a flight of wines (pairings with each course), but we avoided because we both had to drive. And we did get a glass of champagne (not sure what kind, but I thought it was awful).

    First Course:
    We both had the Braised Lamb Raviolini, which is exactly what it sounds like. Served in a deep bowl (soup style) with a olive-rosemary consomme & fresh mint leaves. I thought I got a little too much broth (not big on the salty meaty taste of the consomme), but my husband ate all of his, so I'm guessing it was a hit for him.

    Other choices were: Mixed Greens Salad, Lobster Bisque & Frazier's Carpetbagger (oysters)

    Husband had the grilled salmon, w/ brussel sprouts & bacon, apple-celeriac slaw, and a champagne beurre blanc (french white butter sauce). I can't eat salmon, but I tasted the rest of the dish and it was AMAZING. Bacon really goes with anything.

    I picked the Prime Rib of Beef (fatty cut, but it had a nice sized circle of non-fatty meat in the center), with a sweet potato gratin, wilted greens & a tiny bowl of au jus for dipping.

    Other choices: Cornbread & Country ham stuffed Quail, Oven Roasted Atlantic Cod, & Local Goat Cheese Mezzaluna (which really intrigued us, but not enough to try it).

    My husband ate the chocolate chestnut torte, with mixed nut brittle, apple caramel & roasted date cream. I had the Caramalized Banana Tart, with cinnamon pastry cream and sabayon. Both were VERY good, but I think the mixed nut brittle was the best thing I tasted all night. Perfect mixture of sweet and salt. The sabayon was also very good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mrry550

      Great, complete review. Thanks a million!

    2. I've had valentines dinner at Angus Barn two years in a row and it was terrific. They do a great job with service and the food is, as always, delicious. Also, you can bring your own bottle of wine and they charge a small corking fee ($10?). So, if you have a special bottle you've been saving, you can bring it for dinner.

      1. I ate at Acme in Carrboro on Valentine's Day once - with my Dad, not a romantic outing - and I was frustrated by the special menu. There was nothing "special" about it in my view - fewer choices than usual for substantially higher prices. I had picked the restaurant because I'd read its menu and was excited to try some things, and then none of them were available because of the special menu. To me, it just seemed like an attempt at factory dining, cramming in more people without the kitchen having to slow down. Unfortunately I don't remember the food very well, I just remember feeling cheated by the whole experience.

        I understand that reservations are in high demand on V-day and sometimes kitchens might need to have fewer choices in order to avoid backups. But to me, if you're going to have a "special menu," it should actually be special - not just short. Especially if you are going to jack up the prices. My boyfriend and I always eat in on V-day, because why pay more for worse food and worse service than you would get at the same restaurant on any other night?

        1. ^Agree completely dubedo. After having similar results with "price fixe" menus on Valentine's Day, we stopped eating out on that occasion (which also happens to be my birthday) and instead celebrate those occasions on Feb 13, 15, et al.

          It seems as if a clear majority of the nicer restaurants have gone to that plan with a limited menu, higher prices, and worse service (due to the crowds). You completely miss out on the true experiences and tastes of those restauants.

          1. I went to Elaine's on Franklin last year for vday and was unimpressed. the food was good, but for the price i paid, i think it should exceed "good." I really didn't crave anything that they had to offer. it all looked good, but nothing jumped out at me, and i had looked at a full menu the night before to get prepared for what i thought was to come.

            the food was pre-prepared and we had a rather late reservation so we could go out afterwards for a nice evening, but the food we ate looked like it was leftovers. i guess by the end of the night, you get what you get, even though you pay the same money. it's a crappy way to do business. i rarely will go to a nice restaurant and get any roast, or pre-prepared food, just because i like tasting the freshness, and there weren't many fresh options there.

            even when elaine's is bad for elaine's though, the food is still enjoyable. i just didn't want a tour of casseroles on valentine's day.