Wednesday, June 16, 2010


It being our thirty-third wedding anniversary this past Saturday, we decided to celebrate by spending the night at a Fancy-Ass Hostelry. For nothing helps you escape the drudgery of the day-to-day than a night away from home. And if your quotidian existence is pleasant, why, so much the better.

In preparation for our Mini-Honeymoon, I had, a week or so prior, booked us in at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Buckhead. We had stayed there a few times before - once in the 1980’s, once in the late ’90’s - for similar occasions and had had good experiences both times. And so, the Ritz it was.

Every once in a while, we are compelled to stay in an upscale hotel. Several months ago, the daughter of some good friends of long standing had scheduled a wedding at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. Rather than simply drive down, attend the wedding and reception, and then drive home, we had elected to stay at the hotel. Self indulgent? Of course... but that way we could drink ourselves silly without worrying about navigating anything more challenging than an elevator. And the Four Seasons, being one of the finer lodgings in town, was a delightful place for a getaway, albeit a short one.

The Ritz-Carlton, however, is another story entirely. For as nice as the Four Seasons is, the Ritz takes it up to another level entirely by adding a whole new dimension of Ass-Kissage.

There is an entire cadre of nattily attired hotel employees whose sole function is administering frequent and carefully aimed Buttock-Busses at every opportunity, the better to fill their guests with a completely unjustified sense of self-importance. You are assumed to be the completely helpless sort of royalty, incapable of the simplest task - such as opening a door.  Uniformed attendants are there to do it for you.

A personal greeting is ever on the lips of the Ritz Employee:

“Good afternoon, Mr. Elisson.”

“Good morning, Mr. Elisson. I trust you slept well?”

“Good evening, Mr. Elisson. Will you be needing any assistance in wiping your bottom?”

Upon arriving in our room, instead of the usual couple of chocolate bits on the pillows, there was a box of chocolates that looked more like futuristic science-fictional Choco-Pills. Too beautiful to eat, they were.

Fancy-Pants Chocolates
Chocolates? Miniature works of art? Or Future-Pills?

We did more than simply lounge around the hotel sucking up the obsequiousness, however. I had reserved a table at Rathbun’s, Kevin Rathbun’s eponymous eatery; Rathbun, a great big bear of a man with whom I feel an especial kinship owing to his willingness to wear a perforated metallic chapeau, is one of the local Cheffy Luminaries in Atlanta. Two years ago, he and his brother Kent defeated Iron Chef Bobby Flay in “Battle Elk” on Iron Chef America, a Useless Fact considering that I was planning to order lamb, not elk.

The meal was ridiculously good. An appetizer of raw ahi tuna cubes with razor-thin slices of Serrano peppers, a dusting of sea salt, and some blood orange slices was a perfect palate sharpener. She Who Must Be Obeyed ordered the smoked beef brisket in aged sherry vinegar BBQ (superb), while I opted for the Australian lamb chops. One of Rathbun’s whimsically-titled “Second Mortgage” plates, this was nothing less than three (count ’em) double-cut chops, seared to a perfect medium-rare, drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and served atop a pile of wild mushrooms sautéed in a heavy cast-iron skillet. Outstanding, it was... especially washed down with lashings of a 2007 Ramspeck Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Instead of dessert, SWMBO was tempted by the eggplant steak fries: lightly beaded batons of aubergine, fried crisp and dusted with 10x confectioner’s sugar, then served alongside a white-hot, sinus-clearing habanero dipping sauce. Yummy.

Atlanta Night Skyline

After enjoying a few after-dinner coffees, we wound our way back to the Ritz for a series of polite door-openings, obsequious greetings, and a nightcap. And later, from our room, the Atlanta skyline glowed...
* * *
The next morning, we lounged around and enjoyed a few hours of quiet Ritzian luxury prior to having the Mistress of Sarcasm join us for the celebrated Ritz-Carlton Sunday brunch.

The Ritz, it should be explained, lays on a spectacular all-you-care-to-eat foodfest every Sunday morning. It’s a monument to excess, a veritabobble Groaning Board of treats, meats, sweetmeats; breadstuffs, charcuterie, cheeses; prepared dishes, fishes, and pretty much anything else you might desire. It ain’t inexpensive... but then again, it’s something we allow ourselves only on rare occasions. Rare, indeed: The last time we had done a Ritz-Brunch was fully a quarter-century ago.

There is a strategy associated with the Sunday Brunch. People who go cruising in with slavering jaw, empty plate in hand and hungry look on face, will inevitably be disappointed at the end of the day, having filled themselves with English muffins, cantaloupe chunks, Belgian waffles, made-to-order omelettes, pancakes, lumps of sausage, and rashers of bacon.

Yes, they have pancakes. Yes, they have waffles. Yes, they have sausage and bacon.

Fuck that. I can get pancakes at Shoney’s. I can have the free breakfast at any randomly-selected Hampton Inn and get a perfectly good Belgian waffle in exchange for the minor inconvenience of making it myself. But when I am at the Ritz, I am going to save my appetite for the Ritzy Grub.

Caviar, f’r instance. Three kinds of fresh caviar, served with quarter-sized blini (Russian yeast-raised buckwheat pancakes), and the usual accoutrements: chopped egg, onion, sour cream, et alia. Without being too much of a slob about it, I make sure my personal supply of caviar never runs dry.

Smoked trout? Check. Smoked salmon? Check. Smoked mussels, shrimp, scallops? Check checkity check. Sushi? Gigantic boiled shrimp? Oh, yeah.

Macaroni and cheese? Normally, having mac and cheese at a buffet is a honkin’ waste of time. But this was lobster and truffle mac and cheese. Oooooh.

Prime rib? Maybe a dab. Grilled sea bass? Aw, why not? Country pâté, exotic salamis, rare cheeses? Somebody stop me!

Perhaps a martini glass full of gazpacho... with a golf ball-sized chunk of fresh lump crabmeat floating in it. Yowza.

By using my Focused Foraging™ method, zeroing in on expensive, tasty protein instead of cheap filler, I not only get my money’s worth at a Fancy-Ass Buffet - I have a satisfying, reasonably healthy meal. Plus, I get to watch as the Mistress plows through the gorgeous, intricate, jewel-like desserts.

The folks at the Ritz-Carlton were all too accommodating, allowing us a late checkout that gave us plenty of buffet attack time. And then, on the way out, they offered to take our picture... a souvenir of the visit, a Parting (Snap) Shot, if you will.

Ritzy El and the Girls
The Parting (Snap) Shot... Yours Truly with SWMBO and the Mistress of Sarcasm.

A weekend to remember? You bet it was.

No comments: