I’ve never spoken much about my philosophies on life, but I suppose that is the best way to begin this post. I believe that thoughts are composed of energy and that this energy is able to manifest itself in myriad ways. It’s a bit like karma: if you send out positivity, positivity is yours to have, and if you are cynical and look on the dark side of life, negativity is attracted to you. Because of this rather abstract belief, I live in a state of constant positivity, which isn’t an easy thing to do all of the time, but I much prefer being seen a silly optimistic fool than a cranky man.
Because I believe that energy is able to manifest itself, I often construct incredibly detailed daydreams that I hope to one day come true. I have seen myself being crowned Pope, elected President of the United States, being interviewed for several magazines, accepting a Tony, recording a pop album, and at a book signing for one of my novels. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Anyway, every day, I say to myself, “I am a rich man.” I live as if I have limitless cash, without actually having it, nor spending it, but in my daydreams, I have had frequent shopping sprees through the great shops of the world. Therefore, when I have money, I like to spend it. I understand that you can’t take money with you, and that you should try to enjoy life as much as you can while you’re still alive. You don’t really get a second chance on Earth — so do everything you ever want to do. As the wise Patsy Stone said on Absolutely Fabulous, “Sweetie, if you don’t do it, you won’t have done it.” Few quotes have made such an impact on my life. So, my philosophy is to spend and enjoy life. Money is fluid, and it will always come back, if you’re clever enough, and I like to think I am.
All this talk about death is a strange way to begin a restaurant review, but, we will move on and get to the story of my dining experience.
I receive a paycheck twice per month, and those days are particularly delightful because I get to live like the rich child I knew I was always meant to be. I also find myself extremely generous at these times — kind of like Oprah. So, when I saw all that cash in my bank account, I decided to treat Pa to an early Father’s Day. I love opulence and chicness, so I thought it would be nice to go to Centro’s, a restaurant I have been meaning to try for a year or two now.
I made a reservation and went upstairs to get my fanciest shoes to shine. I enjoy my fancy shoes. I bought them in London, and they always bring back happy memories of wandering around the Île Saint-Louis in a comfortably drunken stupor, thinking how lovely the lights were shining from inside the apartment buildings, and finding the Eiffel Tower so unbearably beautiful as it sparkled that it made me tear up a little bit as the snow gently fell all around me. So, I shined my shoes and put on my checkered shirt that always makes me feel like a 1950s Jonas Brother and waited for Pa to get home.
On the drive to Des Moines, I instructed him to drive to Wang’s, an Asian market near the Urbandale Hy-Vee. I love going to Asian stores because the workers always know how to treat you like royalty, and I appreciate being bowed to upon entrance. I enjoy looking through the messy aisles for things that are unusual or look tasty. I was tempted to buy a tin of roasted eels, but I don’t think my palate is quite ready for that! Instead, I purchased a tiny bag of jasmine rice, a box of fish bouillon, a vile can of a mandarin orange beverage, some rice paper, sunflower crackers that are supposed to taste like chicken, but didn’t, a bowl, and a serving dish. In Paris, Lay’s sells a potato chip that tastes exactly like a roasted chicken with thyme. I don’t care how terrible they are for me — I adore those chips. I even wrote a letter to Lay’s but they rudely told me they weren’t planning on introducing that magnificent culinary treat to America. So, I was excited for the crackers, but they were a letdown. I really love china from Asian countries and I have a rather eccentric and large collection of bowls, plates and chopstick holders. The bowl I bought has the adorable face of a kitten, and the rectangular serving dish has a kind of floral pattern that will be perfect for serving desserts. The elderly Asian woman bowed to me as I stepped out into the sunlight, and we were off to Centro’s for dinner.
I was immediately charmed when I saw the exterior of the building, it sits in part of what used to be a Masonic Lodge, and the decorations on the building were very ornate and lovely, just the kind of thing I enjoy. When I ever get around to buying myself a bakery, it is going to be in an historic building. We arrived a bit early, but the staff was very kind and immediately whisked us to a nice little table. I was a bit disappointed that the tablecloths weren’t ironed and that they had grated parmesan on the table instead of offering freshly grated cheese, but those were my only complaints with the entire experience.
I sat for a few moments, gazing about the establishment and feeling very content. I come from a very modest upbringing, but for some reason, I always feel very comfortable in expensive places. I can’t say the same for Pa. He seemed rather uncomfortable at first. The walls were tastefully decorated with large, art deco styled posters from the 1930s and 1940s advertising various foodstuffs such as olive oil, wine, and breads. Our kindly waitress soon arrived and took our order. I went a bit overboard and ordered a half portion of the portabello fries, the crab cakes, parmesan encrusted halibut with buttermilk mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus, a side order of fettuccine alfredo, and a fresh lemonade. Father was a bit more modest, and simply ordered a pizza with Graziano sausage, onions, basil, and fresh mozzarella and a glass of water. For some reason, he really hates spending money and will always order the cheapest thing on the menu. I glared at him a bit until he ordered a large.
We sat between two pregnant women on one side who couldn’t understand why Charles was being so secretive with her and the other just couldn’t believe what Mary had said yesterday in the office. On our other side was an elderly couple who seemed a bit taken aback by the price, so they split a small pizza and quietly said “no” when asked if they would care to order a glass of wine. Pa finally slipped into the role of a wealthy man, and we enjoyed mocking the commoners as we dipped our delicious bread into olive oil.
Our appetizers arrived quickly. The crab cakes were massive and thick, sitting on top of a deliciously tangy sauce on a bed of arugula — one of the greens that I actually enjoy eating. They were wonderful, but the star of the appetizers was truly the portabello fries. I have rarely eaten such a delicious thing. I am just starting to develop a fondness for mushrooms, and these were marvelous. The mushrooms had been cut in strips, breaded, and fried to perfection, then tossed with sea salt. They were delicious on their own, and I ate a ridiculous amount of them, and were even tastier with the dipping sauces.
Pa and I polished these off, already full when our meal came. The pizza was a monstrosity–it was delicious and huge! I was happy with the plating of my meal, a large (everything here was massive) piece of halibut leaning on a mountain of the most delicious buttermilk mashed potatoes. The asparagus was alright, but nothing exceptional. It was delicious, especially with the lemon sauce that came with it. Then, my alfredo came. It was ridiculously tasty and gigantic. It could have been a meal for two. I couldn’t believe how much food was in front of me. I ate about half before I was too full.
Our waitress took our food to the back and boxed it up neatly, then asked if we wanted any dessert. Pa didn’t, but I, of course, asked for the dessert menu. She smirked at me, then handed it over. So many delicious things. I was torn between a flourless chocolate torte and a dish of gelato. I decided on the gelato because I like to try it wherever I go. I regretted that decision when the pregnant women ordered the torte and it looked delicious. The gelato was just alright. I ordered an espresso to finish the meal, but they were out of regular espresso, and I don’t do decaf, so that is where my meal ended. I couldn’t wait to get the bill and see how much I had spent.
Pa’s portion came out to be about $23, and mine was near $60. I’ve rarely been so proud of myself. I left a generous tip and we left to go look at the new statue park.
Pa was already complaining because he had to get to work in the morning, but I didn’t really listen much to him, I had things I wanted to see. We walked all around the park, mocking the art. Most of it was truly terrible. Father liked a sculpture of a jacket and I was rather taken by a series of horses made of what appeared to be wood, but was really metal. There was a homeless person and some kind of rally against NAFTA. I couldn’t understand what they were doing there. There wasn’t anybody they were protesting against, they were just standing there, glaring angrily at everybody who passed by.
I was still feeling generous, so I had father take me to the Gateway Market, a place that is almost a perfect grocery store. I bought myself a big block of parmigiano-reggiano, a hunk of dark chocolate, a sampler bar of a different brand of chocolate, a bag of organic popcorn, a piece of cake for Pa, and a chocolate macaron for me.
I talk a lot about macarons, simply because they are God’s gift to us, the perfect combination of ingredients, it’s like eating a piece of Jesus when you have a good one. If you are curious about this divine pastry, I warn you: DO NOT GO TO THE GATEWAY MARKET! I don’t care if it is the only place in the entire state, do not buy it. They are not good. They are terrible. They are a travesty to the word macaron. If you want one, order a batch from me, it’ll cost you a bit, but you won’t regret it. Don’t try to make them yourself either, unless you know what you’re doing, because you’ll end up crying — they are tricky buggers. Anyway, I buy a macaron there to amuse myself whenever I go, alarmed at how something so bad can sell. They have none of that magic goût that makes a macaron so heavenly, they’re like Chinese knockoffs and their very existence offends me. They don’t even taste of chocolate…so bad. I will end my rant there.
Then, we came home.