by Clark Wilson
A refined palate isn't always a good thing.
|Flavor of the Month
Brad Hauser walked down Broadway looking for something to whet his appetite. It was his lunch hour and he was getting tired of the same old boring fast food. Brad worked in the National Finance Company on 2nd avenue, but the walk to Broadway was a short one, so he made it daily. Much like his distaste with fast food every day, Brad was starting to acquire the same for his job. It seemed day in and day out of reviewing financial documents for companies with unknown faces was beginning to wear on Brad as well. He walked past the typical fast food places, and noticed a small sign up ahead that read GRAND OPENING. Brad strolled on up and looksedat the glass front of the restaurant, International Flavor, read the name on the front window. From where Brad is standing he can see about twenty tables inside, a podium near the front door, and doors leading to the rear. At the moment there were only a couple of people inside eating, so Brad decided to enter.
Upon entering, Brad was greeted by an elderly man with a neat little tie and white shirt. The man was quite spry looking for the age he appeared to be, and offers Brad a evenly toothed smile.
Welcome to International Flavor Sir. This week we are offering dishes from Spain. We try every month to offer some new international dishes, that way our customers will never have to have the same thing more than once. We have the finest of chefs working here, and they are very knowledgeable in foreign cuisine. I think you will find something for every palate, as well as every purse.
Brad looked at the older gentleman and smiled. This was precisely the thing he needed to break the monotony of his daily routine.
This sounds exactly like what I’m looking for.
The older gentleman led Brad to a seat near the window and presented him with a list of this month’s menu items.
If you will kindly browse our selections of the week, you may find something to your liking. I will be right over there waiting until you have made your choice. My name is Karl sir. Anything you need just let me know.
Brad. Brad Hauser. Pleased to meet you Karl.
Ahh, a good German name. I am German myself, but have been here in America for the last twenty years.
Karl walked off and left Brad to peruse the menu items. Everything sounded so interesting, and Brad was unsure where to start. He called to Karl to question him as to what the dishes are.
Yes sir. Are you ready to order?
Well Karl, I’m not really sure what I’m looking at. It all sounds good, but I don’t know what to choose. Can you recommend something?
Oh certainly sir. Let me recommend the Pinchitos. Those are skewers of cubed meat, and to accompany it, I would recommend the Escalivada. That is a salad of grilled vegetables.
That sounds perfect Karl. I’ll have exactly that.
Very good sir. What may I offer you to drink? You appear to be on your lunch hour, so I can recommend something without alcohol. I think a Horchata would be perfect with this meal. It is a blend of nuts, water and sugar.
That’s terrific Karl.
Brad sat quietly looking around the small restaurant. The few other diners appeared to be completely engrossed in their meals. There was light music playing in the background. From the sound of it, and based on this week’s selection of dishes, Brad assumed it is some Spanish piece of music. After about twenty minutes, Karl returned with a tray of food. He began setting the dishes in front of Brad. He also sat a bowl of soup and his drink down.
I took the liberty sir of bringing you a bowl of Gazpacho. I think you will find it delectable.
Brad looked the food over and then smiled at Karl and thanked him. Karl walked off to tend to the other customers and Brad began his exquisite meal. With the first bite, Brad was completely lost in a myriad of delightful flavors. Never in his life had he experienced anything such as this. He savored every succulent bite. The meat skewers awere tender, and the cold soup was to die for, Brad thought. After he has finished his meal, Karl came over and began clearing away his empty dishes.
Did you find everything to your liking Mr. Hauser?
Very much so Karl. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it all was. Please give my compliments to your chefs.
I am pleased you enjoyed it. We hope to bring in many customers to our establishment.
Karl, with food like this, you are sure to be a success.
Karl smiles fondly at Brad.
Can I offer you some desert, or perhaps a cup of Café con leche?
Oh no Karl, I think I have had more than my fill for today. Brad pulled out his credit card and handed it to Karl. Karl produced the check for Brad’s viewing. Brad was stunned at the seemingly low cost of the meal. Brad shook his head and looked up at Karl.
Is this amount correct Karl? I would have thought a fine meal like this to be at least $50. How can this be?
I assure you Mr. Hauser, that the amount is correct. We only look to provide a meal that is suitable to both taste and purse. Do you find the amount satisfactory?
Brad nodded slowly, and Karl walked off to run his credit card through for the bill. Karl returned and handed Brad his card and receipt. Brad took the card, and put it back in his wallet, then signed the receipt adding a $10 tip for Karl. Brad handed the receipt back to Karl and rose from his chair.
The rest of Brad’s day seemed to go by much smoother since having lunch at International Flavor. He still wasn't able to get over the quality of the meal in comparison to the cost. He had paid nearly as much for fast food meals.
Brad headed home from his day at work, with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face. The next day Brad made his way back to International Flavor and he returned every day that week. Each day he tried something new and even more fantastic than the day before. Brad hadn't had a meal at another restaurant all week, and if they kept preparing meals the way they had been, he believed he may never eat anywhere else.
Every day Brad headed to lunch at International Flavor. Brad had even become accustomed to hearing Karl’s tales of Germany from the older days. Brad told of how he was born in Germany, but came to the U.S. for education and his career. His parents still resided in Bonn. The two seemingly became fast friends based off their heritage, and their love of food. For months Brad dined daily at the restaurant. It didn't matter what region the cuisine was from, he ate it without qualm and found it every bit as appealing as that of the month before. On a Friday, six months into his daily walks to International Flavor, Brad was having lunch once more. Karl came over and stood beside Brad. Brad looked up from his Tagliatelle to see Karl looking at him.
Are you enjoying the Tagliatelle sir?
Brad chewed what he had put into his mouth, took a drink of water and wiped the sauce from his lips. He smiles up at Karl.
Karl, it is delicious. In fact everything I have ever eaten here is delicious. I still can’t believe more people don’t dine here.
Karl nods agreement.
Perhaps we are a restaurant for a more discerning palate sir. Nevertheless, I am glad you are enjoying your food. Next Friday evening we are having a special dinner by invitation only, as a way to show our appreciation to our faithful customers all these last six months. Can I include you in the invitations sir?
Are you kidding Karl? I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Very good sir. I will see that you receive your invitation, the next time you are in.
Brad finished his meal, payed and tipped Karl, and headed off back to his office. The rest of his day was spent daydreaming about what International Flavor might serve next Friday evening. He didn't get a lot of work done. When Monday came, Brad returned to International Flavor for lunch. Karl greeted him with a smile, seated him, hands him a menu and walk off to see to the few other customers. Brad looked the menu over, made a selection, and waited for Karl’s return.
Have you made a selection sir?
Yes Karl. I’ll have the Waterzooi and a cup of Kwast.
Oh excellent choice once again sir. I will have it right out to you.
Brad smiled to himself and looked around the quaint restaurant. He still can’t believe more people aren’t dining here. Oh well he thinks. The fewer of them there are, I guess Karl will have more time to cater to the steady customers. As Brad sat looking around, a woman who looked to be about 35 came running into the restaurant, yelling in a foreign language that Brad couldn't understand. Karl quickly hurried over and took the woman by the elbow and guided her into the kitchen area. Brad could hear a heated discussion going on briefly, then all seemed to calm down, and Karl came back out with Brad’s food.
Karl, what was that all about?
I am very sorry sir. She is the wife of one of the chefs, and she was upset with him about something. I took her back to the kitchen so they could discuss it in private. I apologize for the disturbance. By the way sir, I have your invitation to the dinner on Friday evening.
Karl handed over an invitation that had been printed on a very thin parchment paper. He read the words printed.
To our valued and loyal customers, we would like to invite you to an evening of some of the finest cuisine you will ever experience in your lives. There will be something to please all. This will be a free meal to show our appreciation of your patronage. Please be in attendance, Friday May 11, at 8:00 p.m.
The Staff of International Flavor
I will be here Karl. I wouldn’t miss it.
Very good sir. Karl walked off and left Brad to his meal. When he finished Karl returned with the check, and Brad paid and tipped as usual. Brad is about to leave, but he stopped by Karl on his way out.
I hope everything is okay with the chef’s wife.
Karl looked at him questioningly for a moment, and then realization seemed to glimmer in Karl’s eyes.
Oh yes, everything is fine. They worked it all out, and she left out of the back door so as not to cause anymore disturbances.
Brad nodded and left to head back to the office. The next few days seemed to drag by for Brad. All he could think about was the wonderful free meal he was going to get on Friday at International Flavor. Minutes seemed to run into hours, and hours into days. Brad continued to eat lunch daily there, but he still waited impatiently for Friday. He had never had an evening meal there, and he was certain it would be even better than the lunches he had been served. On Thursday night, Brad dreamt of the extravagant meal to come Friday. He saw tables upon tables laden with glorious different dishes from all countries. He was seated and waiting for Karl to take his order. He couldn't even begin to make up his mind what he wished to eat that evening. The room was full of other customers who have been invited to the dinner. Just as Karl recommended something from the many mounds of food laid out, the woman from the other day came running in screaming. She was covered in blood, and wailing in that same foreign language. Brad jerked awake and stareed around his bedroom. He suddenly realized he has been having a nightmare. Relieved, Brad falls asleep once more, and thought what a strange dream to have.
Friday arrived, and for lunch Brad only had a bowl of soup and a coffee. The soup was some Russian fare that he hadn't had before, but it was tasty all the same. When Karl brought over Brad’s check, he inquired if Brad would be there for the evening’s festivities.
Can we expect you tonight Herr Hauser? Karl asks.
Brad was somewhat amused with Karl’s use of the term Herr, but thought nothing more of it.
Of course Karl, I will be here at 8:00 p.m. sharp.
Karl smiled and cleared away the table as Brad left to go back to work. As soon as work was over, Brad rushed to his apartment to shower. He selected one of his best suits for the evening, and polished his shoes waiting for the time to go by, until he could go to International Flavor. Finally, at 7:30 Brad left his apartment, and taking his invitation, headed to the restaurant. Brad was somewhat surprised to see there were about twenty people or so waiting outside to be let into International Flavor. The group of people seemed to be a varied mix of nationalities. At last, the time arrived, and Karl opened the door and greeted all of the entering customers. Brad was let in last, and Karl smiled fondly at him, and showed him to his regular table. Brad sat and looked around the room. It was almost like his dream from the night before. There were steaming dishes lain out on a long table. The blinds were drawn over the front window, and candlelight provided the only light in the room. The ambiance was palpable. Karl hustled from table to table taking orders, and ran to the food and served it on dishes to the awaiting customers. Brad waited patiently for his turn, and Karl came over to take Brad’s order. Brad was more uncertain than ever where to begin, but saw an interesting meat stew, that looked appetizing. Karl quickly went and got Brad a heaping bowlful, and returned with it and some bread. He then quickly poured a glass of red wine for Brad, and rushed off to tend to other guests. Brad finished off the stew, and went on to the main dish of his choosing for the evening. He chose a Foie gras, and a light salad to go with it. After this was eaten, he had a delectable desert of crème filled pastries, and some more wine. Brad sat enjoying the desert, when suddenly he began to feel a little light headed. The dizziness waving over him was phenomenal, and Brad tried to stand to go to the restroom. When he did, he toppled over his chair and onto the floor. Others in the room, seemed to be experiencing the same effects as Brad, and soon, all the patrons of International Flavor were lying listlessly on the floor.
Brad slowly began to come to. He was lying in the kitchen on a long table. He tried to get up, but his hands and legs had been tied. He looked down his nose, and saw a gag in his mouth. Brad’s eyes flitted quickly to the right and he saw Karl standing between two large men wearing blood smeared white aprons. Karl seeing that Brad was awake, came over with the two men.
Ah good, I see you are finally awake Herr Hauser. I was afraid you had gotten too much sedative, but you did eat more than your fair share didn’t you? The others were awake long before you, so you are the last.
Brad started to whimper under the gag and Karl smiled at him.
There, there Herr Hauser. It is alright. I know you are a little confused right now, but let me explain something to you. At International Flavor, we pride ourselves on offering the best of all international cuisine there is. We don’t limit ourselves to one particular kind, that way we can appeal to all. As I’m sure you can guess, it is very costly to fly in meat from all these foreign countries, so, we have to find other methods of obtaining our goods.
Suddenly, Brad realized what was going on. He tried to free himself from the restraints, but it was no use. Karl looked at him with a re-assuring smile.
Let me assure you Herr Hauser, you will serve up nicely as some Hasenpfeffer or Sauerbraten. We leave nothing to waste.
Tears rolled down Brad’s cheeks as the two chefs came toward him wielding cleavers.