There was a small reality check that came along with the evening's festivities -- food, drink and general merrymaking. More about that in a moment.
McCormick & Schmick's is an upscale chain of restaurants started and based in Portland, Oregon that features fish and fishy products. In our little corner of the world, it's conveniently grouped together with several other trendy spots -- P.F. Chang's China Bistro and Brio Tuscan Grill. On two little acres or so, surrounding a watery lagoon, you can feast on Asian, Italian or fishy cuisine. It's a happening spot, one huge, bustling parking lot servicing all three restaurants, the structures neatly surrounding the picturesque lagoon.
We all met, smooched hello and were quickly ushered to a little alcove just off the main dining area, a perfect spot to spend a few hours away from the world and its global concerns -- economic woes, oil slicks, wars in distant lands and, ahhh, endless yard work!
The eating games began with one, well, actually two platters of portabella mushroom and goat cheese bruschetta, delightfully and tastefully presented with an olive-oil-infused garnish. While my friends drank a bit -- can you say mojito -- I amused myself with the restaurant's seafood and roasted corn chowder.
It was good, perhaps a bit soupy for my taste, but a nice way to fill a few minutes before beginning the arduous task of studying the menu -- it changes daily and there are a wide assortment of hors d'oeuvres, side dishes and entrees offered.
Cutting to the chase, the winning entree it would seem was filet of flounder freshly delivered from Georges Bank, Mass., encrusted with Italian Parmesan cheese and topped with lemon caper butter. Such was the choice of three of my dining mates. Denise opted for the tuna -- bait rare, thank you very much -- and Susan selected the soft-shelled crab.
I feasted on lobster ravioli, sauteed with baby spinach (I imagine papa and mama spinach are in mourning) and cherry tomatoes in a white wine cream sauce. C'est magnifique!
It was late in the evening, long after we had nibbled away at the remains of our entrees and were still enjoying coffee and our shared desserts -- a sort of Bananas Foster-inspired creation and chocolate cake-ice cream-Oreo crusted thingy -- that I glanced into the main dining area and noticed only one or two other diners, surrounded by a sea of empty tables.
Earlier in the evening, busy chatting with my friends as we made our way through the restaurant, I hadn't paid much attention to the surroundings. I recall hearing much chatter and the clanking of dishes and dinnerware. But after some thought, I also remembered that Miss Wendy and I had zipped up to the valet parking area with no other cars in front of us, made our way into the restaurant and had to wait for only one other couple to be helped before our party was seated. The place wasn't empty; but it certainly wasn't operating anywhere near full capacity.
McCormick & Schmick's, I fear, continues to suffer from a faltering economy, potential customers still hunkering down, waiting for a flag of victory to be raised on Wall Street or in Washington. Despite reasonably good economic news in recent days -- job losses are slowing, consumer confidence growing -- there's a wariness about the land that will continue to be part of our lives as long as the Dow keeps bobbing up and down like a cork in a troubled and uncertain sea.
Wall Street, even with the white-collar thugs who continue to run the place, remains a pretty accurate barometer about all things economic. So I think in coming months I'll start turning to CNBC instead of the Food Network when planning any future outings. It's the friends, after all, not the place that's important when getting together. And I think we can all drink to that!
YOU LOOKING AT US: Northwest King Salmon (photo above) take a well-deserved rest at McCormick & Schmick's before becoming entrees.