Monday, January 3, 2011. No Father-Son Breakfast. Acme Blowout. Zea Comfort And Cupcakes. Jude burst into my office when he awakened at the surprisingly early hour of eight. "How about breakfast at Mattina Bella?" he asked. I had to tell him that the place is closed on Monday. Breakfast is the only time he and I can dine together today; his flight leaves at one. We were not able to squeeze a meal into the busy two weeks he was with us. He feels a little guilt about this, some of which is instigated by Mary Ann. I'm sorry, too, but my disappointment is not strong. I feel too good about Jude's success as a free agent to bemoan a little thing like a missed sushi lunch.
Judging by the call-ins on the first radio show of 2011, everybody followed my lead and went nowhere on New Year's Eve. Only one caller claimed to have dined out that night: at Vizard's, where he said the food was great.
The Marys were hungry after I got off the air. Mary Leigh chose the tune, as usual: the Acme. But the Acme had a half-hour wait for a table unless we wanted to sit in the bar. I don't like sitting on high chairs. They give me a backache. But we were going to put up with that anyway, until Mary Ann registered her own discomfort. "It's too cold in here," she said. Of course it is. This is where the oyster grill is, and the cook sets the thermostat for his comfort. They wouldn't adjust it, so we gave up and went across the street to Default Diner #2: Zea.
We split an order of the chicken quesadillas. They were made sort of like sandwiches, with a very juicy, molten-cheese interior. I couldn't remember ever having had it before, but when it arrived the memory came back. Not one of their great dishes, I'd say. But the girls complained when they were gone, accusing me of eating three slices when in fact I'd eaten only two. They're both on diets and I was just trying to help.
As much as I like the rotisserie chickens at Zea, I hardly ever get them. Too much food, for one reason. But it's been on my mind for weeks, so here it was before me tonight, in the garlic-and-herb version. I learned that instead of the two sides they allow, you can get one salad. Perfect! The "Zeasar" salad is not classic, but very good. The Marys split an order of dry-style barbecue ribs--their favorite dish here.
The place seemed to be understaffed in the kitchen, and food was unusually slow in coming out. At one point, the waiter apologized for the delay with, "The chef is plating up the chicken right now." Plating up the chicken took eight more minutes. But what do I care? I'm here to relax. When I get home I'll go back to work.
The waiter seemed to be dragging out his dessert presentation, but we shortly found out why. The manager remembered that, about two months ago, we came in here and asked for the cupcake trio on the fall menu. (The Marys, who follow all the vogues, are mad about cupcakes.) But they were out of one of the flavors, so we canceled the order. That happened again a few weeks later. Tonight, at last, all three cupcakes were in stock, and they were brought over with the compliments of the house. The red velvet version was the best.
A goof never counts as an indelible black mark in my book if the restaurant is sincerely interested in fixing the problem and making good.
Zea. Covington: 110 Lake Dr. 985-327-0520.