My Dinner at the Beach with John

Seasons 52

    OK, I admit I stole the pen from the restaurant. I think they’re meant to be given away as advertising. Plus, either way, I earned it.

It was my friend Tom’s birthday. We decided to go to Seasons 52 for dinner. This location used to be a pretty good Italian restaurant across from Santa Monica Pier. Great location, especially if you want to valet park your car for an evening event at the Pier. I made my reservation on Open Table with a note “It’s Tom’s birthday! No singing please!” We arrived at the restaurant in the Santa Monica summer fog, and were promptly seated. The hostess assured us there would be no singing. Dessert would be free. There was a birthday card for Tom from the restaurant. Very nice touch.

Seasons 52 is a chain of restaurant that uses local, seasonal ingredients. Our waiter, let’s call him “Chet,” explained the menu to us. You’d think “local, seasonal” is pretty self-explanatory. Not at Seasons 52. It seems they have seasonal (that would be four a year) menus. And the chef has a special menu each week (that would be fifty two a year). On the back of the menu? Wines and beers and other beverages. Chet turned over my menu to show me. I think I had a pretty good grasp on the menu by then. Chet took my wine order, then asked, “John, what would you like?” We had no idea who John might be, so Tom ordered. Chet explained that sometime during our meal, he would be taking a photo of us and printing it out for us to take home.

We had a little dilemma when the wine arrived. I said, “Chet, Tom has a piece of gum in his mouth, and there aren’t any paper napkins.” But Chet, of course, had a solution. He took the little foil circle from the top of the wine bottle, and said, “John, you can use this.” Tom put the gum in it, and Chet crumpled it up in his hand and stuck it in his pocket. The wine was Cakebread Chardonnay, yummy. Chet asked me if I wanted the cork. I told him he could dispose of it. He told me he was taking it home, because someday he will build a wine bar. He will stand all the corks upright and cover them with glass. Plus, he’ll separate the red corks from the white ones. He’ll spell out his favorite wines in red, with the white ones for background. I told him that sounded like a very complicated project. That’s when Chet came alive.

“I’m only 28! I have my whole life ahead of me! I don’t mind turning 29! I won’t even mind turning 30! And when I’m really old, in my 40’s, I’ll be just fine!” Let me mention here that Tom and I (you know, the woman who will be tipping Chet shortly?) are over 40.

It continued. The manager stopped by, “Are your dinners awesome?” We assured him they were. My fork slipped and my tiny salsa dish upended on the table. Chet came over to clean it up and asked me if it was delicious. The salsa I spilled all over the table. How did he think I was eating it?

The manager came by again. “Everything still awesome?” We assured him awesomeness was happening. Every time Chet came by, I would say “TOM, do you need anything?” Chet would say, “Yes, John, do you need anything?” The food was delicious, if not awesome. Then the moment came for the photo.

Chet had brought his own camera. He carefully positioned the wine bottle so the label was showing, the wine glasses so the logos were showing, hid the Pellegrino bottle behind the wine bottle, put our food plates on a seat (!), and told us how to pose. I could see he was too far away to get the shot, so I said, “Maybe–” Chet cut me off. “I am an excellent photographer. I know what I’m doing. Three, two, one….” Long pause, then the flash went off. Way too bright.

Manager again. Still awesome at our table. Chet brought the photo. Completely blown out by the flash, so the details on the wine and glasses were gone. We each got cut off because he was too far away to get the shot. Gee, someone should have told him.

Time for the check. Chet deftly handled two parking validations, and change for both of us to tip with. He handed me a pen from the 15 or so in his left (non-gum!) pocket. Bonus for Tom, Chet gave him his business card. A Seasons 52 card with “Chet” written on it. I assured Chet we wouldn’t forget him. And I stole the pen.

I’m sure Chet was doing his very best to give us an awesome meal and mostly he did, so I tipped him well. John has Chet’s business card if he needs it. I have a shiny new Seasons 52 pen. Chet has his whole life ahead of him. And an amazing wine bar in his future.