Caiola's is one of those restaurants du jour that are very in, very trendy, very now--the kind of place that offers "upscale comfort food" and mentions their antique lighting fixtures, custom built bar, and hand-crafted wooden tables on their website, as if that's why you go out to eat. As if, earlier in the day, Mitch had said, "Hey honey, let's eat out tonight-- somewhere with hand-crafted furniture--I'm not in the mood to eat off that factory-made shit." Which he had not. In addition to their furniture, their food is definitely unique in that you will never find it anywhere else, a fact for which I am incredibly grateful. I think what sets it apart is maple syrup, which they apparently use the way Julia Childs used butter. (Not sure, just a guess.)
We arrived early for our 8:15 PM reservation, admittedly on the late side but at Caiola's on a weekend, you just thank your lucky stars you got in at all. Joining the pack of trendsetters jammed inside the front door, we spent the next 25 minutes trying to hear ourselves think since talking was out of the question what with all the noise of the revelers and clattering of dishes, until our table was ready. Doing a little mental math I realized that food would not enter my gullet until after 9, a fact I found disturbing but hey, nobody else seemed to mind. After all, it was Caiola's, a place where "from the time you walk through the door, savor your meal and say goodnight, you feel part of a family." (That was certainly true for me, since I was there with my husband and brother-in-law.) Finally we graduated to seats at the bar and watched the female bartender--her pierced nose a tad unappetizing--make drinks requiring diced cucumbers and chopped cilantro and iced martini glasses. Fun, but still we were not eating. Then suddenly we were!
Okay, so I'm a complainer. But I am also a fabulous cook, and my own chicken is superb-- and healthy. And comforting, and all the way to upscale I might add. And not unduly fattening. And not smothered in brown sugar and maple syrup, which is what they must have done to my chicken and the accompanying grilled vegetables, which were all but unrecognizable. There must have been some carrots in that pile of mush because I saw orange-colored lumps, and maybe some green-colored things, but it all was swimming in some gross, goopy sauce--the chicken too--that made it virtually inedible. Naturally my dinner companions took pity on me and offered tastes of their entrees: leg of lamb in a goopy maple syrup sauce and short ribs in a goopy maple syrup sauce. The wine was quite good, however, so I had lots of it, and ended up drunk on the back seat of the car going home, still hungry but too dizzy to care.
What made it all a nightmare was that just as we were leaving, Caiola herself --it's her last name--came over to inquire as to how we had enjoyed our meal. She was so friendly and nice and sincere, it was unthinkable to be honest, so we said things like "fabulous" and "wonderful" and "be back soon" and "tell all our friends." So here I am, telling all my friends, but I am not going back soon.