Over the years, both my kids—Ben, now 14, and Birdy, 11—have invited us many times to eat at their restaurants. Of course, when they were little, this involved a menu of toy foods from their little wooden kitchen, which could mean the “Special Sandwich” of a whole plastic lobster between two slices of felt bread. Back then, most of the fun for them was in writing down our orders, and also in demanding exorbitant payment—hundreds of dollars of Monopoly money—when the bill came.
But as the kids started to learn to cook, things changed. There were some early “snack bars” where you could select your nuts and dried fruits from a filled muffin tray. There were special “Cracker Lunches” where you could get anything you wanted on a cracker. Many fancy seltzer-based drinks were offered, and they were garnished with mint from the garden, or attractively sliced lemon wheels. Always, the mood was festive and the service was formal. Both children have always worn our thrift-shopped chef’s jacket and have always written down our orders on special pads, with the utmost professionalism.
And now? Well, now the kids can really cook, as you can see from these pictures. At Ben’s most recent restaurant, we were seated for lunch with printed copies of the menu and, an hour later, left the table, happy, well-fed, and completely sated. And all we had to do was state our order! And, you know, spend six or seven years teaching Ben to cook. But boy was it worth it.
The menu. I honestly couldn’t decide what to order because everything looked so good. Plus, I ended up being too full for dessert, which was sad. Ben is famous for dessert “tastings”: micro-portions so you just get a bite of something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
This is the Minty Maple Drink. Seltzer with tons of mint and just a drizzle of maple syrup. It was perfect.
The Romaine Salad with celery, carrots, dates, feta, and Ben’s own vinaigrette. I had never had dates in a salad before, but I certainly will again! Delicious.
Tuna salad with jalapenos, served with crackers. Tangy and delicious. (One of the house rules is that you can only serve whatever you can make from what’s in the house. i.e. NO SPECIAL SHOPPING. The kids have learned to adapt to our pantry and fridge!)
– By Catherine Newman, Editor