Late Night Shenanigans

As I write this, its 3:37 AM on a Saturday morning (June 19, 2004).

The question that you should now be wondering is “What the hell is he doing awake at 3:37 AM on a Saturday morning?” I’m an insomniac, but that’s not the primary reason I’m up today.

Ever been so full that you feel you’re going to explode? Where you carry out every movement with great deliberation, afraid that the slightest breeze could knock you over, never to rise again? Where you pat your stomach and are amazed by the amount of food that you can pack in there?

Yes…that’s the result of going with friends to the Cheesecake Factory. We left yesterday at 9:00 PM and although we got there at 9:20 PM, were only seated at 10:05 PM. Now, this is a large establishment so you can imagine that it was quite packed. In case you’re wondering – no, you can’t make reservations. There’s always a lineup.

One thing you’ll notice about restaurants is that on the web there’s a lack of detailed opinions and reviews. It’s almost as if restaurants are the one topic about which ‘normal’ people don’t comment on in writing. That’s always aggrieved me, so I’ll try to break the mould.

The Cheesecake Factory’s an institution in its own right here. The only location I know of in San Diego is at Fashion Valley, in its own building opposite Robinson May’s. You can’t miss it – the distinctive neon red lettering and the throng clustered at its doorway are giveaways. On entering, the first thing you notice is the line of people waiting for a table. Many, like us, would have waited for over 1/2 an hour. What draws your eye next however, is the standalone cheesecake/dessert bar.

Impressive. I cannot describe it any other way. The sheer variety of cheesecakes, layer cakes and other desserts is surprising at first. From plain jane ones like the “Original” to the unabashedly chocolate “Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake”, there’s a taste there for every palate. And no, you don’t have to get a table to order their cheesecakes, you can order a takeout right here.

I’d describe the atmosphere as extremely conducive to those long rambling dinners I so enjoy. You know the dinners I’m talking about. The ones where everyone laughs, talks and all track of time is lost due to the ambience. Of course…that’s why the bill always ends up being high. Time flies when you’re having fun. And so does money unfortunately.

As and aside, I know of a great place on Venice Beach for dinner. The wait is extremely long but so, so worth it. So far its my favorite place to eat in California and one everyone enjoyed thoroughly. How much did we like it? Lets just say its the first time I think any of us had a 3 hour dinner, two bottles of wine, and so much food we had to take it home. <grins>And I’m glad to say I found it (by asking around)…

After we were seated we were faced with the standard opening question: drinks. Those who know me are aware that as of late I’ve (gulp) lost my taste for beer. This is unfortunate, as it’s often the cheapest alcohol beverage at any establishment. C’est la vie. Bearing this in mind I decided to go with the Dr. Jim’s coffee (Kahlua, Grand Mariner, Dark Creme de Cacao, coffee, whipped cream). "I’d like some alcohol with my sugar rush please." The guys decided to order beers. Choices ranged from standard Heineken to Newcastle and Pyramid Hefeweizen (Allister recommends – and he’s hard to please!). Since both Matt and I were looking at ‘all-out’ dinners, we decided to splurge on a bottle of house Merlot. Since Justin and Allister were both considering pasta, they decided to join in. In case you’re wondering – the Merlot was smooth, but I would have preferred something with more of a definitive taste and richness.

Ah…the appetizers. Bread is brought out – a loaf of sourdough and one of rye along with a plate of butter. It was neither toasted nor heated, a cause for some disappointment. Since we anticipated a wait for dinner (and we’d already dispatched the bread), Justin and I decided to splurge on the Thai lettuce rolls. I enjoyed them, but wouldn’t eat it again. The sauce can be messy and lettuce doesn’t make an ideal wrapper when self-made. The chicken it came with however, was cooked to perfection – soft, moist and covered with slightly toasted peanuts.

Choices ranged widely for the main course, from Matt’s impressively sized steak (he seemed to enjoy greatly) to Allister’s Teriyaki Chicken, Justin’s 4-Cheese pasta and my Eveyln’s Pasta (heavily veggie loaded w/ roast chicken and an olive oil dressing). I must say that although the food was well made, and the portion sizes generous, it more expensive than I would have preferred. It wasn’t what I’d call an ‘impressive’ dinner, merely ‘very good’ ;-) By the end of the meal my frail physique felt overburdened by my meal – but I decided to soldier on and order…dessert.

Oh my. Oh my.

I’ll admit it. I have a weakness for cheesecake. I’m aware that its a food that can inspire strong, opposing opinions, but to me its the most satisfying items on a dessert menu. A well made cheesecake hits the spot like nothing else. And my oh my, do they have well made cheesecakes. After listening to (and questioning our waitress excessively) I made my choice.

Matt and I both ordered the “Adam’s Peanut Butter Fudge Ripple”, Mike ordered the “Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake” and Justin the “Lemon Raspberry Cream”. Allister…well…he mooched off all of us ;-) <grins wrly>When I bit into that cheesecake I belive Matt’s first words on seeing my expression were “I think Allen had an orgasm.” While I wouldn’t go quite that far, I’d echo Stewie’s phrasing:

“Oh, it’s an orgy in my mouth!”

The Adam’s was recommended highly by our waitress (a former Cheesecake Factory bakery worker) as the best cheesecake she’d tasted. Based on the other choices at our table, I’d have to agree. It’s a contrast in textures and flavors. A mixture of orignial cheesecake swirled with crushed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups © and Butterfingers ©, topped with a crunchy Reeses/Butterfingers layer, cookie crumble base and thick peanut icing (not to mention whipped cream) there’s enough sugar and contrast here to put your palate into overdrive. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I was unable to finish the entire cheesecake slice (had to leave the peanut icing to my great disappointment). I was that full. But it was…wow.

How were the other cheesecakes? The Godiva I found too thick, too chocolately with too little contrast between different layers. However, if you’re a chocalate afficionado, there can be no other choice. It is, apparently, the best chocolate cheesecake they serve and with a price to match. Justin’s lemon-raspberry, although it was Allister’s favorite, was too much of a sugar rush for me. I found it excessively sweet when combined with the raspberry sauce and I must say that it didn’t appeal to me as much. But…everyone has different tastes!

How much did we drop? Well…lets just say that I blew half a c-note and the bill was around 210+ (after tip and tax). Expensive? Yes. But I’d say I enjoyed the experience.

After this, we dragged our overstuffed selves to Matt’s house and played poker from 12:30 or so till 3:00. Yes…my first games of Texas no-limit hold-em. I’ve never played poker before today and I must say that it was a lot of fun. I ended up winning, on an extremely lucky hand :-) The river card saved me and I cleaned out both Allister and Mike! Beginner’s luck.

At any rate it’s 5:09 AM now and I have two options – sleep…or….read D-SLR reviews.

Well, cameras it is!

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