When the food turned sour…

The other evening I was invited to attend an intimate dinner at an exclusive underground restaurant called Sotto Terra hosted by Food Network chef George Duran and Supermarket Guru Phillip Lempert.  We were promised a delicious Italian 4-course meal and scintillating conversation on the latest food trends with other foodies.  I was salivating at the thought of this meal and it was long due for a date night with my husband.  He doesn’t often partake in my Blogger perks but he was definitely interested in this one.

Even more exciting was that I was allowed to offer this same amazing experience to one of my readers and their guest.  My excitement was palpable.  I was tweeting away, getting my friends to share and spread the news.  When it was time to draw the winner, I was pleasantly surprised to see the entrant and winner (out of 119 entries) was none other than my children’s pediatrician and his wife (who is a loyal Mom Confessionals reader)!

When I congratulated my winner and gave her the details, I promised it was going to be an amazing night and they could acknowledge my husband and I or simply enjoy the meal between the two of them.  I myself couldn’t wait for what promised to be a delicious meal.  You see, life’s been a little rough these days for my family.  My mother was recently diagnosed with cancer and I was desperately trying to study for my NCLEX, it was hard to find a balance between being supportive to the woman who gave me life and studying for an exam that would change the course of our future for my family.  On Monday of this past week, I took my exam and the night before this dinner, I found out that I had passed — I was now and RN!  My entire family had worked, supported me in my pursuit and it had finally paid off!  A huge weight had lifted off my shoulders and finally allowed me to fully focus on my mother and her needs.  I felt this dinner was going to be our brief moment to celebrate.  My husband was excited.  It’s not often that we take the time out sans children to just enjoy each other.  I think we both really needed this.

The night of this exclusive dinner at Sotto Terra came.  Despite the 4 hour chaos of trying to finding my sister at JFK after her plane landed but was not heard from, who flew home to be with our mother.  I got home a half hour before I had to leave for dinner.  I got dressed as quick as I could, let the kids reintroduce themselves to their Aunt who they hadn’t seen in months.  I found my cleanest pressed pants and fancy top, put on a little make up even remembering to put on my earrings for a little sparkle.  I was suppose to pick up my husband at 5:00pm but as I was running late, he graciously told me he would simply meet me downtown, allowing me not to have to detour through midtown and its traffic knowing being late is one of my biggest pet peeves.  I got into the city and parked by 5:50pm.  I couldn’t believe that I made it on time but couldn’t wait to get this dinner started.

I already knew this dinner was going to be hosted in a private brownstone and was thrilled to greet my guests right at the front door.  We ooohed and aaaaahed at the decorations and set up.  The wife was so excited to meet chef George Duran.  I obviously hadn’t done my research on him, but knowing he was from the Food Network was all the validation I needed.  I was sure we were in for a treat.  I even drank a glass of sangria for the first time in years.  I am typically not a drinker but this was a night of celebration.  I sat and chatted with my guests and my husband.  They told me how excited they were for this dinner.  How they had gotten a sitter to watch their 4 children and he even left his practice early to make this dinner his wife was so eager for.  She was a huge George Duran fan.  She couldn’t believe that he was actually here with us!

We noshed on delicious endive salad bites.  The mood in the air was light and cheerful.  Moments later we descended down into the dining area.  More oooohs and aaaaahs erupted.  Lots of pictures were taken.  For those who know me, I’m not an adventurous eater.  I love my basics and usually will never veer off my favorites but this was an experience and I was going for it.  I didn’t snub one dish.  I drank up the Watermelon and Cucumber Gazpacho shots.  Chowed down on the Strawberry Arugula Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette.  Devoured the Herbed Cheesy Garlic Bread.  I was a little disappointed that the main course was simply Lasagna but I was sure that we were in for a treat at the hands of chef George Duran.  When it came out, it was nothing spectacular, it was good, I wasn’t wowed like I was with the other dishes but it was good.  I cleansed my palate on a Mojito Granita shot, there seemed to be a lot of alcohol consumption on my part, well a lot for someone who never drinks.  I obsessed over the Razzleberry Pie a la mode and then the bomb dropped.

Our entire meal was a SHAM!  We were unwilling participants in a bait-and-switch for Marie Callender’s new frozen three cheese lasagna and there were cameras watching our reactions.  I’ve got a sense of humor so I was okay with it and I had been enjoying myself up until that point, but I could tell that the rest of the participants were not.  Everyone feigned weak shock and faked approval of the frozen meal.  My guests were eager to leave all of a sudden and refused to sign the release.  I felt awful!  The conversation had fallen to an awkward silence as our hosts tried to fill in the empty air.  When suggested we move the conversation back upstairs, everyone took themselves upstairs and out the door, include myself, my husband and our guests.  I must have been still somewhat hopeful when my guest asked me so is Sotto Terra real or not?  I said I thought it still might be a project that chef George and Phil were working on.  I realize how stupid and gullible I must have sounded later.

The first thing out of my husband’s mouth was waste of time and I was reduced to tears.  Not only had I been duped but now my husband was mad at me and my guests/pediatrician must of thought of me terribly.  Its even crossed my mind that I may need to find a new pediatrician, I was that embarrassed.  My only comfort was as we left, his wife said to me, Thank God he at least cooked the rest of the meal.  But that also hinted at the major disappointment.

Always trying to think positive, I still felt I learned a lot that night.  I learned about Community Supported Agriculture – CSA’s and how to be an informed consumer of seafood through an iPhone app called Seafood Watch.  But I was gently reminded this morning that this was an example of PR agencies undervaluing bloggers and their lack of care for my online reputation.  I was set up to promote this event to my readers and as such, when I’m excited I love to share.  I put my name out there based on the information I received from them and got burned in a big way.  If only I had took the time to check my twitter feed while taking my mom to Sloan Kettering and picking my sister up from the airport, I might have caught the warnings but I had to be offline to put my family first.

I want to deeply apologize to my winner and her husband, my children’s beloved pediatrician.  They were expecting an amazing meal and a true experience at the hands of famous Food Network chef they were fans of and were left with a really foul taste in their mouths.  I too was completely surprised and I promise you, had I known, I would not have encouraged you to sacrifice your valuable time and money only to be tricked.  I am profoundly embarrassed and hope that you will accept my sincerest apologies.