"I love happy hour" says my 10 year old.
I like taking my boys to new restaurants, to practice good manners and try new foods. I sometimes tell them: you probably haven't met your favorite food yet, so you should keep trying new food(s).
It is a goal of mine to cultivate curious palates in my kids; to encourage them to try new food(s), and to critique the flavors and textures (they love having an opinion, so this arrangement works out beautifully). Restaurants are a great place to try a new dish, and if it isn't something I prepare regularly at home, all the better. They don't like everything, in fact far from it; but then again, that would be boring.
The other day we were sipping smoothies from a cafe, and though it was a smoothie he had ordered before, my son refused to move beyond the second sip. It doesn't taste like it usually does, he explains, the aftertaste has a salad flavor (though he has been known to eat the occasional salad, apparently he doesn't prefer salad in his smoothies). Interesting, I thought. This from a kid who can detect the flavor of an opened bottle of juice from across the room. He must be destined for wine tasting, a connoisseur of sorts.
Regular restaurant visits can be pricey; we have discovered a good time for less-expensive tasting is lunch. Restaurants often serve the same courses for lunch and dinner; lunch costs less. Even better: go during Happy Hour.
Happy Hour isn't just for bar-hoppers; it sometimes applies to outdoor seating or even better, the entire restaurant. I am not talking the late-night post 10 pm happy hour. Many venues in our area boast great prices from 3-6 or 4-7. Just call around and learn where the deals are: and don't be shy about asking for the Happy Hour menu.
We recently enjoyed a few plates of appetizers [via Happy Hour] at a nearby restaurant. I showed the boys the difference in pricing, explaining that these are less busy times in restaurants, and better prices will increase customers during those times. The blackened salmon Caesar normally costs $11 but during happy hour, it was offered at a mere $4. The coconut prawns? Only $4 instead of $10; same for the calamari and steak burger.
We felt so spoiled---and happily gobbled up all these new flavors and sauces. My 11 year old was enjoying the prawns and strawberry lemonade. He said the flavors were so far apart from one another his mouth felt alive (pause, while mother pats herself on the back). And to top it off, my 10 year old exclaimed: "I love happy hour."
I imagine him stating such in the classroom. With the following query from another 10 year old: "what is happy hour?" No doubt the teacher will overhear, and might imagine parents skulking around happy hours all about town, looking for the best, cheap drinks (pause while I stop patting myself on the back).
Despite mixed messages and overheard boyish conversations, happy hour really is a great way to try a range of new foods and not suck your pocketbook dry.
My son tried potato skins for the first time, and though it is hardly a stretch, my 10 year old loved them. We recreated them at home:
Homespun Potato Skins Small fingerling potatoes 1-2 T olive oil large pinch kosher salt Bacon, cooked and sliced Cheese, shredded optional: Cherry tomatoes (halved) optional: sliced spring onions
Roast potatoes: lube 1-2 LBS fingerling potatoes with 1-2 T olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and 1 T dried Italian herbs. Roast at 400 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out a little flesh, enough to make a 1 T impression on each half (room for cheese and a cherry tomato). Sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon; top with cherry tomato halves and spring onions, if desired. Put back in oven, raising temperature to 500, for 10-12 minutes. Serve.