Happy Hour

paparazzi photo from rivabella


What the hell is Happy Hour and why is everyone talking about it?  The happiest hour for me is when I eat.  But if it means standing around with drinks in your hand, eating from some communal barrel of glop, count me out.  I don’t think Happy Hour would have appeal for me even if it were at a restaurant I wanted to go to.  It just sounds awful.  Or am I a snob?

The other day, I was recommending my new favorite restaurant in L.A., Tar and Roses, to someone who then asked, “Do they have a Happy Hour?”  I was baffled by the question.  It’s so foreign to me.

And then I got an invitation to join my daughter and her best friend Cody and a bunch of their hot 27-year-old friends for what I thought was dinner.  But it wasn’t.  It was Happy Hour at some Mexican restaurant’s bar (Marix Tex Mex).  And while I think it’s brilliant for young people not yet making big money to be able to eat like that, I just couldn’t do it.  I asked for a proper menu.

Augie and her friends at Marix Tex Mex Happy Hour

Augie and her friends at Marix Tex Mex Happy Hour

Today, it was back and forth all day about where to meet “in town.”  The dreaded driving–into-town-for-an-hour-or-two-of-traffic hell.  I hate it.  I’m almost over it, but I’m so friggin social, I go anyway.  I just wish I had a private helicopter to jet me around.  Do you watch Dr. Oz?  If you do, you know that to live an extra six years, it’s good to socialize.  I was getting updates throughout the day and the number of chicks invited grew by the hour.  I snuck in, or so I thought — a switcheroo.  I booked five of us into E. Baldi in Beverly Hills, which happens to have the best Dover Sole in Los Angeles.  It’s actually the only restaurant in town where I order a full meal.  Usually, I’m fine with just an appetizer and tons of bread & butter.   But I had an uneasy feeling all day — I didn’t know which to fear more, the amount of perfume or the loudness of the restaurant or that damn Happy Hour.  I imagined a very big bar scene, which is just so not my scene

I became the pushiest, most overbearing person to ever be an afterthought invitee to something.   I was lying before when I said it was back and forth all day about where to meet.  I was told from the beginning where to meet.  I just chose to override it — especially when Donna called to read the Yelp reviews and this place was said to have a very happening Happy Hour.  Shoot me.  The only thing worse would be if a review said “big portions”.  Bigger is not better.  I was also trying hard to change the time to earlier, when I like to eat.  And on top of that, I was demanding that no one wear perfume.  (My friends call me The Director; my kids just call me micro-manager.)  I bet there were a lot of texts flying all day about what a brat I am.

The place chosen was RivaBella.  I was asked to cancel my other earlier reservation at E Baldi when we heard Rise was now coming.  They had already reserved a table for six.  I asked Jill to do that for me.   Both Donna and Jill got to work on calming my nerves in the hour or two before that long drive.  All I can say is thank God for the extra bad service in which no one came to our table for at least a half hour.   Because Jane went up to complain and then we were given beyond amazing attentive service fueled by guilt.  Suddenly the iced tea that I had ordered twenty minutes ago arrived.  I had, of course, asked for it three times.  Also, appetizers were sent over, “on the house.”  By the way, those two superb dishes could get me back to this restaurant even though it’s geographically undesirable for me.  The most generous amount of Burrata Cheese I have ever witnessed (all right, sometimes bigger is better), served on top of very thinly sliced grilled peppers and swordfish Carpaccio to die for.

The location of this restaurant is one that is close to our hearts.   We all grew up in Beverly Hills and a regular spot for us was the red-boothed Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset.  We collectively came up with the genius plan that if this new restaurant in the Hamlet spot would serve two signature dishes from back in the day, it would draw a nostalgic crowd.  So, I’ll say it here and hope someone listens.   Lobster Bisque and Zucchini Zircles.  What are Zucchini Zircles you might ask if you are from Topeka, Kansas?  They are delicious fried zucchini with Italian herbed breadcrumbs, served with a tangy apricot sauce and ranch dressing.  Writing this makes me crave dunking one of those fried wonders into the ranch dressing.  If only.  A girl can dream.

What a pleasure it was to reunite with Jennifer, for whom we were having this dinner (she is visiting from New York).  A perfect night.  Well, except for the moment when I casually asked her if she remembered my father and she answered yes and I burst into tears.  Had she said no, I could have avoided the waterworks.   I know that even if that drive took a year off my life, I will still live the extra five for being a social creature.  However, I can’t get that Dover Sole out of my mind, so I’m headed down the street — not across town — to E. Baldi’s daddy restaurant, the original Giorgio’s, known to some as Giorgio Baldi, where I will get my fix.  I’m also thinking about getting the lobster salad.


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