julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

The Bachelorette Party

Last week I got an invitation to attend a bachelorette party for a friend who’s getting married this weekend. The plan was to meet for dinner and drinks, and then spend the rest of the evening bar hopping and ultimately wind up at a local hotel for a slumber party. Sounds fun, right? Unfortunately, this Girls’ Night Out took place…last night. On a Thursday. And I’m sorry to say that my days of bar hopping and waking up early for work the next morning are over.

Despite the fact that I didn’t expect to know anybody at the party other than the Bride-to-Be, I decided to accept for the dinner portion of the evening. (Have I mentioned that I like to eat?) After all, it’s not every day my friend has a bachelorette party, and it’s not every day I get invited to a Girls’ Night Out!

I looked up the location of the restaurant online and mapped out directions: Nick & Sam’s in Uptown. My heart sank a little…Uptown is a sort of high-end part of town with a sort of high-end kind of people. Between you and me, I don’t feel that I particularly fit into the Uptown scene. Billy Joel would never write a song about me. (When I told my husband where I was going for dinner, his first question was, “Do you have anything to wear?”) The fact is, I’m not quite as trendy as the area seems to call for – but I love to go and people watch, and I’m always up for a good adventure, so I picked out a trendy-esque outfit from my closet and made the trek out to that part of town.

Nick & Sam's in Uptown

As I pulled onto the street where the restaurant was located, I was amazed that the surrounding restaurant patios were already really busy – on a Thursday evening! But in this area, people live in loft apartments and walk around the corner to the local hotspots, so I guess it made sense. I found the restaurant with very little trouble, and after a couple of tries was able to pull into the correct parking lot for valet. I was surprised by this place – it was a really upscale steak and seafood restaurant, which seemed kind of odd for a bachelorette party, but then again, nothing in this area would surprise me.

Only, when I told the hostess I was there to meet a group for a party, she looked over the reservation list, then back at me. “Is it possible you’re supposed to meet at Nick & Sam’s Grill?” she asked. I was confused. Isn’t that where I was? Oops. Apparently my intended destination was a casual offshoot of the steakhouse and was located a mere three blocks from where I stood. Now I ask you…why in the world would a restaurant ownership name one place Nick & Sam’s and then three blocks away have a place called Nick & Sam’s Grill?? That’s Uptown for you.

So the valet had to bring my truck back around to me (embarrassing) and I climbed back into the driver’s seat to find the right place. Finally parked in the correct lot, I headed for the front door of this more relaxed yet still trendy restaurant. As I made my way there, I wondered how I would recognize the party. I figured I would just look for a group of girls wearing little black dresses…isn’t that what girls wore to a bachelorette party?

Nick & Sam's Grill

Only, when I got to the front door, I realized immediately that all the girls who worked at that restaurant were wearing – yep, you guessed it! – little black dresses. D’oh! So much for that strategy. I knew right away I must have looked more out of place than I felt when the host at the door greeted me with a look on his face that said, “Aw, look at the cute stray kitten! Come on in, poor thing – we’ll give you a home.”

“I’m here to meet a big party,” I smiled. He nodded. “Yes, perhaps with these ladies?” and he motioned toward a large table in the next room. I peeked around the corner…and didn’t recognize a single face. Looking back at the host, I replied, “Maybe?” When I explained my predicament, he suggested I look around for my friend and then feel free to wait at the bar. So I did. When the bartender asked what I wanted, I went to my comfort zone. I ordered a Bloody Mary.

Nick & Sam's Bar

I positioned myself so I could see the front door and hopefully recognize a familiar face when members of the bachelorette party arrived. As I waited, I began to take in the interior of this place. If this restaurant were a Spice Girl, it would be Posh Spice. The main dining room was decorated in black and dark orange tones with dramatic floor-to-ceiling curtains. The brick walls were adorned with a mural replicated from the steak place I had visited earlier, and the bar area featured a large painting created by one of the company’s partners. It wasn’t a very large building, about 3,000 square feet, but offered several garden patio areas and open windows to make the space feel more open.

I also noticed there was an upstairs balcony, with several tables draped in white linens whose place settings displayed nicer china. It was very cozy up there, perfect for private parties, and it was on this level that the restrooms were located. (Note to self: wear sensible shoes while climbing the steep staircase to the second story. I almost died. In Uptown. Nobody at my funeral would have believed it.)

Despite the restaurant’s best efforts to provide a warm, comfortable atmosphere, I still felt out of my element. For me, this was definitely the kind of place that was perfect for people watching – and boy, were there some people to watch. (Can anyone tell me when bobby pins became a fashion accessory? And when did it become okay to throw a big belt over a silk shirt and call it a dress? I’m so behind.)

Eventually, a girl came into the restaurant looking a little confused. The host gestured toward me, and she looked in my direction. I recognized the look of uncertainty on her face and, while I had no idea who she was, I waved enthusiastically. He walked her over to me and asked if I was there for a bachelorette party. Hooray! He made a match! It was only then, up close, that I realized I recognized this girl from a bridal shower we had both attended awhile back for this bride-to-be. Thank goodness for familiarity! We were both relieved to have found each other, and we sat and drank and made small talk until we saw the rest of our party come in, then went to join them at a large table on the side covered patio.

When she and I turned the corner, we were both shocked to see that all of the girls at the table were also from that same bridal shower! We had all only met that one day, but it was the very same group. This changed things entirely. Suddenly my concerns of making forced small talk with strangers vanished, and I was excited to see that I could really enjoy this evening.

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

The patio area was great. Even though it was a warm summer night, there were plenty of overhead fans to create a perfect breeze – the temperature was very comfortable, and the atmosphere was fun and casual. Best of all? The food was great! The items on the menu were really reasonably priced (especially considering the neighborhood we were in), and everything was a familiar dish with a unique spin. I ordered the “Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich”, and it was terrific! Served on a long white rectangular plate, the sandwich included cheese, smoked ham and pears between two slices of bread. Don’t wrinkle your nose…it was really good! The ham gave the sandwich a nice body, and the pears weren’t even noticeable – they added just the slightest hint of sweetness to the sandwich. I loved dipping it into the bowl of thick, creamy tomato basil soup that came with the meal, and a small salad with strawberries finished off the trio. I highly recommend this dish. It didn’t look like much food, but when all was said and done, I sat back in my chair with a full belly. Yum!!

I also tried the evening’s drink special: Sangria. Do you know, I’ve never had this drink before, and I have to say…I LIKED IT!! Most of us at the table ordered the Pink Passion (appropriate for a bachelorette party, don’t you think?), which could be purchased by the glass or shared by the carafe (both of which were priced well). It’s a champagne-based fruity beverage, very light and perfect for a warm summer Girls’ Night Out. (Ladies, I recommend you try making these at your next shower/party/game night.)

Bachelorette Sash

I have to say, overall I enjoyed my experience in Uptown, and Nick & Sam’s Grill was great. The food was tasty, the prices were fine, and the service was friendly (albeit a little slow…but we did have a pretty big group.) Most of all, I had a really great time sitting and visiting with all the girls. The host of our party brought a goody bag full of treats for the bride-to-be (and for the guests who would be joining them for the hopping of the bars) – sashes, tiaras, buttons. She did a great job, and even provided some special “bachelorette party” cupcakes for dessert.

It was fun to spend some time with girls only, and I briefly toyed with the idea of joining the party on its next leg of entertainment at a bar within walking distance of the restaurant. But as the hour grew later, and a package of “Truth or Dare” scratch-off tickets were passed around to be played at the bar, I knew it would be best for me to just head on home – or else I would really be sorry in the morning. It’s hard to be a grown-up sometimes.

As I made my way back to my house, stifling a yawn, I kept thinking about how nice it was to be included in the party. Not just to have time with the girls, but to pretend for a few hours that I really belonged in a trendy neighborhood surrounded by posh socialites. And then I went home and ate a bag of fruit snacks until I got a stomach ache…a gentle reminder that comfy jammies, a cat in my lap and my sweet husband are where I really belong.

-Jessica

Today’s French Lesson:
Ne vous inquiétez pas … ce soir, nous cuisinons!

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