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Dessert Is On the House

February 21, 2011

On a recent work trip, I went out to dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant called Scarpetta at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The menu was just three small pages – one each for starters, pasta, and entrees – and with no specials, it wasn’t hard to make our decisions. Then we waited for our entrees, And waited.

“Just a couple more minutes,” the waiter assured us, at least four times.

“Do you think they’re catching the fish first?” we joked. “Or maybe chasing down the duck?”

As time passed and hunger rumbled, I sampled each of the four types of bread from the basket in front of me. I didn’t want to fill up on it, but we only had so many options, and my appetizer (four bites of tuna wrapped sushi-style around marinated vegetables), while excellent, did not do much to tide me over.

Finally, two hours after sitting down, our food arrived, and we fell to ravenously, polishing it off in short order. By the time we finished, it was about 8 p.m. I was full, and sleepy (I was still on East coast time), and I didn’t need anything more than sleep.

Except – “We apologize very much for the delay on dinner, so dessert is on the house,” the waiter said as he handed out menus.

Suddenly that changed everything. I found myself contemplating dessert after all. But then I wondered – why? After all, my company was paying for the meal (a good thing since mine was already around $42, and I hadn’t even had any drinks) so it was already free as far as I was concerned. I had been prepared to skip it without feeling deprived, and I had not miraculously discovered a second stomach. What was different? Why was it abruptly difficult to turn down?

I realized it was the reason why dessert was free. Before, this had been just another work dinner, one of many, nothing particular to distinguish it. Now, though, it had emotion attached. It was a peace offering, an apology, and it would be churlish to refuse it.

I could sense that feeling ripple through the nine others at the table. Even the two women who were going to a show and didn’t have much time didn’t hesitate to look at the menu and make their choice.

I checked in with myself again. It was true I didn’t need any more food, and I am generally suspicious of other reasons for eating, knowing what a slippery slope that is. But – the desserts looked wonderful. I also wasn’t so full that eating more would make me feel uncomfortable or sick. I made the conscious decision to indulge, after which I didn’t worry about it.

I am happy to say that dessert arrived promptly, and it was excellent. My neighbor and I shared ours, so we each got to try two; an amaretto chocolate cake with salted caramel gelato, very decadent and rich and moist; and a sort of apple pie in a box-shaped shell that was wonderfully crunchy and filled with perfectly baked apples, accompanied by blackberry compote. Around the table everyone exclaimed with delight. Any hard feelings about the earlier slow service melted away like the gelato on our tongues. We left with that memory of sweetness, and even though I didn’t need it to fill hunger, I had no regret.

 

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