Cyber Corpse 2
Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
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Winners Go to the Flaming Pit
by Mike Topp

The location for this year's Dinner with Mr. Restaurant Sweepstakes was the Flaming Pit located in the chic Hanover Marriott in Whippany. The sweepstakes winners won a full weekend of fine dining that included dinner Saturday night at the Flaming Pit, an overnight stay at the Hanover Marriott, and brunch Sunday at Ye Olde Salad Bar.

It all started at seven Saturday night. Mr. and Mrs. Restaurant met Lionel and Diana Trilling in the beautiful open atrium lobby of the Hanover Marriott where overhead, picturesque old fans drove the air in sullen wise. Greetings were exchanged and everyone proceeded to the dramatic entrance of the Flaming Pit. As the group was seated Diana told of her surprise when she was selected as the sweepstakes winner. Diana added, "I don't know what Lionel keeps in our refrigerator, but it makes everything taste funny." Lionel and Diana were extremely gracious winners and a friendly couple. Right away everyone had no trouble having a good time.

At the Flaming Pit mixed drinks are a specialty. Take-home mugs depicting Japan act as a fine remembrance of the occasion. Some of the specialty drinks include the Banzai Blossom--a very tasty blend of eau de vies, and Red Parrot--a robust blend of rums with tropical juices traditionally enjoyed by plantation owners in the tropics. It was the Japanese Bastard that Diana, Mr. Restaurant, and Mrs. Restaurant chose to order. The menu described it as "a Heady Bastard concoction that will erase all memories of a spurious past. In fact, it will erase all memories." Certainly the group was daring.

The restaurant also features other authentic Japanese drinks such as sake, a traditional favorite that Lionel, with unexpected authority, chose, plum wine, and Japanese beers (Asahi, Sapporo, Kirin, and Suntory).

While enjoying their drinks in the blue light that fell from a cellophane coconut, Mr. and Mrs. Restaurant got to know the Trillings better and were impressed by what a nice family they have, including a bird and an iguana. They have two children, Knight, ten years old, and Danielle, thirteen years old.

Knight is an extremely gifted young ice hockey player. Lionel mentioned that he, too, played when he was in high school. Like father, like son!

For appetizers Lionel and Diana ordered the combination appetizers for two. It included skewers of tarred and feathered filet mignon with house steak sauce and frizzled leek. "Delicious," repeated Diana again and again. Mrs. Restaurant had an order of jumbo Indonesian shrimp topped with spinach and crabmeat stuffing wrapped in puff pastry in a pool of rice wine Sicilian blood orange buerre blanc. Mr. Restaurant had clams.

Each entree ordered at the Flaming Pit includes shrimp or scallops with ginger sauce, fresh field greens with oriental dressing, soup, rice, vegetables, and green tea. Everyone at the table enjoyed the miso soup, a flavorful blend that includes fish stock, tofu, and water. Families of more than one hundred persons pay a special, proportional price.

The excitement revved up when it came time for the main entrees. This is when the highly skilled Chef Rollo Whitehead comes to the table and entertains while he prepares your selections. First a Mikado fried rice was prepared. Everyone was dazzled as Chef Whitehead chopped and diced everything in sight. Onions were airborne, then as they descended were caught on the tip of a razor-sharp edge. Next they were sliced and diced with the speed and accuracy which only comes from much intense training.

A List for the Sake of a List

1. Mr. Restaurant

(a) daring

(b) likes clams

(c) man

(d) Mrs. Restaurant's husband

(e) friendly

(f) enjoys Japanese Bastards

(g) impressed with the Trillings' family

(h) not your typical average guy

2. Diana Trilling

(a) Lionel Trilling's wife

(b) daring

(c) author of "Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor"

(d) enjoys Japanese Bastards

(e) critic

(f) New York intellectual

(g) winner of the Mr. Restaurant Sweepstakes

3. Rollo Whitehead

(a) dazzling

(b) revs up diners

(c) chef

(d) has a seven-inch-long finger

(e) Scotch drinker

(f) does not play ice hockey

For the main course, everyone, ironically, had the special, which was a combination of shrimp, filet mignon, and lobster tail. All were simultaneously and expertly cooked right at the table for all eyes to see.

Large shrimp were spread across the cooking area. The filet mignon came out in a huge slab and was quickly carved to manageable sizes by Chef Whitehead. The lobsters were laid out and began to sizzle. "As prepared by my mother," Lionel said, "it contains many of the ingredients of an abalone steak provençal." Chef Whitehead noted that a complete description could be found on the back of the card-table-sized menus. Each person's dinner was cooked to order. Before items were plated, Chef Whitehead diced the shrimp, lobster, and filet mignon into bite-size portions. In one corner a big jukebox whose revolving lights cast an ominous glow was playing "Dance to My Lady."

For dessert it was fresh melon and vanilla ice cream balls rolled in the Flaming Pit's special coating, quick-fried, and served with chocolate sauce. "I'm not what you might call your typical average guy," Mr. Restaurant commented as he sipped on an after-dinner Dubonnet on the rocks. "Sure, I overdo it once in a while--but who doesn't?" The group then headed over to the luxurious lounge located in the atrium for a nightcap.

Brunch the next day was magnificent. The room in which meals were served was filled with wicker furniture, ferns, and stuffed birds under glass. Lionel especially made numerous trips to the buffet line and omelet station where a chef prepared individual omelets. Brunch had everything imaginable, from haggis, the national dish of Scotland, to smoked fish, pancakes, waffles, and steak sandwiches. Brunch was a grand finish to what had passed for a magnificent weekend at the Hanover Marriott.

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