Sunday, February 15, 2009

Another Sign of the Economic Times

So, it was St. Valentine's Day. Hubby and I slept late--I slept REAL late, as I've been lethargic and sleepy lately--and spent much time just cuddling and smooching and vegging out.

Although we'd planned to have dinner out, wearing some sort of red for the holiday--I have enough red lipsticks and glosses and shoes to cover several Valentine's--I decided I just wanted to continue the vegging. Shoot, I barely brushed my hair. Never got dressed. Stayed in my chemise all day (which was fine with hubby and he likes it muchly).

I suggest we splurge on take-out from one of our fave local eateries.

After suggesting it, I paused and wondered if they even would have take-out, or if they'd be booked with a special holiday menu and eat-in only. So, I called. Take-out was fine. Cool. Chicken Marsala, endive and watercress salad, and French fruit tart, come to me!

Food was superyum. Fruit tart was heavenly. And...we got a bonus: A customer appreciation coupon for $10 off our next visit before month's end.

This also gave me pause.

Context: We've been dining at this eatery for more than 12 years. When I was able to eat seafood (which I have not since December of 1997), I used to go three times a week at lunch for the sauteed corvina, extra lemon, extra parsley, with a side of veggie souffle of the day and roast potatoes. This was my fave meal for years. The cook would see me and say, "Ah, yes. Extra parsley!" It's like it became my nickname.

I have seen this eatery change ownership and seen the menu only slightly tweaked in these 12+ years. In all that time, I never ever saw a coupon or a discount of any sort offered or accepted. I figured its clientele just didn't do coupons. And it's Belgian original owner had a very friendly-but-uppity air, the sort one expects of foodies and wine snobs, ya know?

This restaurant has long been frequented by well-heeled folks from a nearby affluent section of the city. (No, that's not our section; we live in poorer folk area, a little more ragged and with higher crime.) You see high maintenance ladies with "perfected" faces and designer shoes and bags. Lunchtimes you see businessmen with their Blackberries talking deals and networking over their meals. You see Lexuses and Jaguars in the parking lot with regularity. Once, I saw a Rolls Royce--and yes, I stopped to get a really good look. :)

So, while getting a coupon was nice, it does say something about how business must be going these days. Those high roller regulars must be arranger fewer afternoon deals over escargot and pecan-crusted fish and stuffed artichokes.

This week, our local paper had more than one article about how to economize for St. Valentine's Day. They offered recipes for romantic at-home dinners and ideas for less-costly treats and gifts. They listed freebie fun activities, such as galleries to visit around town before or after one's espresso.

Doesn't bode well for restaurants when the only major paper in town is basically accepting that local folks are gonna stay home and smooch rather than spend hundreds on dining and dancing.

The predictions that this recession will get worse and linger two or more years are scary. Getting a nice little coupon from a restaurant seems like an omen in light of such predictions.

If MAC COSMETICS lowers the price of their addictive lipsticks and lipglasses, of which I own about 3 dozen, I'll know we're staring at an all-out depression.

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