Whine and Dine

Some tips on where to take those unwanted house guests for dinner

We're always looking for the ideal restaurants to take our loved ones -- naturally we want them to be impressed, feel cherished, and compliment our good taste. But what if we have to take someone we dislike out to dinner? Say, unwanted house guests? Meddling in-laws? Fussy colleagues? Where should we wine and dine them, especially if we want to dissuade them from dining with us in the future?

It's not an easy question to answer. For instance, you can't be outwardly cruel, like taking someone whom you know is afraid of heights to a penthouse restaurant. Or an acquaintance who gets motion sickness easily on a dinner cruise. Or someone who just quit smoking to a place like Opium. Or a Jew who keeps kosher to Joe's Stone Crab (even if they could eat the fried chicken).

Take it from me -- being snide and subtle is tough. I'm good at the former but not such an expert at the latter, which is why I asked some other local know-it-alls to help me out with this one, trusted friends and relatives I myself would never, but never bring to the Cheesecake Factory in the Aventura Mall on a Friday night, and who in turn would not take me (I hope) to the Rascal House for an early-bird dinner on a Saturday. Perish the possibilities:

Kill 'em with Kindness:

•"I would take anyone, whether I liked them or not, to Pascal's. It's my favorite restaurant not only for its impeccable food but for its quiet and elegantly homey atmosphere. Good food always puts me in a better mood, and what better way to bury a hatchet than under a well-set table?" -- Viviana Carballo, food writer and cooking teacher

•"Always take them to Norman's -- the ones we like and the ones we don't, whether we pay or they pay. If they pay, we have a great meal and forget the lousy company. If we pay, we have a great meal and forget the lousy company. When people let you down, food becomes the world, the stage, the purpose. A meal is going to generate an existential crisis? Let the food save the day and the only lifeguard we count on is Norman Van Aken." -- Poet and art critic Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Examine Your Motives:

•"Well, of course the first thing to ask oneself is do you want to use this meal as a way to ensure that you don't ever have to eat with this person (or persons) again? If that's the case, somewhere really loud, with lots of screaming children and lousy food, would be the best option -- say Dave & Buster's or Chuck E. Cheese. A drive-thru option is always the quickest way to get rid of someone. Take-out food all packed up and ready to go and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

"But if you want to keep this person in your life (or don't have a choice because it's your mother-in-law), then that's another bowl of fruit. If I am picking up the check I pick somewhere I like but not somewhere that I will be too embarrassed to go again if my guests don't behave. That usually means somewhere way off the Beach like Lagoon on 163rd Street -- where else can you get Maine lobster and all the fixings? If I am truly trying to impress I put my snob-appeal gear into action; it is off to Tantra, Azul, or Pacific Time -- fabulous food, service, and personal attention from chefs I respect and adore. Who cares who I am dining with if the food is divine and there's lots of great people or Tantric movie watching! Oh, another thought: The sexy movies at Tantra will certainly ensure that those conservative friends and family won't want to dine with you again soon." -- Dindy Yokel, publicist

Make 'em Wait:

•"Correct answer: Joe's Stone Crab." -- Johnny Vinczencz, chef

•"Lario's on the Beach, when you could get much better Cuban food at any other place where there's no hype. Or how about the Rusty Pelican for Sunday brunch on Mother's Day -- that's a good way to drive somebody nuts." -- Jerome Charles, film editor

Expose Your Hidden Agenda:

•"I don't entertain people I don't enjoy dining with and never host unwanted house guests." -- Susan Pierres, freelance writer and photographer

 
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