The Forge: A Date with a Surgeon

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Short Order will be hosting a column that combines dating and culinary reviews. The author, Riki Altman is an expert on both.

Let's talk about balls, shall we? Not testicles, per se, but cohones, huevos, grit, moxie, pluck... you know, that magical thing it takes to really get a job done. If looks were all it took to get into my miniskirt, my last date would've had me naked before we hit the hostess stand. But this foodie femme fatale needs to be tantalized in equal parts by repartee and fine food.

The guy in this case was a surgeon. The cost was $350. And the restaurant was The Forge, that newly redone beauty on 41st Street. Why did he give me the deer-in-the-headlights look when our bill arrived? He did most of the ordering. Considering what my girlfriends have paid for their boobs, he should've had ample Benjamin-age. And why did he tell me he was an adventurous eater, only to order the most basic stuff on the menu?

First a little backstory. A while back, a reality-based television channel called out of the blue and asked me to audition for a show in development. The idea: focus on single girls who give dating advice but are also on the hunt. Seems they Googled "outspoken Miami single girl" and my name popped up first.

Not long ago, I got a call telling me someone would be flying in to film me on a date. I quickly called on a place where I knew the attention would be welcome: The Forge. Shareef Malnik didn't drop big bucks on that ostentatious remodel to have his restaurant fade into the background, for sure.

Within hours, I got the green light for the film crew. One issue down, one to go. Now I had to find a guy. I flipped through my Blackberry and found the perfect pawn--a gorgeous plastic surgeon I had met at a friend's dinner party. We had flirted the night away and I hoped to see him again, but when he left that night all he gave me was a business card. Somehow I had become Prince Charming and he Cinderella.

Who knew how it would go? In any case, I looked forward to trying some of Chef Dewey LoSasso's more inventive menu choices. He ran a fine restaurant on Biscayne Boulevard that had been battered and then closed by the economic downturn. But he's a genius of the local food scene.

After my date hemmed and hawed at the menu for a while, the server shot out, "Why don't you let the lady decide?" and I quickly chose the wild mushroom risotto appetizer to start. The dish was so decadent that it even put the cameramen into a tailspin. Somehow LoSasso manages to get the perfect ratio of creamy pasta, earthy fungi, and rich cheese in every bowl. Each bite is pure ecstasy and the presentation was almost as yummy as was my mate in his neutral Gucci suit.

When the server stopped by for our entrée selection, the sexy surgeon opted to forgo the more daring options, such as snapper in a bag, calabasa blossoms, and even the hamburger topped with short ribs, pomegranate ketchup, and lobster marmalade. Instead he went for the safe choice, a grilled filet mignon with four mustard sauces and a side of truffled potato squares. Our waiter pronounced the dish "America's number one steak according to Wine Spectator magazine." The two of us agreed the steak was solid, but not the best in the nation, even though it was prepared perfectly and arrived warm with loads of enjoyable accompaniments.

We also tried the haricots verts in their soy sauce glaze with sweet chiles, which had a tangy, spicy edge. LoSasso took a chance and we had to give points for that. However, there are some factors that make The Forge less than perfect for a date. First off, it's very scene-y and large, so intimacy is a precious commodity. And secondly, it's more expensive than many other restaurants in the area. The meal for the two of us came to nearly $350 without tip, and neither of us was drinking much.

After the bill was delivered, it sat there on the table for more than a few awkward minutes. My date looked at me, I looked at him, the slip of paper stayed put. Perhaps he was under the impression that the film crew would pick up the tab? Eventually he reached for his wallet--reluctantly, I might add--and pulled out a worn credit card. After he did so, I offered to split (also reluctantly) and he nearly took me up on it. So it did look like perhaps the doc had a set of balls after all; what kind of man would let a woman freakin' pay on a first date?

Though there was no love match to be had here, this fairy tale has a happy ending: The producers called and announced I was selected for the show and they'll return this month to shoot a pilot episode. What does this mean to you, Short Order readers? You'll get more about my dining and dating trials -- and who knows, maybe they'll air on national television. So suggest some eateries, please. I may just give 'em a plug as I am exposed for the over-eating, darling dating train wreck that I truly am.

Forge/Surgeon Dating Rating

Food: 4/5
Hip Factor: 3/5
Ambiance: 3/5
Cost: 2.5/5
Date: 2
Overall: 3

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