Thursday, December 11, 2008

Table 13

We went to Richie's retirement club's annual luncheon on Tuesday at a Torrance hotel. We asked at the front desk which room it was being held in and were told "The penthouse." We raised eyebrows at each other and went to the bank of elevators.

The 12th or penthouse floor had a short flight of stairs up to a landing and the room which stretched downward in three shallow tiers. Short flights of steps (and a ramp) connected them. The decor was very '80s -- tons of gold-colored chrome and sheets of plexiglass lining the stairways; cunning little three-legged chandeliers with one light apiece. Both sides of the room were floor-to-ceiling windows giving a bird's eye view of ... downtown Torrance.

It was assigned seating at the tables for 10 and we dutifully trotted off to Table 13 after we received numbered place cards (for the poinsettia centerpiece on each table) and Richie bought a roll of tickets for the 50/50 raffle. This is a division of spoils between the club and the recipient. At the grande finale of the lunch, our place cards were collected and put into a drawing for a variety of smaller prizes.

Nine of the 10 people at our table won something! Richie got a bottle of Charles Shaw Sauvignon Blanc, I a pair of Bushnell binoculars, another a nice pen, another a $20 gift certificate to Trader Joe's! Who said 13 is an unlucky number?!

Oh! What did we eat? We started with rolls and butter. The rolls were so tough I expected to see a hail of flying dentures! Next came the salad -- one-third fancy lettuce and two-thirds regular lettuce (some economizing going on here) with a balsamic vinegar dressing or "ranch." The "ranch dressing" was so thick -- sour cream? -- that we speculated it was for the baked potatoes, soon to appear on our plates. All were quite pleased at this prospect ...

But no -- the dinner choices had been baked salmon or a roasted, half-chicken accompanied by seasonal vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and squash baked to death) and potatoes au gratin (white gravy and a little burned cheese.) My half a chicken was ... small and thin, the Mary-Kate Olson of chickens. Dessert was a dense (but not moist) slice of chocolate cake on a bed of chocolate ribbons.

In fairness to the staff (who wer all quite professional) they did have to feed 170 people with a time frame (the length of time the club had reserved the room) and they did an efficient job.

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