I’ve spent more of my professional years being the “vendor”. So, those few times being the “client” have stuck in my memory. About ten years before my trip to China where I was treated like a big shot, I got my first taste of “bribery” while working at my first major industry gig in the city. After impressing management as part of the night crew, I was asked to fill a specific role during the day, beta testing a new asset management software. There’s a long story there unrelated to food, so I’ll skip to the good stuff.
During the next six months, the software maker’s sales rep would come out for meetings from Minnesota, sometimes staying in Chicago a couple days. Sometimes we went out for pretty impressive lunches at a stretch of local upscale restaurants located along Randolph, west of Halsted. What was even more impressive were the dinners. Since the sales rep had nothing to do but hang out in his hotel room, he’d often request someone to hang out with him on his dime to kill time, and I jumped at the chance. Some of the memorable dishes from those meals included martinis and steaks at Jilly’s, a warm watercress salad at Marche’s, and a chocolate mousse-like dessert with gold fleck that looked like modern art on my plate (can’t remember if that was at Tocque’s or Vivo’s, but both were awesome places.) Discovering live jazz at the Back Room after Jilly’s was an added bonus.
As much as I don’t miss the corporate world, I do remember fondly those awesome meals, and the best part was they were all free!
Having those experiences, and the many others since, have made me sometimes dream of being a food critic and visiting new places and trying new things. Maybe I’ll find myself in that position someday, or at the very least, in a position of being courted for my business. For now, I explore as much as reason and budget allows. There are merits to both sides. So long as the experience is memorable and the company enjoyable, I’m not really picky. Enjoy!