My top five full-service chain restaurant meals
1. The Big Night Out four-course dinner from The Melting Pot.
The Melting Pot is my absolute favorite chain restaurant. If I were on death row, I would request its super-dooper four-course dinner for my final meal on earth. This place is not cheap, and I usually crack a bill between dinner and wine service -- the bar has the sweet Muscats and late harvest Rieslings that I adore -- but I've never left an MP unsatisfied by either the food or the service.
The Big Night Out starts off with a choice of cheese fondue, and I usually go with the Cheddar cheese, which has plenty of beer and garlic, followed by a salad -- my choice is the California salad with Raspberry-Black Walnut Vinaigrette. After that, I move on to the Pacific Rim, which is a tray of raw meats, shrimps and potstickers (and duck, which is my favorite part) that I get to self-cook in a pot of "Mojo" Caribbean-seasoned broth, then dip into Ginger Plum sauce.
For me, having dessert at MP holds the same sacred spirituality that other people can only find by going to church. Watching the molten milk chocolate swirled with peanut butter, then dipping slices of banana into it, is such a personal, religious experience.
I may leave the Melting Pot broke, stuffed to the point of illness, but there is always a deep feeling of happiness in my tiny, sea-salted heart.