A Back Porch Dinner Review

jamie amy ager

Date nights are not a regular thing for us, but Jamie and I would get out for a night to ourselves every now and again and enjoy the restaurants that are customers of HNG. That was back when life looked like the hustle of managing a business, schoolwork not at home, soccer, ultimate, tennis, homework, all those things that used to be on my calendar.

Now the rhythm is a bit different with all five of us home during the day fighting for bandwidth for zoom calls and creating a daily schedule for the kids to partially self manage their school and chore work before lunch. Jamie and I have been observing what these times mean for our business and how to best care for our employees, customers and vendors. 

This has proved to be an ever-changing landscape of hard daily decisions. But having the boys home has been a real joy overall!

By the time last Friday rolled around and I was out of ideas for chores. It came to me that this night was going to be our date night and the boys would learn how to run a restaurant. I was hoping for a win-win.

They have been on the sidelines of their parents “discussions” on business, for better and for worse their entire lives. They have a pretty clear idea what it takes to pull this off ever since we opened our own restaurant of sorts down at the farm store a few years back. It turns out the learning by listening and observation skills they developed, coupled with the employees at HNG, who have been their constant role models,  created an amazingly pleasant night out on the back porch at the Ager household.

Reservations were for 6:30. Jamie and I worked on finalizing the details of the work week until about 5:30, fit in some exercise for sanity and went to get ready. Jamie donned a linen shirt and I wore a dress that a dear friend had picked up and sent me a few months back from California. I mean, why not? What else was there to do, may as well go the whole nine, was my thought.

Our youngest spent two hours battling Google Docs with double column formatting, planning the menu, prices and descriptions of the night’s offerings.

We told the kids we would pay them for the food minus the typical 30% food cost and we would include a tip for service. This really lit up our youngests’ eyes as he is definitely an entrepreneurial-minded thinker. Watch for the launch of his milkshake business this summer! 

With the three kids I figured they would fall into the three roles of prep cook, chef, and dishwasher.

However our oldest wasn’t that interested in being the dishwasher so our middle son took on the executive chef and dishwasher role for this meal. It happened many a time in our own restaurant too and I felt for them but they navigated without anyone walking out on the job completely!

We ordered a Pernicious IPA and Uncle Ricks Pilsner to start the evening aptly priced a bit high as they knew our preferences.

Scallops and shrimp sourced from a local fisherman who sets up next to Trout Lily were our next course.

Jamie and I split the American Steak, which was a bavette and cooked well done, because timing is hard when you have that many items on the menu. It came straight from warming in the oven to the table piping hot.

Upon request they brought melted butter and a chimichurri sauce that was in the fridge for added flavor, both were the perfect touch. The roasted cauliflower we both ordered as our side was cooked to absolute perfection and flavored just as the menu claimed.

Mashed potatoes seemed to be more of a challenge for our budding middle sons chef skills, which came out solo in the fourth course.

Our oldest had to step in and manage the melted butter and milk after two flustered fails. We considered ordering one of the two wines on the list but opted to just split another beer before dessert and getting the bill, which our four foot eleven inches tall server was eager to deliver. 

Strawberry ice cream with chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream thoughtfully arrived with two spoons much to our delight. Dinner lingered as long as the evening light. Jamie and I had about twenty more minutes to chat uninterrupted while the children cleaned up the home kitchen close enough to county inspection and mom standards that they could get. 

After discounts and negotiations they came away with about $35 each, and an appreciation for the work that goes into pulling off creating and executing a high-pressure meal.

They learned the importance of timing and gained even more love from their parents who decided we should definitely do this at least once a month!