Episode Three: Dinner at Eight, with Steak, Potatoes and Bacon Bits

When Daphne and Niles meet it really feels like the show starts to hit its stride: as well as that, we get the first mention of the restaurant from which this blog gets its name, La Cigar Volant! Which translates rather amusingly to “the flying cigar”. Frasier and Niles are so enamoured of the place that they high five over it, which naturally results in sore hands for both of them from the unnatural display of exertion. This episode gives us some more progress in the relationship between the sons and their father, as they insist on taking him out to a fancy dinner in order to spend some time together. Their reservation at La Cigar Volant is lost, but all is not lost: Martin takes them to somewhere where he is infinitely more comfortable, a steakhouse called The Timber Mill. Niles and Frasier are so very busy luxuriating in their snootiness that they lose sight of their manners and Martin delivers a diatribe as searing as the steak his sons reluctantly ordered. I’m just going to put it below in its entirety because it’s really so good:

“Alright, that's it.  I've had enough of you two jack-asses. I've spent the whole night listening to you making cracks about the food and the help. Well, I got news for you: people like this place. I like this place. And when you insult this restaurant, you insult me. You know, I used to think you two took after your mother, liking the ballet and all that, but your mother liked a good ball game too. She even had a hot dog once in a while. She may have had fancy tastes, but she had too much class to ever make me or anybody else feel second-rate. If she saw the way you two have behaved tonight, she'd be ashamed. I know I am.”

I feel like a lot of the darkness in the show - and this is something I mentioned on Twitter after finding out about John Mahoney’s death - came from the character of Martin, as he was so much more attuned to the reality of any given situation than his sons were. Whether it was issues of mortality, of class, of morals, whatever, he was able to cut them down to size and often in situations where they fancied themselves the smarter pair in the room. The show concludes with Frasier and Niles forcing themselves to finish their entire meal as the closing credits run, since they feel so badly for their actions, and it’s pretty funny stuff. They’re grown men, but they’ve got a lot to learn still. 

Let’s just take a moment to enjoy this group photo which must have been taken supremely early on in the series’ run, judging by the clothes. And the hair. 

Daphne herself is in fine form, talking about “fluffing your knickers” to Frasier who cannot help but concede that yes, his knickers do benefit from a good fluffing; calling Frasier a “Bobby dazzler” (a phrase I’ve only ever encountered otherwise in Tipping The Velvet) and heading off to a poker game with the girls where no one ever loses “more than five or six hundred dollars.” Niles is clearly quite instantly enamoured with her and from here on will be making a lot more unexpected visits to the apartment. 

It begins. 

It seemed fitting to make steak and potatoes in honour of this episode; I don’t know if anyone really needs a recipe for steak since you just cook it over a high heat for as little time on each side as you can muster. The bacon bits here are really just fried bacon, roughly diced, as opposed to what I imagine would be the more processed kind that you’d get at the Timber Mill; but I included them on account of Niles’ horror at something haven “fallen into” his potato. 

Steak and Potatoes with Bacon Bits
  • one steak, the cut and size of your choosing
  • one large potato, the floury kind suited best to baking and roasting
  • two rashers of streaky bacon
  • two tablespoons creme fraiche (or sour cream in a pinch) 
  • four tablespoons or so grated cheese - cheddar, mozzarella, whatever
  • one teaspoon dried thyme 
  • butter, to serve, if you wish
Bake the potato in a 220C/450F oven for about an hour, or until completely yielding to the point of a knife plunged within it. Towards the end of the potato’s baking time, fry the bacon until very crisp, then remove to a chopping board and roughly chop it into small pieces. Slice the potato in half lengthwise, and scoop out the soft flesh into a bowl. Mix it together with the creme fraiche and most of the bacon, then pile it back into the potato skins. Top with the cheese and remaining bacon bits and put it back into the oven, turning the function to grill to allow the cheese to brown somewhat. 

While the potato is in the oven, cook your steak - in the same pan as the bacon, might as well - until it’s as you like it. I go for about a minute and a half on each side, but I like mine quite rare. Remove the steak to a serving plate and drop a tablespoon of butter on top if you like - I certainly do. Serve with the potato halves, sprinkled with the dried thyme. 

Favoured quote: Frasier: “Remember when you used to think the 1812 Overture was a great piece of classical music?” Niles (wistfully) “was I ever that young?” I love any reference to their youth that highlights how completely incongruous they were. Also much love for Martin excitedly telling his sons that his suit resists wrinkles - “they had one in the display window winded up in a mayonnaise jar!” John Mahoney would be given many opportunities as the series went on for these kind of outbursts, where he, with naked delight, would explain something to his sons that they in turn found horrifying. 

Em-Maris-Ment of Riches: Relatively low-key though they are, we’re blessed with several Maris references in this episode which allow us to build more of a picture of what she must be like, and it’s the first real time that the running joke of Maris being unable to attend an event is used. This time Niles relays how she “slumped down on the edge of the bed in her half-slip and sighed. Course, I knew then and there dinner was not to be.” He also insists that his immediate interest in Daphne is of no consequence as he’s a happily married man: “Maris means the world to me! Why, just the other day I kissed her for no reason whatsoever.” The lady doth protest too much. 

My Usual, Please: There is no visit to Cafe Nervosa in this episode, but a lot of sherry drinking, and both Niles and Frasier order a Stoli Gibson on the rocks with three pearl onions at The Timber Mill. A martini on the rocks seems doomed to fail, but perhaps it’s an American thing? Or more likely, the extra detail was included to highlight the inherent fussiness of the two brothers, especially in comparison with Martin’s order of a Ballantine. 

TFW you want not two, not four, but three pearl onions in your Stoli Gibson on the rocks and you suspect your request will not be upheld especially as your tie has just been cut off by the waitress. 


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