Review: The Southerly at the Southern Season

One of the perks of running a blog is you get approached to cover cool things. This happened recently when Southern Season reached out to Sara and I to attend a tasting tour at their Richmond location. Now I, whose foodie enthusiasm is limited to Starbucks and McDonald’s iced coffee, had never heard of Southern Season, but Sara, a Northerner with a fascination for southern things (she likes biscuits and gravy more than my late grandpa), could not reply yes fast enough. She had previously shopped there and had been wanting to go back.

I was further proved to be in the dark when my friend, Sandra Tran, decided to visit me the day of the tasting tour. Sandra owns an ice cream store in Arlington, VA (you should really stop by Nicecream Factory if you’re in the area – it’s quite the tasty show), so I brought her along. As we pull up, Sandra exclaims, “You didn’t tell me it was Southern Season! Ohmigawd, I love this place!”

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Snippets of Etiquette

A few weeks ago I attended an etiquette dinner. When I told my friends, I received either "I've already been to too many etiquette dinners in my life" (this friend hails from the South) and "Is that where they teach you how to use a spoon?" Me to the latter: "Please don't come if that's your attitude."

Anyhow, I will never deny free food and you never know when you'll be dining with an interviewer who's testing how you break your bread (use your hands, not a knife! Did you know that?). Also, I instinctively knew this would make for a snarky blog.

I sat with several friends – ones who had never attended etiquette dinners before (*sigh* northerners) and who had higher expectations than learning how to use a spoon (watchBeauty and the Beast). We were also joined by the Luna Lovegood of the room aka no one knew her and she wore Barbie shoe earrings. Like, actual shoes that belong on a Barbie doll.

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My Experience of Fine Dining

So this week is "Richmond Restaurant Week," which means that a bunch of restaurants make a three course meal for $25. So, naturally, I'm there. Since my roommates and I are all really indecisive, I enlist a coworker to select the best restaurant on the list for us. He immediately picks one, and I see there's salmon on the menu, so it's a done deal. My roommate and I set out for our bargain meal.

I'm wearing black jeans, a striped black t-shirt and a cardigan. My roommate has an orange t-shirt and jeans on. "Should I put something nicer on?" She asks before we leave. I'm starving so I say, "Nah, we're fine."

Lesson #1: never let me decide what's an appropriate outfit.

We get there and a girl is standing outside in a little black dress and high heels. Her boyfriend/side salad/ random man she took to dinner is in black dress slacks, button up and a tie. We paused outside contemplating if we should go in. Then a lady with a blazer and jeans head in, so we sack up and enter.

Lesson #2: don't follow the one person's lead who is wearing jeans.

Every patron looks like they belong to a country club. Since we already arrived, we went up to the hostess, who says "Do you have a reservation?"

Lesson #3: make reservations.

We don't, but lucky for us, there's a tiny table in the tiny bar area behind a pole. It must be reserved for the degenerates that wander in during restaurant week.

We sit down, minimally embarrassed about our pathetic attire and decorum, until the waiter comes over to remove our menus to lay out the white table cloth, which really highlighted how out of our element we are.

So then the waiter speaks. Not only is this an uuber fancy Italian restaurant, but apparently it only hires real Italian people. Accent required.

My roommate orders wine, so naturally I don't want to be that girl, wearing jeans in a white napkin establishment and order only water. Even me trying to order wine was like the first time I've ever drank before.

"Uhh do you have anything like a Pinot Grigio?"

"Yes, we have a Pinot."

Of course they do, they're a fancy Italian restaurant.

So you'd think that would be the end of the ordeal, and you'd be wrong. My roommate was telling me about how her work friends are doing something at Maggianos, the chain Italian place I love because they give you a whole new entree to bring home with you, and different waiter stops and goes,

Maggianos?! That place is like McDonalds!

Lesson #4: the restaurant you go to as a treat to yourself may be the restaurant someone else goes to where they're slumming it.

How to Afford the Real World

Disclaimer: I am not a finance person. I once took a personal finance class and sometimes did some of the homework for it. I grew up upper-middle class and went to college with an extremely generous backing from my parents. Essentially all I had to afford was shampoo and conditioner. So now that college is over, I am expected to be a self-sufficient person. Here's what I've learned so far in regards to transitioning off your parents budget onto your own:

Another Disclaimer: When I say "my own budget", that excludes my cell phone bill and car insurance, as well as a send-home traffic violation ticket, which my parents are still paying for.

Realize whose budget you're now on. When I was on my parents budget, I was used to going out to dinner and ordering whatever I wanted. Now I realize that that steak dinners are only for people that make real money.

Get in the right mindset. I constantly tell myself I am poor. If you remind yourself everyday that you don't have money, you'll end up saving A LOT of money. Even now, when my funds are not terrifyingly low, I still remind myself that I don't have a seemingly endless supply of money anymore.

Prioritize. This is the section that I take most seriously. Know what is worth spending your money on (think back to my earlier blog about being thoughtful with who to share your money with too). While I can tell you that giving priorities to your pennies is essential, I am giving out no advice on what those priorities should be, as mine are questionable. My priorities lie in consumption, fun, and being young. I spend no money on clothes or shoes because my priority is having money to go out rather than to have going out clothes without money to go out with.

Just don't buy things. This may seem obvious, but it's how I spent so little money when I moved out. I just didn't buy things. My headboard is from my parents. My mattress was a gift from my parents when they thought my free mattress was inhumane to make me sleep on. My bookshelf and cd rack is from the side of the road. And I haven't invested a penny past that for things that normal people may see as essential for a room, such as a dresser or night tables. One day, when the plastic containers and crates holding my clothes gets too tacky for me, then I might invest in real people furniture.

Coupons and happy hours (aka get a plan). I got myself a Kroger's card and now base all my purchasing decisions off of what Kroger puts on sale that week. My friends and I plan to go places where drinks are cheap at certain times on certain days. That way I can indulge, yet still remind myself that I am a young struggling professional now.

Enjoy it. Struggling isn't actually bad. We're all there, or have been. My roommates are in the same boat, and we paddle along with each other. We help each other when one is having a better week than the other and laugh about it when we're eating frozen pizza together. It's a bonding experience that reminds us we are independent young people making it work. It's fun to know I fund my own life and its exciting watching money going in and out of my account.

Life is exhilarating out here in the real world, even when it means your budget is the smallest it has ever been before.