Feb 2, 2013

Moo Goo Gai Pan & Scorpions at Trader Vic’s

Make me a scorpion, and don’t forget the gardenia!

In the mid-1960s, when I was young and very much in love, my boyfriend and I would board the train in Greenwich and head to New York, disembark at Grand Central and walk the many blocks to the Plaza Hotel.  There, at the home of Eloise, was Trader Vic’s, tucked away, dark and pretty romantic.  Total Polynesia — at least in my mind at the time.  Bamboo and grass, special booths with puffer fish lighting.

We always had the same thing:  moo goo gai pan, white rice, euphrates crackers and a couple of scorpions with gardenia floating in them.  It was heaven.  I lived for those euphrates crackers and the take-you-away-from-here atmosphere at Trader Vic’s.  The meal was around $30 in 1966.  New York’s drinking age was 18, and I had a fake ID card.

My mother was horrified that we did this — at least she claimed to be, because $30 was so much for a single meal in 1966.  An online calculator says 1966′s $30 would be $169.00 today.  For lunch, mind you.  That is pretty expensive for a couple of teenagers who were pretty ignorant about the world around them.   So I guess my mother wasn’t pretending to be horrified.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard Trader Vic’s at the Plaza was closed.  I went to the Waikiki Trader Vic’s up-in-a-tree at the International Marketplace.  It was no Trader Vic’s at the Plaza.  Years later, I asked my brother to make a reservation at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco.

Really?  Completely different menu?  Brightly lit and minimum polynesia?  Dinner with my brother, his kids, my best friend, my wonderful husband, and my brother’s in-laws.  No, it was not Trader Vic’s.  It was something masquerading as Trader Vic’s.  I should remember to listen to Tom Wolfe.

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Gloria. Circa 1955.



Gloria. Circa 2012.




Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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