I consider a grilled shrimp salad an inflight score, especially on a domestic route. I was given a choice between the shrimp and something that resembled a sad, brown version of a burrito from my high-school cafeteria days. To be fair, it was called a "beef quesadilla wrap," and my neighbor, 1B, downed his like a pro. The shrimp, on the other hand, made for a much prettier picture.
There aren't a whole lot of ways to screw up cooked shrimp, and these were tasty. The salad itself gets points for not being an all-iceberg affair, and a grated Parmesan topping was a welcome accent. I stole a glance at 1B. He was jealous.
While I was basking in my personal (superior) tray table glory, the Creamy Caesar tried take me down. Either my salad dressing was homicidal, or it had something to do with the changing cabin pressure, but the little tub had opened. Note to air travelers: double-check the seal on perishable condiments! Potential crisis averted.
The soup of the day was mushroom: creamy, salty and caloric. Interestingly enough, there were no orange packets of "United" crackers hanging around the soup bowl at this lunch service. The requisite airline fruit bowl and pre-packaged brownie bar rounded out the meal. Not bad for under three hours of air time.
During the meal, my dining experience took a turn to the Twilight Zone. I was kicking back, enjoying my shrimp salad and flipping through the Direct TV channels. As a foodie, it's only natural that I gravitate to an old episode of Top Chef, but this is where things got weird. This Season 3 gem was called "Snacks on a Plane" and took place at Continental's catering facilities in Newark Airport. The contestants created gourmet "BusinessFirst" meals, reheated them onboard and served them to a group of flight attendants and Anthony Bourdain. Watching food on a plane while eating food on a plane is a bit like looking into a mirror's own reflection. Like I said, Twilight Zone material.
The show did shed light on the age-old question of whether it's possible to find perfectly cooked steak on an airplane. After several miserable inflight failures, one Top Chef contestant's culinary success gave me hope. Great steak is possible at 30,000 feet; I just have to find it.