P.F. Chang’s Red Lantern and Fire & Ice

I have new friends during the pandemic, mysterious ones that use initials instead of telling me their real first and middle names. On a random Wednesday, P.F. of the Chang family sent me a promising email. P.F. loves to cook and introduce me to new cultures. I appreciate that in new friends especially when I’m stuck in my house and haven’t seen P.F. in a long, long time. 

To keep in touch, the email promised details on things that are “New to the Menu for Lunar New Year.” P.F. must not remember I’m married with kids and tried to woo me with Lunar New Year options that felt a little aggressive and romantic at the same time. These new menu items also seem to overpromise: a Red Lantern cocktail made from Reyka Vodka, Solerno Liqueur, blood orange, pineapple and lemon, “served glowing.” I already have everything to make that at home (minus the booze and fancy blood oranges.) Just yesterday, I snapped a glow stick open and stuck it in an easy peel mandarain orange. I haven’t actually served anything truly glowing since the last time I tried to make toast and the fire trucks came. 

At least the Red Lantern drink feels a little culturally inspired. The second menu item “Fire & Ice” is more like a hodgepodge of ingredients shoehorned into an exciting dessert: bread pudding and vanilla ice cream encased in chocolate, ignited with rum and served flaming. It is no Rainforest Cafe brownie dessert with a sparkler or Farrell’s ice cream bucket with drum-playing servers. 

From the email picture alone, I’m thinking my good buddy P.F. is going to be on Nailed It! and not Great British Bake-Off. The last email they sent me included a large spread of mostly dark brown foods; the Fire and Ice dessert appears to be another brown dessert from that artful series, except made to be enjoyed by the light of a Red Lantern. 

Interestingly, only the non-alcoholic Fire and Ice dessert get an asterisk leading to an email note that says *Must be 21+ to order. The Red Lantern drink that gets you drunk and indicates that your table may be a prostitute haven — no warning label. Both items are available “for dine-in only.” 

Because my friend wants me to get out and do new things, they followed up their descriptions and images of these exciting options with several P.S. reminders in all caps like they learned how to send emails from my mom: MAKE A RESERVATION, LEARN MORE, ORDER ONLINE. MAKE A RESERVATION. FIND A LOCATION. And then a quiet reminder that I opted in for our friendship. And booze. And hookers. And bread pudding for Chinese New Year’s. At this point, P.F needs to just light some fortune cookies on fire in their parking lot and hand out red envelopes full of money (not on fire.) I think we’ve broken up now but if I get a nice email about lettuce wraps, we can be BFFs again. P.F. still I love you.

Amy Barnes has words at a variety of sites including McSweeney’s, Robot Butt, Weekly Humorist, College Humor and Botnik Studios. She reads submissions as a member of the Taco Bell Quarterly Day Crew. You can find her on Twitter at @amygcb and hiding from her teenagers in the laundry room.

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