NOTE: CONTEST HAS ENDED! Our winners are Shopaholic4206, Pepsi4Power and Ynotpat! Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered!
I’m sure it’s no secret to any of my readers that my schedule’s pretty hectic. Between teaching several coupon workshops a week, writing my syndicated newspaper column, filming my “Sixty Second Savings” video series, blogging Deals of the Week, being a (mostly) stay-at-home mom with my young children, and the myriad of other activities that fill my life, my husband and I don’t always get much time to have a “date night.” So when I was invited to have a free dinner for two downtown at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, I jumped at the chance!
My readers know that I love giving products away on my blog — whether it’s groceries, coupons or other contests, it’s fun to share giveaways with an audience who, like me, loves free things. Over the past few months I’ve posted some fun contests for my readers, and a few weeks ago I received an invitation to attend an appreciation dinner at Ben Pao, which has amazing Chinese food and is one of my favorite dining destinations downtown. General Mills and MyBlogSpark sponsored the event as a thank-you to their bloggers who’ve posted giveaways of General Mills products. Not only was the dinner free to attend, but attendees would also receive a $50 MasterCard gift card to cover gas and parking in the city, providing a truly “free” night out. (How long do you think it took me to RSVP? Do I need to mention again how much I love Ben Pao’s food? “Yes!”)
On Thursday night, my husband and I arrived at Ben Pao and saw that the entire restaurant had been closed for the event. We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we checked in at the counter and were seated. The server informed us it was a prix fixe menu, where soup, appetizers and desserts would be the same for everyone, but we could choose one of eight entrees. I chose an orange chicken platter, he chose shrimp lo mein, and we enjoyed a fabulous meal as course after course was served. (I can’t honestly remember the last time just the two of us went out without the kids..!)
We’ve eaten at Ben Pao many times before, and as always, the food was amazing. We had hot and sour soup, a platter of four different appetizers that included potstickers, chicken wraps, various egg rolls and crab rangoon, our shrimp and chicken entrees, which were loaded with crisp vegetables, and two desserts (lemon-ginger cheesecakes and chocolate-filled spring rolls – delicious!) We were absolutely stuffed. Throughout the meal, a camera crew roamed the restaurant asking many of us about our blogs and how we were enjoying the meal — I said the food was excellent, as it always is. It was almost hard to believe there was no “catch” to the night.
Or was there?
At the very end of the meal, our server brought each of us fortune cookies, and the cameraman returned to the table to ask if he could film us opening the cookies. We said sure, why not?
And this is what we saw.
We immediately looked at each other and said “No way!” Truly, we were shocked. We would never have guessed that we had been eating frozen Chinese food available at the grocery store! The soup, appetizer platter and desserts were actually Ben Pao’s own restaurant food, but the entrees were bagged, frozen meals from Wanchai Ferry.
Now, admittedly, the last thing you’re expecting when you dine out at a very nice restaurant was a twist like this, but it was actually quite fun. Funnier yet, prior to the fortune-cookie reveal, we hadn’t been able to finish the family-size platters of food we’d been served, so our server had asked if we’d like take-out containers for it We said absolutely, we’d take it home for later — and then we cracked up that we’d actually had the restaurant package up a previously-frozen meal? I jokingly apologized to my husband for unknowingly taking him out on our big date night for… frozen food.
Of course, instead of documenting a bloggers’ appreciation dinner, what the camera crew was actually filming was a commercial for Wanchai Ferry. Think, “We’ve secretly taken over this fine Chicago dining destination and served everyone frozen meals from the supermarket. Let’s see if they notice…”
So yours truly may just end up in a commercial too!
UPDATE October 2010 – The commercial:
(My husband and I are at the 0:22 mark.)
At the end of the night, we received little take-out containers. Inside? Gift certificates to Ben Pao (for a “real” restaurant meal for a future trip for us, ha ha!) and coupons for FREE Wanchai Ferry frozen entrees for my readers!
Now, if you’ve read this far along, and you’d like to try one of these Wanchai Ferry frozen meals for yourself, all you have to do is respond to this post in the Comments! This giveaway begins today, July 25th, and will run for one week. On August 1st, I’ll choose THREE winners via random-number generator to win coupons for Wanchai Ferry frozen dinners! (NOTE: CONTEST ENDED AUGUST 1, 2010.)
Legalese: This Wanchai Ferry promotion was sponsored by General Mills and MyBlogSpark. Responding to this post qualified readers to enter the contest. The contest closed at Midnight CST on July 31, 2010. Three winners were be chosen via random-number generator on August 1, 2010 at 11:45am CST. I was provided with dinner for two at Ben Pao in Chicago, a $50 Mastercard gift card to cover travel and parking, two $10 certificates for my future trip to Ben Pao and Wanchai Ferry free frozen entree coupons as part of this promotion. Thank you to everyone who entered!