26 October 2006

My Dinner with Destiny

So where was I?

Yes, the anniversary. Good day that was, though it began and ended with spitting snow on the windshield. We decided to have a decent dinner out, not too late as we are not night owls. We chose a sea food restaurant, something not as preposterous as it was once in the Midwest. I had been there before for business purposes, but my wife had not.

One stark difference between restaurants here and back in NYC – size. I never liked the trop intime snugness of so many places in NYC. Elbows and knees never had a comfortable place. Neighbor diners might inadvertently drink from your water. And I still know far too much about stranger’s love lives and businesses. But eating in the Midwest feels like moving to the country. Tables are as huge as farm houses, with acres between them. The place we ate could have been five to seven separate places in NYC.

That did not stop the prices from being lush. Entrees started at 25 and ran up easily into the high forties. Starters were somewhat less but not cheap. And drinks, well, when a glass of shiraz costs as much as the bottle – true because I know the brand, and the glass is none too generous - one is my financial limit. OK, there was good bread, which here in the Midwest is important that it be ample and served warm. The service was attentive and the food was unusually and well made. Michelin? Heaven’s no, the crowd looked more like Bibendum than like those who read his commendations.

Which suited us fine. The arch smugness of NYC diners can curdle hollandaise before it reaches the table. If the bourgeois manner is far from dashing, it is at least relaxed. We were by far the most dressy people in our neck of the woods. Wedding rehearsal parties (Friday night + long tables + three generations = rehearsal dinner) were on our far flanks. One was quite religious as they sang – yes they all sang – the doxology as their grace. In NYC it would have sent a glacier of horror through the room, as though Osama Bin Laden were suddenly in their midst and yelled “Allahu Akhbar.” Here it was amiably tolerated as part of the landscape.

I had a seafood cassoulet that was very spicy and overall nicely conceived. It was a little meager in size and the sea food portions more ceremonial than substantial. Advertised as a mixture of prawns, mussels, and andouille sausage among the beans, there were three prawns (large I must admit) five small mussels and one sliver of andouille. My wife had stuffed prawns, crabmeat stuffing in this case. The prawns were complete – down to their knobby eyes and spindly legs.

We declined dessert. The drama of the anniversary dinner was actually something extraneous to it. As we arrived in the car, my wife noted a call on her cell. It was our son who left a message about wanting to spend the night with a friend. She tried to call him back so as to refuse permission. The call got cut off and so he left another message. I grew quite impatient as he would not accept our decision and called yet again to make his case. It was already 8 p.m. and we were hungry and this was not how we wished to spend the evening. I called him, leaving a message on his phone this time telling him in no uncertain terms that he could not spend the night and he was not to call back as this was our one and only 30th anniversary and we were going to have dinner alone and undisturbed.

He did not call back. I thanked him later.

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