Friday, April 6, 2012

Champagne, Magic Ingredients, the Joy of Anticipation

Good Morning, All! I took a spur-of-the-moment day off today and had a lovely sleep-in, following an absolutely delightful treat last night! Life has delivered a couple great turns recently and Compatriot and a mutual friend told me they'd take me out for dinner to celebrate. Comp and the mutual go wayyyyy back and we have also been friends for several years now. What shall we call her? She has a lively mind, likes to establish plans and solve things. The Fixer? This probably springs to mind due to several Closer watchings over the past week, but I think we'll leave it there. On Wednesday, the Fixer leaves me a message that they will meet me at a restaurant of my choosing, whenever. I decide on Logan because I haven't been in several years, so it feels like a special treat. They make a reservation for 6 PM and we're off to the races!

Yesterday afternoon, The Fixer texts me:

Change of plans. Dinner at 6:30. We're coming to your house at 5:30. There is a surprise.

Yay! A treat on top of the treat! People, for your friends, or for your s.o.s,* never underestimate the power of building anticipation! You know, don't over do it, but add in just a little and it makes things that much more special. The surprise itself could be small, but that sense of being thought of -- wonderful! 

 *unless they're surprise-hating wet blankets.

I did my early work day (currently starts at 4:30 AM, no exaggeration), went to get my taxes done**, surveyed my closet for something pretty to wear to dinner and then settled into another Closer episode. 

**I slumped in the cheap office chair, while she entered everything in. "I looove having you do my taxes!" She laughed, double checked her numbers. She likes me because I have organized folders for everything and don't traipse in saying, "I *think* I spent/earned/deducted around this much? But I couldn't find the receipts~~" This apparently happens a lot. Eeek.

The surprise was a nice blush champagne, paired with a slightly sweet rosemary bread with an almost cakelike crumb. Little tidbits!

Dinner was faaaabulous. The interior was all dimly lit and swanky. There was much debate over who  would be getting what, how appetizers would balance with the entrees, which cocktails would be the most appealing. The Fixer asked on my behalf whether the Osso Bucco had tomatoes within the prep (stupid allergy); Comp suggested an alternative to me: "You may be interested in the short ribs, then because that features similar flavor components." I eventually chose the Thai scallops, though I am always leery of getting Thai or Indianesque dishes from restaurants that aren't devoted to those cuisines. The entree was really surprising -- though it featured coconut milk, kaffir lime, lemon grass, garlic, chilies, it did not call up thai food for me at all, nor did it call up curry (both things I totally adore) -- and yet it was still wonderful. The scallops were succulent, the sauce rich and creamy and the dish overall delivered lovely pops of flavor. Each scallop was perched on wee nest of pickled mustard greens. Also satisying: the greek leg of lamb and the gnocchi with swiss chard. Compatriot praised the former for being a full flavored meat, in direct contrast to a lot of lamb available here, blanded down for American tastes. My favorite part of the tuna sashimi was the onion marmalade; and the refined lincoln log stacks of tempuraed asparagus spears rested upon a dreamy tamari dipping sauce.*

*It certainly should have been dreamy, as the menu listed it as follows: "Lightly battered and deep-fried asparagus served with Chef Thad’s magic tamari and sesame dipping sauce." Magic! Similarly my first cocktail, the Belle Otero (sp? "Beautiful Stranger") listed love as its final ingredient. Though we all tried, we couldn't quite isolate the love flavor. But we suspect five spice was in there. All the cocktails were fantastic. 

Early on, Compatriot accused me of torturing the waitstaff* and noted this automatically corresponds with a bigger tip. In the same way that waitstaff calling you ma'am several times should automatically decrease the tip left. The latter part referred to the other night I was at a restaurant (when I wrote, then erased that blog post), where the hot young waiter called me ma'am no less than 7 times. I really don't *tend* to care, but it grated after awhile. Dude. Seriously.

*I was just kidding! But maybe he didn't feel that way. I am sorry. Waiter, we liked you. I did not mean to be pesky.

The night ended with dessert, naturally. My chocolate mousse arrived rolled into a solid ball about the size of a small orange, with a shallow gazing pool of creme anglaise off to the side. In terms of texture, Compatriot pronounced it ganache instead, which we agreed with, though it was still quite good. We also agreed that it was clearly bested by their fennel creme brulee. I really didn't expect to like it. It was FANTASTIC: a wonderful blending of flavors. Mmmmm. Check it out, if you're in the area.

So that was that! A lovely celebration, brought about by generous, thoughtful friends. I *do* like a little fuss. Which I attribute to my mother. I hope I never lose the joy that she still derives from little things. She will urge you not to bother with presents for her: don't spend money, don't spend time, don't go to any trouble. But, you know, once done, it is nevertheless appreciated. Her birthday happened recently. She hates getting older. But she likes a birthday.

"I got your package!" She announced. I could hear the pleasure in her voice "...but I haven't opened it yet."

"Well of course not! Your birthday's not till tomorrow!"

"Right!...I was born at 4PM." We talk about other things. She passes the phone over to Dad. Dad and I begin exchanging updates.

"Oh, your Mom just passed me a note. She says: since you're still on the phone, should she open her present now? Or should she call you tomorrow."

I grin. "Ohhh no! She should open it tomorrow." Call me mean. It's a dance. 

"Your Mom says: when should she call."

"She can call 3 PM or after." The message is relayed. Soooo funny! But see? Something to look forward to. And the birthday was largely taken over by other concerns, though naturally my fam remembered and made plans for later. So it was nice to have something the day of...

Speaking of which, this day off is wearing away! There's still time for a little yoga and maybe some museum wandering. Happy Easter to all who celebrate.



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