Monday, April 03, 2006


What Have I Been Doing All This Time?

Oh my goodness, where do I begin? You may recall the ring business discussed here a while back. I’m always paranoid about jinxing things, but I’m very happy to report to you now that that particular mission has been accomplished. The question has been officially asked, and answered in the affirmative. Yay for me! I guess normally I might just leave it at that, since I’m not as gushy as most people, but I have to tell you a little about the night.

First off, a while back, I hit up a connoisseur for info on some nice places to eat, and wow, did she ever come through. Of course, I had to find the place first. I take that back, first I had to call to make a reservation, and check some other details. With the reservation confirmed, I went ahead and put stage two into action. I can sum up stage two in two words: surprise roses. I picked them up, and I was on my way to the restaurant. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, out in the country, and there are no signs. I stopped at a visitor center/ winery information center to ask for some help, and it turns out the hotel and restaurant were back behind the center. I hustle on inside to drop off the roses. Pay attention guys: when I was making the reservations, the woman on the phone, Evelyn, was more than happy to offer to put the roses in the cooler, and have them brought to the table when dessert came. With the roses delivered, I could head on over to meet Miss Tori.

Fast forward to dinner. Wine and Roses is a beautiful place. It’s not a Denny’s or a Lyon’s or even a Spaghetti Factory. Eating at a place like Wine and Roses is quite a bit like going to a museum. It is housed in a large Victorian style home (well, it seemed Victorian, but I’m no architect), on a beautiful country property. When you walk up to the place, it’s almost like a scene from Bambi. You’re on a winding path around hundred year old trees, while the birds sing you along to the front door.

Inside, we are greeted and soon shown to our table. You won’t find the clanging of dishes and silverware or the loud annoying voices of jerky customers who have either just come from, or soon will be on their way to, a movie theater where they can irritate those patrons as well. Everyone at Wine and Roses speaks as if it was a library. Very quiet, soothing, tones. Candles are on each table, and the dining room is dimly, but warmly lit. Each table also has a single tulip in an art deco vase (but keep in mind I’m also not a florist or an art critic).

Our museum guide, I mean, our waiter, is a man named Kanoah, or maybe it’s Canoah. Either way, it’s Noah, with a “cuh” sound in front. This guy is like the Pavarotti of high class waiters. If I wasn’t already proposing to Miss Tori, I might have asked his voice to marry me. He explains the menu, from which you select what you want from an appetizer section, a soup and salad section, and en entrée section. You should already know, based on what you’ve read so far, that there’s no way I’m going to get the names of this stuff right. However, I shall do my best.

We aren’t so into the wine drinking, which might be a sin in a place with wine in the name, but Kanoah takes it in stride when we ask for water. Tap or bottled? Bottled. Sparkling or still? We take still. But still, Still? I didn’t even know there was a name for that. The one liter bottle arrives, and it is poured for us, just as if we’d ordered wine, although without the cork-sniffing. As the meal goes on, I never do get a chance to pour my own water. There is always someone appearing as if by magic when the level in my glass gets too low.

We place our orders, and the first thing to arrive is the bread. We get three slices each of a regular bread, and some sort of fruity bread with berries in it. The fruity bread is amazing. It’s got just a hint of sweetness, and the little red berries don’t even freak me out. Did I mention that I’m sometimes a fussy eater? A meal at a place like this is a huge risk. Once in a while I might try something new, once in a while. Except for the water, everything here will be something new for me.

After the bread, we have our appetizers. Even the way they plate the food here is a work of art. I almost hated to eat it. Miss Tori had a crab cake on a base of risotto. It looked so good, it was almost a shame to take a fork to it. I had a cheese sample, with honeycomb, candied pecans and a dish of fig paste (I guess) on the side. I had a little disk of cheese A, about the size of a silver dollar and perhaps half an inch thick, a block of cheese B, a soft Danish cheese about 1” x 2” x ¾”, and cheese C, a chunk of some sort of blue cheese about half the size of the Danish cheese. Cheese C was a bit too strong for me, and even though I finished it, it was definitely my least favorite of the three. Dipping chunks of it in honey or fig really helped. Cheese B was good, a good flavor. It also went well with honey and pecans, but could stand alone. I had sampled a small bite of each, and since I had decided that cheese A was my favorite, I had saved it for last. As I used my fork to cut into cheese A, it crumbled into bits. It almost looked like powdered sugar there on the plate. And the taste? Overwhelming, in the best possible sense of the word. I almost couldn’t stand to eat it, it was so good. This was an excellent dish. The sweetness of the honey, fig, and pecans perfectly balanced the flavors of the cheeses.

Miss Tori passed on a soup or salad, so I got to enjoy her pleasant conversation while I ate my soup. It was potato soup, sort of a puree (no chunks of potato floating around in there), that was fairly thick, sprinkled with small cubes of duck and fuji apples. I remembered Kanoah saying there was duck in there, but had forgotten the fuji apples. Here’s how warped I am. At first, I pushed the apple cubes to the side, because they tasted all right, but I wasn’t sure what they were, and that distracted me. Partway through, Kanoah reminded me that it was fuji apples, and then I was more than happy to eat them. I’m weird. I ate all the soup I could, but refrained from using some bread to swab out the bowl. Jack will also be happy to know that I didn’t slurp. Not once. Every time I dipped my spoon, a little Jack popped up on my shoulder saying “You better not slurp that soup, or so help me . . .”

Did I mention that they brought new silverware with each course? Or that Kanoah whipped out some little credit card type thing to sweep away any crumbs from the tablecloth? I’m sure there are some Mr. Howell types out there who are saying “Why Lovey, did you know that at some restaurants, you don’t get fresh silverware with each course, and no one sweeps your crumbs?” On the one hand, I hate you. On the other hand, if you eat like that every night, I am so jealous.

The main course for me was a pork chop and whipped potatoes, and Miss Tori had chicken breast and whipped potatoes. The potatoes aren’t just dumped from some scoop. Imagine a pyramid with a round base instead of a square one. The potatoes were just thick enough to hold their shape as stacked round disks. If I had to guess, I’d almost think they were put on the plate with one of those cake-decorating funnels. The pork chop wasn’t something you’d see at your supermarket. This was a thick hunk of meat, cooked to perfection.

Kanoah took our orders for dessert. Miss Tori had some sort of Bavarian thing. White chocolate brownie, some sort of mousse and strawberry slices. It looked like it was prepared in a mold (like a deep cookie cutter) such that the strawberry slices mase a little fence rising up from the perimeter of the brownie, with the mousse filling the center. It was beautiful to see. I had a chocolate mountain cake, or something like that. A small round chocolate cake, warm, with chocolate syrup inside, a little scoop of ice cream on top, and a wavy amber ribbon of pecan brittle made this as much a work of art as Miss Tori’s dessert. Before we could dig in, Kanoah brought out the roses.

I said “official” proposal earlier because we had talked about this a lot, and I was fortunate enough not to be in doubt about the answer. This night was mainly to have a wonderful evening together and make it a really special event. I took her to pick out her ring. It wasn’t a surprise. The roses were a surprise. I said a bunch of mushy stuff that I won’t torture you with here (does anyone actually enjoy hearing someone else’s mushy love talk?). I put the ring on her finger, told her how much I love her and that I’m the luckiest guy on earth, and would she marry me? She said yes. I got a thumbs up from a nearby table . . . if she said yes. Miss Tori confirmed the affirmative. We ate our desserts, took our roses, and made it to the car just in time, because Miss Tori couldn’t hold back the tears for much longer.

All told, it was a wonderful night, and I would definitely eat at Wine and Roses again. It was definitely worth every penny, and it was a lot of pennies. What did Ferris say after driving the Ferarri? “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”

My advice for the wedding: show up on time, hit your mark, say your lines. It's a performance, so have fun with it and remember guys get the easy part.

with one of those cake-decorating funnels...probably, that's an old trick with potatoes. Try it at home -- decorating tips are cheap and you can just cut the corner off a ziplock -- and everyone will think you're doing amazing things in the kitchen.
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