A Tale of Two Dinners

My birthday was this past weekend, and I am now 31.  As you may recall, last year’s birthday celebration involved a lot of free things and the construction of a croquembouche, the latter of which kicked off a year of baking adventures with new A2 friends.  While we did go for a few free things, the main plan for the day was a fancy dinner, the destination of which was unknown to me until Friday, when an errant emailer let it slip that we were going to Eve, and then would be meeting friends for drinks after.

It is at this point that I should fill you in on a few extenuating circumstances.  First, on Friday night we ate all the food and drank all the drinks – specifically wine and fondue at Shana’s, followed by a round of drinks at Eve, followed by another round at Alley Bar, followed by the sort of drunken falling over antics more befitting nearly-21 than nearly-31.  Needless to say, the idea of eating and drinking to excess made me a little queasy.  It’s been almost a week, and it still makes me a little queasy.

Second, Eve is closing – well, has closed at this point.  Sunday night was going to be their last night of service ever, which meant all manner of potential hitches: stuff missing from the menu, poor service because they were too busy, etc.  Both were the case when we were in for drinks on Friday.  Shane had made his reservation before they announced the closure, wanting to treat me to a nice dinner at one of A2’s fanciest restaurants.

With these things in mind, I asked Shane if he would mind terribly if we went elsewhere for dinner? Specifically possibly maybe Vinology, where we had a really excellent meal over the summer.  Except! Vinology wasn’t taking reservations because of Restaurant Week, and when we called at 6pm, there was a two hour wait for a table for two.  So we carried on with the original plan.

Except that we arrived late for our reservation (6pm, not 6:30).  And we were seated at a two top where we would’ve been more intimate dining companions with our neighbors than with each other.  Every time the door opened, Shane was treated to a gust of very cold air.  The server greeted us with the offer of a cocktail, but the warning that they’d had an open house that afternoon and sold off most of their bar.  They had one of thirty bottles available from the lower end of the wine list – the rest were sold out.  The bread came out without the wonderful butters promised by nearly every reviewer on Yelp, and at that point we decided to throw in the towel.

So we left, with me nearly in tears, feeling so guilty for being disappointed and wanting to go elsewhere when Shane had tried to make the evening so nice.  Shane asked what I thought we should do, and I asked if we could try Vinology?  He dropped me off, and I went in prepared to cry if it would get us a table.

Except that they’d had a cancellation, and so had a table for two available immediately!  I gushed to the host that he’d just made our evening, and we were tucked away in a cozy booth with gauze curtains separating us from our neighbors.  My stress and guilt melted away with Shane’s obvious enthusiasm for the menu: ample options for sharing and indulging in both wine and food, plus dessert on the house in honor of my birthday.  Over the course of the next two hours, we shared:

  • a sweet and savory salad of beets prepared with sherry vinegar and goat cheese
  • a plate of olives and assorted pickled vegetables, half of which I took home for later snacking
  • a half portion of the scallops – so one perfect buttery porcini-dusted scallop each, along with boursin whipped potatoes, mushroom ragout, french beans, and an  impossibly delicate vinaigrette
  • a half portion of grilled sirloin with a coffee-pepperberry rub, creamed swiss chard, and adequate sweet potato ravioli in a ginger soy butter sauce
  • a half portion of the same wonderful venison we enjoyed in june

We each enjoyed a wine flight with our meals, the result of which was a veritable wall of wine across our little table:

Wall of wine
For Shane, the Big Red, featuring a small pour each of Garnacha, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. I had the Fruit Bomb: Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and a Shiraz that ranks among the best wines I’ve ever tried. We finished the meal with “Captain Crunch” ice cream, which tastes even better than you could possibly imagine:

Captain Crunch Ice Cream

While our meal wasn’t prepared by a former Top Chef contestant (or her staff), I’m confident when I say that this was one of the best meals we’ve enjoyed together.  Thank you, Vinology, for redeeming what could have been a very disappointing birthday evening, and thank you, Shane, for the treat, your company, and your patience and love.

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0819 Garden-Fresh Snack Dinner

Snack Dinner
Shane’s favorite grapes, which I included in our wedding vows because it was important to me to remember. Golden beets from our garden and the market plus a couple of huge sweet garlic cloves, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, then wrapped in tinfoil and roasted at 375 for about an hour. Green beans from the market, but Szechuan pickled by me.

Snack Dinner
Sopressata. Sharon Hollow goat cheese with garlic and Tellicherry pepper, a $5 impulse buy. The last of a loaf of Italian bread, and a handful of tiny cherry tomatoes that sprung up by surprise in our garden.

Snack Dinner
Green beans from our garden, quickly blanched. Cucumber and radish freezer pickles, also from our garden.

Snack Dinner
All in all, a glorious spread.

0710 Spontaneous Dinner

Today was pretty much the perfect summer day.  I was up early, so while Shane slept in, I ran to the market and bought peaches! and corn! and lots of other stuff, then finished up our errands and was home with a donut before Shane rolled out of bed.  We spent the early afternoon at the Shadow Art Fair in Ypsi, where Shane purchased bespoke haiku I used the Cupcake-o-Matic to get a wee chocolate cake with peanut butter icing and coconut sprinkles.

Cupcake-O-Matic

Cupcake-O-Matic Success!

Shane spent the rest of the afternoon brewing with new friend and neighbor Karl, and I took a long nap and then spent a very happy hour and a half in the garden. At some point in there, however, we missed all normal mealtimes, and so found ourselves peckish as the sun started to go down. While the guys finished up the brewing stuff, Karl’s wife Cara and I threw together a spontaneous and casual dinner – sun-dried tomato couscous with raisins, beet salad with feta, slices of salami, sauteed greens, soda with a homemade berry-peach syrup, and the first incredibly sweet corn on the cob of the year. Everything was delicious, and we retired, full and happy, not long after.

So like I said, pretty much a perfect summer’s day.

0623 Snack Dinner

This week has really made it clear to me how much we rely on meal planning to get real food on the table.  We had dinner plans Monday night, and last night we scraped together leftovers.  Tonight, lacking both leftovers and dinner plans, we had snacks:

0623 Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Salame

Beets from the farmers’ market, roasted in a tin foil packet with olive oil then dotted with a bit of goat cheese.  Sopressata from Trader Joe’s, picked up with just this kind of situation in mind.  The last crackers from the pantry.   A bottle of sparkling cider.

As Shane said, these dinners are always the best.  But I still can’t wait to get to the market this weekend, and to have real meals once we have real groceries on hand.

One Local Summer meal #3

I was totally brain-dead after work last night but, knowing that we’d be out of town for a few days for Bonnaroo, I managed to pull together our all-local meal anyway. Let’s call it “eggs in a nest”.

Local meal #3: total improvWhat I really wanted was zucchini pancakes, but lacking local flour, that was out of the question. Instead, I shredded 1 zucchini, 1 beet, and a bunch of garlic scapes, tossed them with some egg (in an attempt to bind the pancakes, which failed), and made a brightly-colored hash. I tossed it all around with some butter, salt, and pepper until everything was tender and flavorful, then threw in a handful of chopped herbs from our garden (parsley, basil, and chives). butter tracksNext, I wiped out the pan, melted some butter, and scrambled a few eggs, including one giant one that had a double yolk. We’ve definitely had double yolk eggs before – but I can’t remember ever having an egg that was clearly a different size than the rest, thus predicting the double yolk. Some of the eggs had straw still stuck to them. I love it!
Scrambled eggs! When all put together, it was incredibly flavorful and delicious, and we’d definitely make it again.
Local meal #3 We washed it down with a hefeweizen from Blue & Gray Brewing Co.
Local beer!
Shane approves! Mina did, too.

Shane approves!

Eating and growing locally: week six

No photos from our OLS week 2 menu due to the fact that our Internet at home is total crap currently.  Also, I realized that the OLS challenge started on June 1 rather than June 1 being the first reporting date, so maybe we’ll just call last week’s meal a wash.  Meal #2 menu:

Salt-cured ham from Cibola Farms (74 mi.), baked with herbs from our garden (O mi.) and a viognier from Rappahannock Cellars (67 mi.).

Beets from a farmers’ market vendor (<125 mi.), roasted with the viognier and herbs from our garden.

The ham was overcooked because I didn’t time things quite right, but both were delicious, and the ham bones are in the freezer waiting to enrich a soup later in the year.

Week 6: growing

  • The beans are growing like wildfire.
  • Lettuce looking a little down-trodden thanks to storms and 100 degree heat.
  • One flower on the chili!

Week 6: eating

  • froze 3 batches asparagus, 1 batch sliced zucchini
  • bought beets, peas (in and out of the shell), zucchini, white cherries, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, garlic scapes, salad greens, and raisin-walnut bread
  • also pork cutlets and buffalo burgers
  • we’re eating more vegetables than I can recall ever regularly eating in my life