It's just incredibly down to earth. Dinner has just enough "event" feeling to it that you know you've been out to dinner. There's garlic bread and a carafe of water. The chef Fillipo wanders through the dining room greeting folks and then snags an empty plate from a table and disappears into the kitchen. He has an easy grace about him. He makes you feel welcome and unhurried.
And that is exactly what dinner was...relaxed and unhurried. It was an oasis in a long and hectic week. Of course, my dining companion is often an oasis in a hectic life. I hope everyone has a friend who fills that role.
I love a relaxing meal. Especially if it involves great food. I promised in a repressed rabbit trail (click here) that I would tell about the longest meal I ever had. And I realize that there are at least three that would qualify for telling. Maybe 4. Two of them involved my friend Dan Jenkins. Dan lives in British Columbia now - so we don't get to share our passion for food very often anymore. Quite appropriately, Dan is a waiter for a great restaurant on a ski hill up there now...makes perfect sense. He earned his Bachelors in Physical Education. I knew he wasn't bound for teaching...at least not yet.
When he lived in Virginia we went to a restaurant up in Nellysford, near Wintergreen. It's gone now...so I won't bore you with food that you'll never be able to have. All I can say is - I miss the He-Crab pizza. It was alfredo, crab meat, mandarin oranges, walnuts and a few crispy spinach leaves. And cheese. It was great...and I can't replicate it. That meal was about 2 1/2 hours but it was also a 45 minute drive each way. We knew we were going to have some great wine with dinner - but we got a wild hair and decided to get a bottle of Boones Farm to drink on the way. I believe it was some sort of citrus thing. We drank it out of the bottle in a paper bag. We arrived laughing and shared appetizers and pizza and two bottles of wine. And it was a wonderful meal.
There was a great meal that I had at a wine geek weekend at Virginia Tech. That was a great weekend. Friday evening wine tasting in the President's Box (no game...just drinking...my kind of event) (there was food too...I'm pretty sure...) and then wine classes (!) Saturday. And then there was dinner. 7 courses. 22 wines. It started with sparkling wines at 8pm. I headed toward bed (I stayed at the Inn at Virginia Tech...no drinking and driving!) at midnight. So...that was a 4 hour dinner. And it ranks right up there with the best.
A meal with Dan in Canmore, Alberta will probably always rank as the best lunch ever. We drove downtown with the intention of getting a coffee and early lunch at 11am. When we left and got back to the van we were stunned to see that the clock said 4:45. Especially since he was supposed to be at work at 5 in Banff (20 minutes away). That was just an incredible experience. Dan is not a person to be rushed anyway...but this was just a whole new level of laid back. We drank a coffee while we decided on wines. We were sitting by the fireplace and so then while we waited for the red wine to shake off the chill of the cellar - we had a short brandy. And we wandered through a shared appetizer and a salad...then we'd decide on a dish, and order...and then talk and laugh and drink.
I know this all sounds a little like an alcoholic coma...but when you stretch a bottle between two people and over food...it's just a warming effect. And the wine in Canmore was incredible - I found another bottle or two over the years: Cal de Solo Big House Red. And actually, we drank two bottles that day. We couldn't decide on a white...so, naturally...
So, that meal was about 5 hours. Only one that I can recall went longer. And until I started this post...I think I had forgotten it. Makes me smile to recall though. Nelson Webber, Rick Sanders and I were working on the set for a show. Probably 12th Night. Don't know why I think that is what it was...and it isn't important anyway. We worked till about 2 and headed to the Cavalier for lunch. If you're not from Lynchburg then you won't know this classic tavern on Rivermont Avenue. Wooden tables and booths covered from years of people like us carving our names and initials. License plates on the walls and ceiling. Pictures of people who then look strangely familiar to you...even though you probably haven't met. World's smallest bathrooms. It's a dive. Guy Fieri should come.
Anyway, we got to the Cav at about 2:30 for lunch. Left when the bar closed at 2am. I guess we finished that set another day. 11 1/2 hours. That's one hell of a lunch. Was certainly cheaper than the meal in Canmore...or Nellysford...and considering what I dropped on that weekend at VT!! (how I spent my stimulus money). Well, I believe that the best value per hour would go to the Cav.
But the memorable-ness of all 4 are pretty much due to the people involved.
And the wine.
Hamster chilled out.