Saturday, August 18, 2007

Let's Celebrate and Have a Good Lime

I'm in a celebratory mood this weekend, and not just because my birthday is coming right up.

This week, My Wonderful Parents moved back to town, and though their furniture is lagging behind them, I'm glad to have them here, ready to settle down again. The Chef Mother has had a rough ride health-wise this year, and My Dear Papa (my hero!) has held up enormously well under all the stress, so I'm thankful to have them back where I can keep an eye on them.

My Fabulous Aunt and Uncle also arrived in town for the weekend, partly for the local antique car show but also to welcome back my folks and to lend their help where they could. After all, it's a good way for them to celebrate, too, since they both enjoy August birthdays and an anniversary.

And though it's still two months off, I thought it worthwhile to celebrate My Wonderful Parents' impending 40th wedding anniversary.

So how, you might ask, did we celebrate?

I made a dinner reservation for us at the local Bistro, of course! None of the others in my family have been there for a meal, and I thought that if we had so much to celebrate, we'd better do it right.

(I apologize for not having pictures of all the wonderful food; I simply can't bring myself to take my camera there. But I'll do my best to describe it.)

We arrived just as they opened, and we settled in at our table, with a good view of the kitchen. My favorite sunshiny server stepped right up to help us, and once we filled her in on all the occasions, she made every effort to create the perfect celebratory atmosphere with her flawless service and delightful good humor.

The menu at the Bistro is always so tempting, and it changes seasonally, so it took all of us several minutes to decide on a sampling of appetizers and entrees:

--The Chef Mother requested the vegetarian special: linguine with fresh zucchini, summer squash, basil, shaved Parmesan, pine nuts, and a basil-walnut pesto.
--My Dear Papa ordered the fish chowder, with tender vegetables and chunks of halibut, followed by the pan-seared scallops in bacon-cream sauce with radishes and spinach.
--My Fabulous Aunt enjoyed the cream of zucchini soup (or, as she dubbed it, the Queen of Zucchini soup) along with the same pan-seared scallops, while Uncle sampled the fish chowder followed by the special grilled ribeye steak and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.
--I had the cream/Queen of zucchini soup, and then a small tomato and blue cheese tart with a plate of mixed greens tossed with the house vinaigrette.

As with every Bistro meal, most of the food was sourced locally (especially the produce; I saw another of the chefs shopping at the farmers' market this morning!), and it tasted as fresh as if the chefs had just gone out to the garden to pick it.

Everything, and I mean everything, was delectable and well-appreciated, so instead of giving you a blow-by-blow detail of each dish, I'll just report some of the comments and results:

--All four of us who enjoyed soup as a starter avowed that, were we not in public, we would have licked the bowls clean.
--After one bite of the scallops, My Dear Papa turned to My Fabulous Aunt and said she wouldn't like them and he'd better finish them for her (wink wink).
--Uncle spoke not one word through the main course, but when he had finished, he said, "That's the best steak I've had in my entire life... in all sixty years!"
--The Chef Mother, whose taste buds are still haywire from all the medications she's been on this year, devoured half her bowl of linguine (more than I've seen her eat in a long time) and raved about the freshness of the vegetables and the combination of flavors.

And me? Well, you know how much I love the Bistro, but hearing all the rave reviews from my family made everything taste that much better to me.

I checked with the Bistro Chef about the special desserts he'd be offering, and all of us sampled one or the other of the selections: the classic chocolate fondant with a molten center (and local vanilla ice cream on the side) or a lime tart in a tender short pastry crust. The Chef sent our desserts out to our table with a lit candle gracing the sweet treat on each plate, causing the eyes of many other guests to follow in wonder and envy. Again, the food met with high praise, and though My Fabulous Aunt was getting full, she refused to leave without cleaning her plate.

After the meal, the Chef came out to visit with us and to receive his justly-deserved compliments. And I was moved nearly to tears to hear the Chef Mother tell him that the food was "magnificent," the service was "superlative," and that after twenty-plus years of teaching cooking and restaurant management, she did not use those terms lightly. (It also made me very proud and privileged to be able to work with the Chef on rare occasion at the Inn!)

Each meal I've had at the Bistro, without fail, has been superb. But this one takes the cake (or, in my case, the lime tart!) all around.

I can't think of a better way to celebrate life and the people I love than with food I love!

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