We were discussing relationship linchpin WTF moments. You know, those occasions very early on in a relationship when someone (usually the guy) pulls some bonehead move that presents their partner with a choice: stick it out or cut your losses. In the case of Fondy and I, it was our very first date at a long-gone Montreal restaurant called The Cajun House. As we perused the menu, I asked her whether she would like a drink or not. She playfully accused me of trying to get her drunk, an accusation I denied in a, uh, spectacularly animated manner. In that brief moment, she wondered whether she was out with a lunatic. Nonetheless, she decided to stick it out – in large part, I believe, because she’d heard the gumbo was really good. For our friends, Steve and Jodi, it was what Fondy has come to refer to as “The Sock-eye Incident”. Very early on in their relationship, Steve and Jodi were at a laundromat when Steve spotted a forlorn sock lying on the floor. In his infinite wisdom, he elected to wind up and boot it across the room. The filthy sock sailed across the room and, in a thousand to one fluke, nailed Jodi right in the eye. Well, for most, that would have been grounds to call the whole thing off right there but, like my wife, Jodi chose to stick it out. And now they’re happily married.
The interesting thing about these relationship linchpin WTF moments is that rather than being behavioral aberrations, they often do foreshadow the shape of things to come. Fondy was quick to point this out last, sighting the “mud shoe incident” (read the hilarious account here: http://josephmallozzi.com/2007/12/27/december-27-2007-fondy-gets-bogged-down-i-miss-a-photo-op-and-creepy-gingerbread-men/). Jodi had a similar story involving Steve’s reaction to her flicking a glob of salad dressing directly into her eye (let’s call this one the “Salad-eye Incident) during a recent trip to Hawaii. The double jolt of citric acid and vinegar had her reeling, scrambling to flush out her stinging eye. In his defense, I’m sure Steve would have certainly stepped in to offer some assistance – had he not been so busy laughing.
The four of us had plenty of time to discuss past relationship faux-pas, an interesting new business venture, and my increasing sleep debt as we waited the thirty minutes between our third and fourth courses. We were at Restaurant Connor Butler, a place I’d been meaning to check out about a year ago when it first opened but never got around to. Since then, the only thing I’d heard about it was the hue and cry raised by the local dining dilettanti for Chef Connor’s use of Versace dinnerware. Really. Well, Jodi was able to make reservations and we swung by last night at 7:30 p.m.
We were seated in the intimate dining room, were presented with menus and, after some consideration, all decided to go with the Chef’s five-course menu. Seconds later, Chef Connor himself came out to welcome us to restaurant and inquire about our preferences. Any allergies? Was there anything we didn’t like? Was there anything on the menu that had caught our eye? Connor is an imposing figure – tall, heavy set, but possessed of a disarming jocularity and almost child-like enthusiasm. Imagine Penn Gillette cookign for you. Anyway, we informed him we were adventurous eaters. Delighted, he headed back to the kitchen to prepare our meals.
Dinner started promisingly enough with an appetizer platter comprised of prawn, goat cheese and organic jam on crostini, a tiny foie-gras and blackberry creation, and saffron chips – served, incidentally, on a beautiful Versace service plate.
For our next course, Fondy and Jodi received the oyster on the half shell topped with “parmesan air”. Unfortunately, Fondy found her oyster a little suspect. Steve and I, meanwhile, were served a tuna dish that, if not wholly successful, proved an admirable attempt.
Next up, the ladies enjoyed a goat cheese terrine served with a warm beet and citrus. Steve and I had a very good sablefish and an ox-tail croquette that, though overcooked, was somewhat saved by the very good accompanying sauce.
Fondy and Jodi’s next course was a scallop and sweetbread duo. The scallop was plump and perfect, but the sweetbread was, sadly, overdone. The opposite was true of the prawn nestled at heart of my spring prawn and Dungeness crab bisque. It caught me unawares, slithering down my throat like one of those parasites from Cronenberg’s Shivers. Fortunately, the bisque itself proved a more than competent chaser. In fact, of all the night’s dishes, the bisque was my favorite.
And that was that for a while. A long while. As we sat, waiting for our meal to resume, we couldn’t help but notice the table next to us – a foursome that included a local t.v. celebrity – being served their courses at a pleasingly prompt pace. “Sorry for the delay,”our waiter apologized in passing. Then, by way of an explanation: “That table informed us they were in a hurry.” “I wish we would have thought of that,”said Steve wistfully. The waiter let us know that, by way of an apology, we would be received extra courses. All well and good but, thirty minutes after the bisque I was no longer hungry and ready to hit the road.
Dinner eventually resumed with a fine pepper consomme, followed by an equally fine roasted duck breast for the ladies and a…hmmm…to be honest, I don’t know quite it was. The waiter said it was some sort of truffled pork sausage but it possessed the unfortunate appearance of a well-done pizza pocket that had been left out overnight. I’d love to say it tasted better than it looked.
All four of us were served the same final main: a dry-aged beef tenderloin with yellowfoot mushrooms, tawny port and oxtail demi glace. Fondy enjoyed hers. For my part, three hours in and I was ready for bed.
However, I received a pleasant wake-up call in the form of our first dessert: an apple brulee. To be honest, when it was set down in front of me, I was prepared to pass it over to Fondy. But one somewhat reluctant spoonful later and I was completely won over.
Our second dessert was a nice looking but fairly run-of-the-mill brownie sundae.
Our evening concluded with a nice assortment of petits-fours and an amusing story about someone’s misguided attempt to put out a blazing marshmallow by waving it back and forth – resulting in their catching the flaming confection square in the eye. We’ll call that one the “Marshmallow-eye Incident”.