Archive for the tag “dinner date”

Good Golly! An Amazing Dinner at the Holly Hotel (Holly, Michigan)

This post was written by a very good friend of mine, Jess.  She and her husband, Bryan (also a very good friend, who accompanied me for this blog post), are adventuresome diners and love to explore local spots.  I wish I had more of that in my DNA!

Jess was kind enough to vividly describe their anniversary dinner (happy belated anniversary you lovely couple!!) and Bryan was planful enough to take photos of many courses of this seemingly never-ending meal! He may have taken a cue from me, as some of the picture are of half-eaten dishes, or fully cleaned plates!  But, that’s okay…it’s all a sign of a thoroughly enjoyed meal!    I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did.

Meet Jess and Bryan:

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My husband Bryan and I discovered the Holly Hotel last fall thanks to a Groupon deal, and since it was relatively close to our house (we live in the boonies, so nothing is close to us) and there seems to be a lack of chef-driven, seasonal menus anywhere in metro-Detroit, we thought we would give it a shot. Plus, it has been around since the 1860s and is supposedly haunted—how much more can you ask for on a Groupon deal? Even if the meal sucked, maybe we would see a ghost.

Image courtesy of the Holly Hotel

When we first walked in, we were a little surprised and not sure what to expect from the meal. I don’t think the interior has changed much since the hotel first opened, with the exception of adding some electricity. To add to the experience, we brought my parents along.  They are well-traveled foodies, and have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world.

It turned out to be a wonderful evening, with fantastic food and great service, and an interpretation of the décor as being “shabby chic”. So, when it came to figuring out where we wanted to dine for our 1 year anniversary, we decided to go back to the Holly Hotel.

Now, I should say that Bryan is a pretty adventurous eater. Snack Street in Beijing was like a playground to him, so he always chooses the chef-driven menus whenever he can. He did so during our first experience and decided that it worked so well, he wanted the chef-driven menu again. Since I had also chosen the chef-driven menu the first time, I thought I would mix it up and try some of their staple items during this dinner instead. And, we generally share so it works in our favor and we get to taste more of the menu.  I say “generally” because there was a squabble over some black truffle mashed potatoes on this particular evening.

Bryan’s meal started off with an amuse-bouche of chicken mushroom spring rolls with sriracha and yuzu (an Asian citrus). I had never had yuzu before, but it was pleasantly tart and paired well with the sriracha and the woodsy mushroom flavor, bringing a nice brightness to the spring roll.  Luckily they gave Bryan two spring rolls, so I got to gnosh on one. For my starter, I had onion soup topped with a puff pastry, which was a unique twist and absolutely delicious. When I commented on my love for puff pastry to our server, she shared my opinion saying “I’d eat a dead cat if it was wrapped in puff pastry. In fact, I’d tell you that’s how I like my dead cat prepared”.

I’m pretty sure “wrap it in puff pastry” didn’t make the list

(This is Ker:  When Jess relayed that ‘puffed pastry / dead cat’ story to me, she and I both bust up laughing! )

Next, Bryan had a pumpkin parsnip soup, which he devoured. I love parsnips, especially seeing them used as a puree for heavier cuts of meat like short-ribs, but am not so much of a pumpkin fan, so this wasn’t my favorite. Even though I wasn’t in love with the pumpkin flavor, I have to say the texture was incredible—very thick but pureed finely, and lots of flavor. Meanwhile, I was still working on my onion soup.

For the salad course, I had ordered a Bibb lettuce salad with shaved Bavarian ham, parmesan and a Dijon mustard dressing, but as soon as they served Bryan’s salad I knew I was going to have to forfeit mine. Bryan was served a spinach salad absolutely loaded with Stilton crumbles, Stilton dressing, beets and roasted corn. The problem: Bryan HATES blue cheese. The good news is that I love it, so we quickly switched. The blue cheese flavor was intense—if you aren’t a true lover of blue cheese I wouldn’t recommend this salad—and the roasted corn added a touch of sweetness that I really liked. As for my original salad… the Dijon dressing was the perfect blend of sweet and spicy, especially when paired with the slightly salty Bavarian ham. Not that I got to taste much of it.

Next up for Bryan was flounder stuffed with chorizo and shrimp grits and topped with a champagne feta cream sauce. I am allergic to seafood, so Bryan was on his own here.

I was concerned about a lot of really strong flavors and how they would all mix together, especially the chorizo with flounder, and I was even more curious about a champagne feta sauce, but judging by the empty plate the server cleared away, apparently the flavor profiles were a success.

After a quick orange sour palate cleanser (yummy! Not too tart and just the perfect amount of orange zest) we were finally on to the main course.

Beef Wellington is a signature dish for the Holly Hotel, and wanting to try some of their staple items, this was my choice. I was curious to see how they would handle this—not only is it a dish that has somewhat fallen out of fashion (along with Chateaubriand), but it is also extremely difficult to prepare, getting the correct temperature on the beef without overcooking the puff pastry.

Bryan had Lollipop Lamb Chops, Filet Mignon and Black Truffle Red Skin Potatoes. Which is where our sharing-system broke down.

First of all, my Beef Wellington was incredible. I’ve already mentioned my weakness for puff pastry, but throw in some flavorful, creamy mushroom duxelles on top of a tender filet and I am in heaven. I drifted off for a while, sipping my wine, enjoying my classic dish. It practically melted in my mouth. Bryan was also quiet, tucked into his lamb, filet and taters.

Finally, we came back to earth, decided to engage in conversation again, and shared bites. Wow. Wowwowwowwow. His filet mignon was one of the most tender I have ever had, which is saying something, because filet mignon is my favorite dish – hands down.  I almost always order it. His was like cutting through butter. I thought the beef wellington was good but this…. This was incredible.

And the potatoes…. I don’t even know how to describe them. The black truffle took the flavor on the potatoes to mythic heights. When I reached for a second bite, I nearly got stabbed with Bryan’s fork. After some pleading on my end and reminding the hubby how kind I was to forfeit my original salad to him (not like that was really a loss for me since I love blue cheese, but whatever), I was allowed a second bite. A blissful, perfect little bite. I would go back to the Holly Hotel for those alone.

Alas, soon the potatoes, the filet and my beef wellington were consumed and we were on to the cheese course. The server brought us (okay, technically Bryan) a tray of porter cheddar cheese, smoked cheddar, homemade caramel sauce, candied nuts and dried blueberries. I am a fan of smoked cheddars and the smokiness of this one was a perfect complement to the heavier flavors of our dinner. I was also digging the caramel sauce and dried blueberries and even dipped the cheddar into the sauce, which was surprisingly good.

As if we hadn’t been gluttonous enough at this point, Bryan had one more course to go—the dessert course. I had been eye-balling a puff pastry wrapped apple for dessert (are you sensing a theme here?) but Bryan’s trio of cheesecake was enough for the both of us (courtesy of the server, who knew it was our anniversary dinner) so I decided not to be piggish. We had a cheesecake slice topped with a chocolate and the aforementioned caramel sauce, one with a raspberry sauce and one with a strawberry sauce. Unfortunately, this was our least favorite dish of the night. We found the cheesecake to be very dense and dry, and were somewhat disappointed to wrap up our otherwise incredible meal on this note.

Overall though, our meal was amazing—the slightly kitschy atmosphere was quiet and romantic, the food was heavenly and our service was fantastic. We picked the perfect place to celebrate our anniversary, and it stacked up to our first experience there almost a year prior. In fact, it was so good that we became Dining Club members there, and will be taking my parents back when they are in town this weekend.  So, for anyone in the metro-Detroit area who doesn’t mind a bit of a drive for a truly wonderful dining experience, we highly recommend the Holly Hotel.

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Thanks to Jess and Bryan for taking time from their romantic anniversary dinner to prepare a blog post!  Yes, folks, I did razz them a bit about thinking so much about this blog while they were out celebrating such a special day!  But, I love them for having done so!

Now, I’m off to find dinner.  After reading about eight delicious courses, I’m starved, friends!

Cheers!

Ker

PS. Since I stopped writing my other blog, I don’t really have a good place to post general experiences.  Since y’all must know about my adoration for my beloved Clemson Tigers, I’m going to direct you to my friend Anthony’s recap of our weekend in God’s Country last weekend.  Thanks for the wonderful memories, Ant and everyone else with whom I spent QT in SC. xoxo.

Guest post… By my dad! A divine surprise at Bistro 70 – Painesville, OH

Two things I never expected to happen when I launched this blog last month: 1) that it would get the kind of traffic it’s been getting – thank you! (even my dad subscribed to it!), and 2) that my dad would not only comment on a post, but also write an unsolicited guest post!  My dad is a technology-savvy guy (he’s the guy at the left of the picture), so it probably shouldn’t surprise me, but it did – and I’m delighted to share his story with you. And, to find out more about my dad’s (and the family’s) day job, click here.

Mom and dad’s night out at the Bistro, as told by Terry Kilbourne:

This past Saturday was one of those rare occasions when my lovely wife Pam and I decided to go out for dinner. Okay, maybe not rare. Okay, maybe not rare at all…we have dinner out every Saturday. More often than not, we find ourselves at our favorite dining establishment Bistro 70, in downtown Painesville, OH.

Terry and Pam, and their second set of children (post – Adam and Ker leaving the nest), Molly and Tucker.

IMO, this little gem of a restaurant is one of – if not the best – fine dining experiences to be found in Lake County, and perhaps in all of NE Ohio. From the rather unassuming street level entry at 70 North St. Clair Street (hence the name) you might never suspect the fabulous treat in store.

We are always greeted warmly by Hostess Vivian, and Katie – one of several friendly and cheerful severs. Most visits, Katie gets stuck with us.  Once again on Saturday, she drew the short straw, and we were very lucky. Once seated at our corner table, Pam had her wine and I had my standard iced tea.

Katie, The Server of Surprises on Saturday

Truthfully, I did not intend to have Katie pick my meal tonight. But, in addition to a great menu on the weekends, Chef Keith prepares three scrumptious specials. Saturday was no exception. The choices included a seafood dish: blackened divers scallops, roasted bok choy, and sticky rice. The second dish was surf and turf, Bistro 70 style: filet and crab, with asparagus, and potato. Finally, a black and blue pasta dish with pasta (obviously!), filet, crumbled blue cheese, and a beef-based sauce. All sounded delicious, and therein was my dilemma.

Just like my daughter Kerri often is, I became momentarily indecisive. After my wife ordered the black and blue pasta special, the die was cast – I would become a guest blogger on “She ordered what?!?”!

Katie was thrilled to select my meal for. I had no idea if it would be one of the specials, or something off the menu. What I did know is that I was in very capable hands. Not only is everything very good at Bistro 70, as I mentioned Katie is our sever regularly, so she has a pretty good idea that I will eat almost anything.

Meals always start with warm bread served with olive oil and cheese for dipping. (no butter). Tonight was not an exception.

Fresh bread with oil and cheese for dipping

This was followed soon after by a small house salad of greens, tomato, onion and house made blue cheese dressing. Both the bread and the salad hit the spot, since on Saturdays neither of us take time for lunch. It was a long time between breakfast and dinner, and we were hungry!

Soon enough, it was time for my mystery entrée. The black and blue pasta Pam ordered looked and smelled terrific. I was kept in suspense until Katie placed a beautifully plated blackened scallop dinner in front of me. Here are the details: three V-10 divers scallops, pan-seared, finished with a white wine miso butter sauce, braised bok choy and sticky rice.

Blackened diver scallops, braised bok choy, and sticky rice.

(I know the picture shows four scallops – I guess I am special). Occasionally I order the scallops off the menu, as good as they are Saturday’s special was truly, well, special! Perfectly prepared, scallops were firm yet tender, blackened just enough to enhance the flavor, the white wine miso butter sauce a provided a creamy texture. The braised bok choy was flavorful, and sticky rice is always good.

Kudos to Katie – she did a great job. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner. Hats off to Keith – he prepared another excellent dinner. Ah, but it is not over.

Recently, like last week recently, Bistro 70 started serving special desserts. The multi-talented server Katie is also a baker. Not just an ordinary baker, but a baker of the most exquisite, and moist cakes.

Keith started purchasing Katie’s cakes last week. She prepares a different cake each week.

Katie, and her cake.

Red Velvet cake.

The staff of Bistro 70: Katie, Keith, Joe, Vivian, and Ann Marie

While we normally do not indulge in desserts, except perhaps on special occasions, how could we pass up red velvet cake with cream cheese and brown sugar frosting? Along with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee,  and great service, a perfect ending to another great dining experience at Bistro 70.

And, if you’re interested in Katie’s cakes, tweet her, email (katiescakebake@gmail.com) her or give her a call (440.856.6192)!

Katie’s Cake Bake

Thank you, Pops , for sharing your story, and for highlighting a restaurant I know and love – and am so glad I introduced you to Keith and the gang so many years ago!

Love, Ker

Tria, Inspired American Cuisine, Dearborn, MI – Categorize this under “I needed that!”

So, for any of y’all that read Jerod’s memorable guest post, you’ll likely recall that he was so energized by his evening that he sat down and wrote the post well into the latter part of his night.  (he emailed it to me around 12:30AM!)  After a long week, poor sleep, and finishing week two of the Brazil Butt  Lift workout, I am ridiculously exhausted – as in – I need toothpicks to hold my eyelids up exhausted!  However, I had such a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience at Tria (inside the lovely Henry Hotel) tonight that I couldn’t resist writing this post.

To start, I had the privilege of being served by two incredibly nice, conversational, attentive, and interested women – Audra and Alicia.  Alicia was the first to approach me as I sat at the bar inside this gem of a spot in Dearborn.  She asked if she could get me anything, and I responded by letting her know that I would like a glass of wine, but whatever wine she felt would accompany the dinner I would have her choose for me.  I handed her my “SheOrderedWhat?!?” card, and she read it, conferred with Audra (out of earshot, as I pleaded that they not tell me what I would be served until it was presented to me), and simply clarified – “seafood is okay, just not scallops?”.  I replied affirmatively, knowing she had tipped her hand a little, but was perfectly okay with seafood tonight (as any night!), so all was good.

Then, Audra, intrigued by the card, came over and asked me a few questions about the blog.  She said she thought it was a very cool idea, and she was happy that an “excellent chef is back there – we’ll come up with something great”!

They asked if I cared for a salad or soup to start, and my reply was “I’m not super hungry tonight, but if you feel a salad is appropriate with the meal, okay.  If not, just the entrée is fine.”

First, I was served a delicious white wine.  While a wine-consumer, I’m not a wine connoisseur!  I thought it tasted a bit like a Pinot Grigio, but I wasn’t sure.  It was light, crisp, with slight fruit undertones (and, that folks, is about as fancy as I get!).  Perfect for a warm spring evening.  Then, I was served their delicious bread and crackers.  I only picked at a few things, because I couldn’t resist. The crackers are AMAZING!  I have friends who will be happy to attest!

Fresh bread, and the best cheese crackers around!

At this point, all I knew is that I was served a delicious white wine.

Then, came the meal…  A different employee brought out a colorful plate and placed it before me, saying “Salmon for you, ma’am?”.  Why, yes, I guess it was salmon for me!  I have to admit that some time back, I had decided that salmon was my least favorite type of fish.  I think I had been served “fishy” pieces a couple of times.  It’s just not the fish I would order off the menu.  However, after tonight, my attitude changed!  There were three (rather large!) hunks of salmon on the plate (“hunks” makes it sound a bit low-class, but the food was plated beautifully – see below!), over a gorgeous zesty, chunky tomato sauce with Kalamata olives (which I later found out is “tomato ragout”, fennel salad, and aioli).  As my girlfriend Jenny would say “a party in my mouth”!

My “salmon” dish.

Audra and Alicia checked in to see how I liked the dish, and I assured them that they had made a terrific decision, and that the light, smooth wine paired perfectly with the wonderfully flavorful dinner.  I learned that the wine was “Sancerre”, and that I was pretty spot-on with my dissection of flavors/layers!  Though, it was not a Pinot Grigio, but rather a Sauvignon Blanc.  I fail the Sommelier test! 🙂

Chateau de Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc (they only set the bottle out so I could see what the ONE glass of wine I had was – I didn’t drink the bottle!)

I also thanked them for wisely choosing to forgo the soup/salad, as I couldn’t even finish my dinner – no reflection on the taste – it was simply too much food!

We also chatted about how the clientele at Tria has been changing – more younger folks are coming in, rather than just the standard hotel-guest clientele.  Folks, here’s the reason, IMO: the food is superb (whether small plates or entrees), the drink selection is great, and they are VERY reasonably priced (e.g. wine is sold by flight, 5oz or 8oz pours, and at retail by the bottle), and the service is tremendous.   Locals…please spread the word!

After I had handed my not-quite-finished dinner plate over to Alicia, she asked whether I’d like to try dessert or not.  I was full, but she sold me on the fact that Tria also offers dessert by the flight – so to speak.  They offer “mini-bites”, as singles, or in sets of three or five.  I requested she choose three minis – as long as I could also take them home, knowing I could not possibly finish them.  All the while, she sweetly topped my glass of wine off for me.

Alicia brought me a trio of small bites:  Tiramisu (a personal FAVE!), a dark chocolate and peanut butter pop (think Buckeye – only WAY better!), and a coconut raspberry bar (as delicious as it sounds!).  I promise, I only took a bite or two of each, and the rest sits in my fridge – awaiting a sweet-tooth attack!

From left: Tiramisu, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter pop, Coconut-Raspberry bar.

I’m telling you, this dinner was devine!  Really delicious.  Friends, when you come to visit, we’re heading to  Tria.  And, I hope we see Alicia and Audra again. I could not have possibly stumbled upon more accommodating and wonderful servers!  Alicia and Audra were absolutely awesome – and just what I needed on a night that found me tired, hungry, and looking for a positive ending.  Thank you so much, ladies!  You made my night!

And, probably my tomorrow!  😉

The delightful “to-go” container.

The Melting Pot, Roswell, GA – It wasn’t just the server doing the surprising!

I’m so excited to share yet another guest post here!  Folks, I can honestly say that this screwy little idea is catching on.  In the few weeks since I launched this site, I’ve had several people tell me – both in person and in writing – that they’ve tried allowing their server to surprise them.  And, the list of guest post requests is growing!  Thank y’all for your support of SheOrderedWhat.com.

This post is from Lisa, someone I met through my friend Dennis.  She’s full of wonderful personality, up for adventure, and was delighted to document her first “She Ordered What?!?” experience for your reading pleasure!  Please feel free to leave comments for Lisa above.  Here is the story of her dining adventure.

Lisa’s adventure:

An unexpected dinner date led to a night full of fun surprises…
On Friday I was reading the “She Ordered What?” blog and came across Jerod Morris‘s guest post about his first date adventure, all the while modifying this in the back of my mind to work in any new restaurant situation, not just the first date scenario… Knowing that my weekend was already pretty planned out to the minute with events, I didn’t think about the blog again until Sunday evening.

My boyfriend and I had tickets to attend a concert in a part of town we don’t usually find ourselves out in, and thinking we would be late to the event, we made no plans for dinner.  So when my boyfriend wanted to leave the event early (and we hadn’t eaten), he left the decision of dinner up to me… and that is where my story begins..

Being on a side of town I wasn’t all that familiar with I had no idea in which direction to begin so in the honor of a little spontaneity in our life I hit the little “Places” app on my handy-dandy smart phone and clicked “restaurants”,  deciding that the first place that popped up would be where we would go.  We walked into The Melting Pot without reservations on Sunday evening and were immediately seated in a cozy private booth.

Having never eaten at a fondue restaurant, I didn’t really know what to expect.  The décor was dark and sensual – in a “romantic evening out” sort of way.  Seeing that we had just come from an outdoor rock concert, we were a little underdressed, but the maître d’ and the wait staff made us feel completely at home.  They  took their time to explain how the menu worked and what we could expect with each course.

I surprised both my boyfriend and the waiter when placing my drink order – I told the waiter to surprise me… He asked several questions: such as about what I liked – which I declined to answer.   He glanced at my boyfriend with a questioning look –  to which Joey replied, “Go for it”.   He returned with my boyfriend’s water and my Gummy Bear Martini.  PERFECT! Strong, but sweet and refreshing after a long day in the sun!  The waiter was pleased at my response to his choice, and didn’t flinch when I told him to surprise me with the remainder of my meal.  He actually was enthusiastic about surprising me!

His only question was if I had any food allergies.  I informed him I did not, and he went to the kitchen with a smile on his face.  As he walked away my boyfriend looked at me like I was crazy (he does this frequently), and asked what this was all about, and I then explained the blog to him.  He laughed and shook his head.  It is a fortunate thing for me that he loves it that I am a little “out there” sometimes and will try anything at least once.

I was thrilled when the server brought out our first course of Cheddar Cheese Fondue: Consisting of aged medium-sharp cheddar and Emmenthal Swiss cheeses melted beautifully with lager beer, garlic and seasonings complete with bread bites, veggies and APPLES! Cheese melted and cooked in Sam Adams Beer.. My life is oh so good – and this is just the first course!

Our salads came out in perfect timing, just as we were finishing the appetizer.  My boyfriend ordered the house salad with their tangy house dressing, and I was brought a California Salad: Mixed baby greens, Roma tomatoes, candied pecans and rich Gorgonzola cheese with Raspberry Black Walnut Vinaigrette… I was impressed; it was exactly what I would have chosen – had I looked at the menu.  The candied pecans added a perfect crunchy texture and sweet flavor to the Vinaigrette dressing.

Our main course came out within several minutes of the staff removing our salad plates, and I waited in anticipation for our server to explain what he had brought me… My boyfriend, being a little picky about his food, had ordered The French Quarter (Filet mignon, chicken breast, and white shrimp all seasoned with Cajun spices and accompanied by Andouille sausage). I, on the other hand, was rewarded by a plate full of chicken breast, teriyaki-marinated sirloin, white shrimp, citrus-infused pork tenderloin, breast of duck and chicken and vegetable pot stickers – also known as the Pacific Rim.

Our server had chosen the cooking style known as Coq au Vin to complement our entrée’s.  He also explained the multiple sauces brought to the table and the cooking times for each meat before leaving us to enjoy our dinner.  I loved being able to taste a little of everything and was upset that I couldn’t eat it all.

I would love to say that we left the dessert decision up to the server, but I honestly was so full from the meal that we had to pass on the dessert menu.  If it had been something we could have taken home with us I would have let him pick for us both, but it has been my experience in the past that melted chocolate doesn’t travel well.

The Melting Pot is definitely a place we will visit again and big thank you to the staff for their excellent service and superb selection of food.  Thank you to Jerod Morris for the idea.   It was great fun, and I will do it again at the next new restaurant.  Thank you to Kerri for allowing me to share my experience on her blog…
– Lisa Hadden

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Thank you so much, Lisa!  I’m so happy you enjoyed “dining by surprise”, and that you shared your story.

You can find out more about Lisa at her: food blog, personal blog, and Facebook page.

Mango Thai, Dallas, TX – Making a first date truly memorable!

This is a guest post from my friend Jerod.  I couldn’t stop smiling as I read this post, and I think you will smile as well. It’s such a great story! Please feel free to leave comments for Jerod above.  Also, visit his blogs: his personal blog: Primility and his professional blog:  Midwest Sports Fans.

Jerod’s adventure: 

Is it supposed to be this easy? Sure, I’m talking about the food. After all, that’s what this site is about. And feeling a little bit of trepidation is natural when putting your dinner entrée choice in the hands of someone you don’t know. There is nothing easy about that. But I’m also talking first dates. 
Like a first meal at a new restaurant, especially a meal you didn’t even choose, first dates should be accompanied by trepidation. Or they are supposed to. First dates aren’t supposed to be easy. To feel easy. To feel natural. Especially when you are meeting the person for the first time. Right? 
Apparently they can. 
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I arrived at Mango Thai on Lovers Lane in Dallas around 7:10 on Thursday evening for a date scheduled to begin at 7:15. I’m punctual like that. There was just one other couple there, which surprised me. The online reviews for Mango Thai were excellent, and though it seemed slightly out of place at the end of a strip mall on one of Dallas’ less glamorous stretches of road, it featured a colorful, attractive outdoor décor and an interior that suggested good, well-presented food awaited. 

Not too long after I sat down, I received the following text message: — “I’m literally hitting every red light!” — I responded: “Try driving through them instead. No need for violence.”  I was admittedly proud of this reply. (Didn’t her profile say she found “wit” attractive? Why yes, yes it did. I might have fist-bumped myself were it socially acceptable…not that there was anyone around to judge.)  Another text followed soon thereafter: “I parked.” 

A dinner I had very much been looking forward to would finally begin. 

I had decided earlier in the day to use this dinner as the source for my first guest post at this here blog. This was something of a risky move, seeing as how I had never dined with the charming young woman who was about to walk through the door (albeit after struggling a bit to get it open). But it also seemed like the perfect opportunity to test my instincts. Something told me that this was a girl who would be all about a spontaneous dinnertime adventure. I obviously didn’t know her well, but I just had that feeling. If I suggested it and she balked? No harm, no foul really. My instinct would be proven wrong, but dinner could otherwise go as planned. Maybe she’d just laugh it off and think I was “quirky.” Or maybe she’d think I was a tool. Either way, I was being myself and doing what felt natural, plus I’d learn something important about her; and I do know that is what first dates are supposed to be about. 

Well, she was all for it from the get-go. 

It’s true: somehow I was here on a first date with a girl who shared my music taste, wrote in complete sentences with flawless grammar, possessed an effortless smile that pictures cannot do justice, and was cool enough to go along with my crazy idea of having the waiter choose our food. An auspicious beginning to be sure. However, our waiter’s reaction to our order was not quite so auspicious. 

In discussing our game plan for explaining our crazy ordering idea to the waiter, she and I decided that we would coach the waiter thusly: “Consider this your last meal ever at Mango Thai, with the possibility that it might even be your last ever meal period. You have to choose an entrée for yourself and for your mother (because we figured he would take extra special care choosing an entrée for his mother) along with drinks to accompany it, and you cannot tell us what it is until after the meal.” Our poor waiter looked dumbfounded. 

 
The look on his face suggested that he was waiting for us to tell him we were kidding – we later found out this is exactly what the look on his face was meant to communicate – but of course we weren’t kidding. We were serious. And so off he walked, confused. He came back a few minutes later, however, with a new bounce in his step. He wanted to know if we meant alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks, since he was underage. We told him the former, and he smartly asked the lady on my left if she preferred “sour or sweet.” She responded that she would not direct his decision – or the decision of the manager or bartender who would have to make the drink – but that rather the food choice should dictate the drink. This time he bounded off confidently. He had something up his sleeve. 

Turns out what he had up his sleeve were two incredible entrée choices, and a couple of nice drinks to match. Some 13 or 14 minutes later, after my date and I discussed work, school, music and “weird things,” the food came. It looked, in a word, scrumdiddlyumptuous. My plate was an ocean of brown sauce accented with rivers of white the color of wave tips before they roll over. And like the tide, the sauce washed up onto a thick piece of salmon nestled ever so comfortably on top of a bucolic beach of spinach and broccoli. 

His dish: As yet, still unidentified. As per their instructions.

Her plate was resplendent with bright hues of yellow, green, and red. A fried concoction of something stood tall like a plateau against a verdant backdrop of broccoli and asparagus. And beside it all, rising like a mountain on the distant horizon of her plate, was a heap of fried rice with shrimp embedded in its peak. 

Her meal: A colorful delight!

Neither of us knew what to expect, but we dug in without fear. The tastes were spectacular. My food was hot but flavorfully so. And the white sauce helped to balance out the initial heat of the brown. The salmon was cooked just right, and the broccoli provided the perfect vegetable accoutrement, working well in tandem bites with the salmon or on its own dipped in the sauce. Her food was even better, nearly as sweet as she was when the delicious pieces of fresh mango were included in the bite. 
We were impressed…and soon to be satiated. 
Our waiter had delivered great drink choices as well. A tasty Cabernet for me, and a pink, lemony Cosmpolitan for her. Both drinks complemented the food well. 
How could he have known? Our waiter’s choices were perfect. 

And he had one choice left: dessert. 
We had decided that we’d follow his lead on whether to get dessert or not, and if dessert was the suggestion then so be it. As any good waiter should, he was more than ready to suggest a dessert. A few minutes later he brought out a delectable treat with three oblong fried shapes and what looked like some kind of whipped cream  – it was fried bananas and coconut ice cream, as we’d soon find out. 

Fried bananas and coconut ice cream. May I have some, please?!?

At this point, she assertively asked him to sit down so we could thank him and find out exactly what we had eaten. He obliged, barely able to contain the smile on his face. He’d clearly enjoyed the experience. He first told us his name was Harrys – spelled thusly but pronounced “Aries” like the Zodiac sign – and then explained what he had chosen for our entrees and why. 
My meal was the Green Curry Salmon with jasmine rice and coconut garnish – the white sauce. He had never actually eaten this particular meal but said that he’d always wanted to try it. I assured him that it was quite tasty and worth tying. I also admired his trust in the Mango Thai kitchen to bring something he’d never eaten himself. 

Her meal was the Mango Sea Bass with fried rice, and he’d had it cooked mild. As Harrys explained, he did this because his mom was not a fan of spicy food. Needless to say, we were tickled that he’d taken our instructions so seriously. Then he described what he was thinking when we initially broached the subject of him choosing our entrees. He admitted to initially being nervous, as we’d thought. As he described it, verbatim, “I was like, fuck! I have to make the customer smile!” We laughed. 
Harrys may be young, but he quite clearly has a personality, an easy charm, and a genuine honesty in his face that will open plenty of doors for him. We then asked to speak to his manager, who came out of the kitchen…eventually, and somewhat reluctantly. (Note: Portions of this part of the story may have been omitted…because they simply would not make sense out of context. It was one of those “you had to be there” moments that, if we ever come across Harrys again, we will all surely laugh about.) We met the quiet, unassuming manager with smiles, which he returned, and we told him how wonderful Harrys had been and how terrific the food was. He thanked us appreciatively before returning to the back. 

We took a few more bites of our dessert before Harrys returned, wanting to share even more about the many thoughts that had run through his head while adhering to our crazy requests. He informed us that he too now wanted to suggest this idea to dates, and that he had been thinking about that – what entrees would be good for a date? – while choosing our meals. I assured him that he’d made an excellent choice for a date, because he’d given the colorful and special plate – the only one that included actual mangos at Mango Thai – to the lady. I could see the wheels spinning in his head. His next date is going to have quite the dining surprise in store for her. 

Finally, after he had taken our check and was on his way out the door, Harrys stopped back by our table and said, “You guys just made my night.” That’s certainly appropriate, because he’d made ours too. Good food is one thing, but good food with caring and attentive service is quite another. And there was something extra special about the care and attentiveness we received given our rather odd request. It did not go unnoticed. Harrys, if you somehow stumble across this blog post, know that you made our night. A good server can do that. Harrys was a great server. 
—– 
But all good things must come to an end. Our meals came to an end, the service came to an end, and so too did my first date with this intriguing girl with the unforgettable name. I walked her to her car, we made one final joke about making ravioli together someday, and then hugged before agreeing to have yet another restaurant ordering adventure at some point in the future. I look forward to it, as I hope she does too. 

It’s interesting and ironic how things go sometimes, isn’t it? There were so many opportunities for awkward or uncomfortable moments on a night like tonight: a first date, an odd ordering request, the initial tasting of unfamiliar food. And yet, nothing was awkward or uncomfortable. Everything went as well as it could have. 

 
That won’t always happen. In fact, it will rarely happen. Maybe that’s why I’ve been writing about it ever since I got home and am now near 2,000 words into trying to describe this thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying dining experience. 

My words won’t do it justice, but hopefully they give you a somewhat descriptive taste of this great meal.  It was a meal chosen and served by a great waiter, and I was lucky enough to share it with a great girl. 
Yes Harrys, you did indeed make us smile tonight. 
It was a night for smiling. 
I still am.

—- (me too, Jerod!) – Thanks, so much.  – Ker

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