Last night Jason and I went on a real date. (Ooohs and aaahs go here.) It was amazing!
My sweet husband met me at the door with a dozen roses and took me out to eat at Les Saisons, having made the reservation weeks ago in honor of our anniversary. Located in a gorgeous chateau on a hill, this restaurant is actually run by students who are studying at the culinary art institute run by Paul Bocuse--one of France's finest chefs. To give you an idea of his prominence, earning a "Bocuse d'Or" award in the realm of fine cooking might be considered the equivalent of being awarded a Golden Globe.
While I confess feeling slightly intimidated at first by the formality of the dining experience (I kept glancing over at the other tables to make sure that my table etiquette was okay), Jason and I were soon wrapped up in the warm feelings created by great food and great conversation. It was so rejuvenating to focus on each other as a couple without once worrying about cutting up the girls' food or cleaning up juice spills.
Our meal began with an "Amuse-bouche" -- roughly translated as a mouth pleaser. For me, the most amusing part of this savory morsel was the teeny tiny fork that it was served with. I was seriously concerned that I might break it on the pastry crust! In hind sight, I should have just used the larger fork that was also at my place setting. I worried a bit needlessly about which piece of silverware to use (work your way in, right?) because they actually cleared all of our silverware and set completely new settings with each course.
The "amuse-bouche" was followed by our appetizer--I had escargots and "sot-l'y-laisse"--apparently, it's the piece of chicken located just above the tail. These were served over a celery puree with a "sphère croustillante"--a crusty little ball filled with something very yummy, even though I have no idea what.
Jason, on the other hand, had tuna that was marinated and partially cooked, served over a bed of avocado and vegetables, along with a grilled sesame roll. He loved the tuna, although he was really surprised because it didn't taste at all fishy.
The next course was served on a silver platter--literally. The presentation of the dishes was choreographed as two servers brought out our dishes simultaneously, lifting off the dome-shaped covers at the exact same instant. My main entree consisted of monkfish tail served in a light curry with granny smith apples and coconut rice--absolutely delicious. Jason, on the other hand, had veal served with new potatoes and peas. He liked it overall, but thought the meat was a little bit fatty.
Next came the cheese tray--a scene straight out of Ratatouille. :) While I can't really tell you what I ate (helpless with the terminology, I resorted to the point-to-what-you-want method), I enjoyed the experience, despite the guilt of sampling some soft cheeses that I probably should not have eaten in my pregnant state.
Okay, time for a little background here. Paul Bocuse is known for his association with "nouvelle" or new cuisine, as opposed to the traditional "haute" cuisine. This new cuisine is much lighter than its rich counterpart, abundant in fresh, quality vegetables. I admit that as they started bringing out the courses, part of me thought: fine cuisine, ha! The more you pay, the less you get. I really thought that Jason and I might have to go and get ice cream when we were done with this lighter fare.
Well, that was before the cheese tray. Light cooking or not, I was stuffed! It's amazing how well your body can register how full it really feels when you stretch a meal out over three hours. (Too bad that kids don't make that possible for most Moms.) At this point in the meal, I helplessly excused myself to the restroom to try and make room for dessert. I seriously regretted that I didn't have a pair of scissors to snip the elastic band of my non-maternity nylons and thus make more room for my ever-expanding belly.
After some impromptu stretching, I bravely returned to face the final dessert course. Uncomfortable as I may have been, it was worth the effort--even if just for the visual effect. After our meal last night, I understand much more why they refer to the "culinary arts"--the dishes were so artistically arranged that it seemed a pity to ingest them. My dessert was beautiful--strawberry sherbet served in a fresh strawberry soup over a crunchy shortcake with this gorgeous ring of delicate carmelized sugar garnishing the top. Jason's dessert took the cake, however. It's the first interactive food experience that I've had--food designed to morph before your eyes instead of merely sitting on your plate. They brought out this perfectly round ball of chocolate nested in a bit of chocolate sauce. Then while you watched, they poured a hot dark-chocolate and lemon sauce over the top, causing the chocolate ball to melt before your eyes and unveiling the rice pudding hidden within. The chocolate pudding was delicious, but the concept was even better.
Alas, all good things must come to an end--they eventually brought the bill... Just kidding, all things considered, it wasn't too bad. The great thing about eating at a culinary arts institute instead of Bocuse's actual restaurant is that you can do so for literally 1/10th of the price. So while it may have been a splurge for us, the cost wasn't enough to spoil the food in our stomachs. We walked out into the clear night air, looked up at a sky full of stars, and felt so happy and grateful for the last six years of marriage.
While I could never be comfortable with such a dining experience on a regular basis (it seems extravagant and wasteful to wash unused silverware), once a decade it seems appropriate to indulge and show that special someone just how special they are. Thanks, honey.