As I was drafting this post, my heart led me in a different direction than what I originally intended. So, this week’s Foodie Friday takes on more of a personal flair, and the food part becomes secondary. Ironically, this post features probably the most interesting meal I’ve ever had.
One day, while lunching at our favorite restaurant, Jacintos, in Old Town Montevideo, I noticed something new on their chalkboard menu.
Cena de Invierno (Winter Dinner) and below it, 3 names, 3 dates.
I immediately asked our waitress about it, and she explained that once a month this winter (because it’s winter down here!), they’re inviting different chefs to host a specialty dinner. A prix fixe menu for a fixed price. All wine included. The first one in June will be hosted by Argentinian chef, Fernando Trocca. Did we want to sign up?
Ummm let’s see….world-famous chef, special all inclusive menu… Of course I wanted to be in on this elite dinner! But it’s also pretty expensive… like US$75/person expensive. And as much as we like to eat, we’re not in the habit of spending that much on a single meal.
Not even 2 years ago, if asked whether I wanted to attend such a dinner, I would have given a resolute “NO”. You how much you can do with $75?? Such a waste to spend it all on just ONE meal that you will just pass in a day’s time. But that was then, and now my attitude is a litte different.
I fully blame D for having turned me into a food snob. I mean, I’ve always liked food and trying different cuisines, but I didn’t need exquisite food, or expensive food. Food was just a way to not starve to death, and it was a bonus if it happens to be delicious.
It all started when D took me to Mario Batali’s restaurant in Las Vegas for my first birthday that I celebrated with him, a few months into our dating stage. He warned me that it will change my life. I think he meant that Italian food, as I know it, will never be the same again, but it was true. My life had been changed. I’ve gotten a taste of truly exquisite food. And I wanted more.
And yes, I wanted to be fancy and splurgey and eat food made by a real, famous chef again!
As we tried to come up with an suitable excuse to justify the cost, D realized that the date of the dinner happened to be close to the date that we first met. Now, let me clarify that aside from that first birthday (and first Christmas) we celebrated together, we don’t do birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Valentine’s, any-other-hallmark-holidays, etc. Because we don’t need a special day to remind us that we love each other, and it’s less stressful that way. But to justify the cost, we figured an anniversary was the perfect excuse to splurge!
And that’s how we went home with 2 glossy white event cards that day. A few days later, we giddily held our precious tickets as we walked to the restaurant.
Under the blanket of night, Jacintos, usually with its shabby chic décor and bright, natural lighting, had been transformed into a sophisticated yet cozy restaurant gorgeously lit by soft yellow lights and flickering candles. A perfect setting for a special dinner.
Soon, course after course arrived, and all accompanied by endlessly flowing glasses of reserve wine. Chardonnay, malbec, Uruguayan tannat… all deliciously went down.
First up, the pre-appetizer: head cheese on toast. Completely unexpected.
“I’m kinda scared,” I admitted, poking at the gelatinous slab of random/indecipherable animal parts. But I wasn’t about to let one cent go to waste, so I took a bite.
It turned out to be the biggest surprise of the night! Between the jelly-ish head cheese, a layer of dijon mustard, pickled onions, and the crunchy toast, it was a somehow a perfect harmony of flavors and textures.
The real appetizer course was fish and blood sausage in a romesco sauce, with orange. Again, I was apprehensive about the blood sausage after a rough experience, but this was firm with just the right amount of mushiness. It was delicious!
The main course was a lamb stew with a spicy tomato sauce, carrots, garbanzo beans, and pomegranate seeds. Interestingly though, what I remember the most about it is that it smelled exactly like a bowl of pho.
And lastly the dessert, always my favorite course of a meal! When it was brought out, I was initially disappointed to see just a dessert in a glass. But then I took a spoonful, and OMG…
Clearly, I’m not fancy enough to know what a posset is, but I see it as your childhood’s lemon pudding all grown up. Intensely creamy and velvety, yet refreshingly light and tangy at the same time… so good that I wanted an entire bucket of it!
As we sat across from each other, savoring our dishes and sipping on endless wine, I became fully aware that it’s been 2 whole years.
Before, our anniversary date was just an excuse to justify the cost of this meal, and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t even a clue exactly what date that is (except that it was in early June 2012). But now as I look at the man who brought me to the other side of the world, I can truly appreciate how incredible it is. And how much things have changed in 2 years, how much we have changed.
D didn’t just change my life in regards to a newfound affinity for good food, he changed everything about it.
Do you ever wonder what your life would be like if you didn’t meet a certain someone? Or didn’t do a certain thing? Looking back to that day we met on the beach, neither one of us had any idea how different our lives would be. We couldn’t have known what meeting each other would do to our worlds. We couldn’t have known that 2 years later, after hundreds of shared meals, tears, and inside jokes, we’d be sitting across a candlelit table from each other, in a place we both have never even heard of before.
That fateful first day, we spent the afternoon playing beach volleyball with my usual group. I was a regular and it was D’s first time there as a friend of someone. D tried making cordial conversation with me when we were put on the same team (funny how our very first conversation was about food), but given that I had an ongoing flirtation with his friend at the time, I didn’t pay him much attention. But being the headstrong guy he is, he didn’t give up. And asked for my number at the end.
“Maybe we can have dinner sometime,” he said.
“Sure, maybe,” I had replied, though I didn’t really mean it. I was just too nice to openly reject.
But being the
poor clueless headstrong guy he is, he contacted me a few days later.
And still to this day, I am so thankful that he did.
This post is part of the #sundaytraveler series with Pack Me To, and don’t forget to support all the other participating blogs (links at the bottom of post)!