Last night, we were given an anniversary gift by Steve's courier service. Once again, they sent a limousine to pick us up at home and deliver us to the Capital Grille. Even though the occasion was romantic, we brought along my mother in law Madeline and Alex to share dinner. The limo driver presented us with an elaborately frosted cake which I knew wouldn't be touched by Steve or I until the next day because we always leave the Capital Grille feeling gluttonous.
Madeline was thrilled to be invited and I enjoyed watching Alex take in the pageantry of the evening. I was reminded of my very first upscale dining experience in Wilmington, North Carolina when I was around ten or eleven years old. During a vacation, my parents decided that I was old enough to accompany them to The Bridge Tender, a restaurant sitting on the Intercoastal Waterway. I vividly remember wearing my hair in braids, my face and shoulders stinging from a slight sunburn. I loved seafood-or at least I loved popcorn shrimp from Red Lobster-so my parents were confident that I would appreciate the meal.
I was presented with a menu, the same one my parents ordered from-not the kiddie menu. I carefully reviewed my choices, noting the prices which seemed exorbitant to my eleven year old mind. A dish caught my eye-Flounder stuffed with crab meat. It was spendy, but not the most expensive item on the menu. For some reason, I knew even at that age that it was bad form to order the priciest selection when someone else was treating. I asked my dad if my choice was acceptable, and he and my mom gave me permission with a stern warning that I would be expected to eat my entire meal. I ordered a baked potato-french fries seemed too provincial for such a fancy dinner.
As I waited for my meal, I looked out the window to the water below. A translucent jellyfish was just barely visible and I watched it's fluid movement until my meal was delivered. I believe the wait staff was putting on a bit more flourish for my benefit, probably at my dad's insistence. He's always been big on presentation. This was the first time I had crab, and I was instantly smitten. The flaky and delicate flounder served as a pocket for a deviled crab filling. The onion and pepper medley was perfectly seasoned and didn't overwhelm the sweet meat. Drawn butter was served on the side. I felt important and pampered and I loved every minute of it.
My parents need not have been concerned about my ability to finish the expensive entree. I didn't leave a trace on my plate and hoped silently that dessert was an option. Feeling benevolent, my father gave me permission to order a sweet ending to the meal. I zeroed in on chocolate mousse. It seems so common these days, but in the late 1970's...it was something. The mousse came piped into a tall parfait glass topped with dark chocolate curls and was rich and smooth and everything I hoped it would be. When we returned to the hotel, I couldn't stop talking about the exquisite meal and the restaurant even though my younger sisters were quite jealous about my treat.
Back to last night. I watched Alex take in the surroundings all evening. He was appropriately impressed when the valet rushed to open the doors of the limo. We were greeted warmly by the staff upon our entrance. Our waiter, Scotty, was the most charismatic waiter we've had in our four or five visits to the Capital Grille. The food there is sublime, but the wait staff can be a bit uptight-although it's fitting given the formal atmosphere.
We started off with the crab and lobster cakes for an appetizer, as well as calamari. I could tell Alex was savoring each bite and as he popped a piece of squid into his mouth, he said that he loved every kind of food that comes from the ocean. I indulged in a cup of the lobster bisque soup which defies description-but I'll give it a try anyway. Creamy, smooth and rich. The soup is full of large chunks of sweet lobster, dotted with fresh chives and the wait staff offers a dapple of sherry to finish it. It's quite possibly the best soup I've ever had in my life.
Because we were being treated to our meal last night, I indulged in a wine selection out of my normal price range. I'm going to lift from Robert Louis Stevenson when I tell you that the 2005 Belle Glos Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that I enjoyed last night was "bottled poetry." I asked Scotty if this was a wine I could purchase locally and he shook his head sadly. My searches on the internet have proved him right-the vintage is apparently sold out. If you get a chance to order it somewhere, I can't recommend it highly enough. I haven't mastered the ability to pick up on bouquet and notes, but the finish was sweet and smooth. Probably better that it was such a rare treat, I'd hate to develop an attachment to that vintage.
Alex ordered the filet and poached lobster. The rest of us stuck to beef only entrees. For sides we chose the garlic mashed potatoes and fresh sweet corn sauteed with lime, cilantro and onion. Alex enjoyed an Arnold Palmer with his meal, and basked under the doting attention of our server. We had to order dessert of course, so Steve and I split a flourless chocolate cake, Alex had an enormous slice of chocolate hazelnut cake and Madeline had the coconut cream pie. Delicious, all of it. Madeline and I strategically saved some of our steak for the twins to enjoy as leftovers and Annelise nearly went wild with delight over the abundance of garlic mashed potatoes that found their way home.
Since Steve's courier service picks up the tab for a night like this usually twice a year, we've promised the twins that they get the next turn. I hope they'll spring for a new suit for Mario, too.