I have one regret about writing this post. It’s that I didn’t take any pictures this afternoon during lunch. It’s so much easier to write a blog post around a photograph, but since that’s not going to happen, I’ll try to make up for it another way.
We’ve been on a bit of a lunch kick recently. On Wednesday, I brought my lady to a restaurant in East Haddam, CT called the Gelston House. It was a good lunch. Nothing spectacular happened, but it was a good lunch and we had a fair time.
The Gelston House is situated right on the Connecticut river and is next door to the Goodspeed Opera House. We haven’t been to any shows at the Goodspeed yet, but I have a feeling we’ll end up there someday. The Gelston House is the restaurant everyone goes to before the shows, so you can imagine the activity that can occur there.
It was a pretty nice day today. There’s a hurricane that is moving up the East coast that’s supposed to hit us and people are kind of on edge. We don’t have cable TV, so we really aren’t in the loop when it comes to incessant chatter, but we are aware of what’s going to happen in a few days. Since the hurricane is still down South, we thought it would be fun to take a drive down to Chester, CT to go out to lunch at a restaurant I have wanted to visit for quite some time. It’s called the River Tavern.
Before I go on, let me tell you a bit about the restaurants in Chester, CT. Hold on, let me first tell you about the people of Chester, CT and I’ll save the restaurants for a later post.
Okay, I don’t know how to say this and I really have a feeling that I have said this a thousand times before. As I get older, I find myself telling people stories like grandfathers tell. It’s kind of like, “Grandpa, you already told me that story…” so I feel a little odd writing about something I may have already written about. My only consolation is that I have a very small audience here on this blog, so chances are that if you’re reading this, you haven’t read much else of what I’ve written.
The people of Chester are very caring people. They care about their community like no other people I’ve seen. You can see it in their storefronts, their streets, their personalities and their events. The businesses in Chester are thought about and I really notice that there is true enjoyment for the business owner in bringing what they love to the public. This is one of the reasons I have been wanting to visit the restaurants on Main Street so much. I read the reviews and visit the websites. I look at the menus and wonder what their food is going to taste like. It’s something that I have been thinking about for a while now and it’s so much deeper than just hitting the road to get something to eat.
About ten minutes ago, I finished up a conversation with my older sister. As we were talking, I mentioned to her that I wish that I had recorded our conversation because I pretty much laid out exactly how I feel about what I am doing with my life and my philosophy of how I’m doing it. I do wish I had recorded that because I can’t remember all of what I said. It was pretty good.
To work around that, here’s what I am going to do. I am going to tell you about part of our lunch. I think it will (hopefully) clarify what I’m talking about, but the thing is, I’m not going to tell you about any courses other than dessert. This is going to be difficult.
After the server was finished taking our orders for appetizer and main entree, he asked us if we were interested in the dessert called “Baked to Order Date Pudding with Dark Rum Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream.” I hesitated. She said, “Sure” and then looked at me. I thought this was entertaining because I am usually the one who likes dessert. I guess things change when we’re out.
The dessert was also $12. It’s not that I’m cheap, it’s probably more of some residual feelings I have from my college days of eating rice and beans. I will gladly pay for quality food. The problem was that we had never been to this restaurant and I had a brief vision of paying $12 for an average dessert. Now, don’t get me wrong…we had a delicious lunch and that’s why I am saying that my hesitation was brief, but still, $12 for what exactly?
After the server left to get the dessert for us, we started talking. I was facing the rear window of the restaurant and she was facing the interior. This has been an issue for us since we got together. We fight (and “fight” really is the wrong word here) over where we are going to sit because someone is generally going to get the better view. The fight isn’t a typical selfish fight, it’s more of me trying to gauge which seat is better and then giving it to her. She stands there and waits while I struggle through my business and then finally sits in the seat that I have deemed “better.” During breakfast, lunch or dinner, she listens to me talk about how she is looking at one area while I’m looking at another. It’s precious really.
As we were waiting for dessert, I started talking. It was like I was at the table by myself. I was looking out the back window, through some bamboo that was growing on a ledge, down at the Pattaconk Brook. I said something like this:
“You know, this is really nice. It’s not so much that we’re sitting here in a restaurant on a Friday afternoon, it’s that we worked for it. The sun is shining and there are people around us who think like us. We didn’t get in a car and go through the drive-through to simply fill our stomachs. We had a feeling, visited a town years ago and enjoyed it so much that we knew we’d someday return to enjoy it a bit more. We learned about the restaurants and decided that who we are at this point in time really matched what these places are all about. We drove a good ways to get here and are paying good money to enjoy someone else’s art. We thought about it and this is really the fruit of those thoughts. Right here and right now.”
I know I think too much about a great many thing, but when it comes to food and life, I can never think enough. For the past few years, we have been making a concerted effort to avoid the cheap life and to enjoy the good. To me, the good life is slow and steady. It’s well planned and thought out. It’s purchasing one piece of quality as opposed to a whole bunch of junk.
When the dessert arrived, we were impressed. It was larger than we had expected. The first thing I noticed was the very generous portion of fresh whipped cream. It took up about half the plate and it looked like the chef had whipped it and poured it from a bowl. I can’t recall ever eating whipped cream like that before.
I picked up my spoon and looked across the table. She was raising her eyebrows in appreciation for what was sitting in front of us. I took the first bite and my life changed forever.
As I write this, I am feeling tense. My sister explained exactly what happened to us as we ate this dessert, but I can’t repeat it. I will tell you that what we ate today was, in fact, the best tasting dessert I had ever eaten in my life. I asked the server to convey my compliments to the chef, but I am happy to repeat those compliments here. I can thank the chef from the bottom of my heart. My stomach thanks the chef and my soul thanks the chef.
My life is ruined. Nothing is ever as good the second time and the bar has been raised so high, no one will ever meet it. All I can do is hope to forget. To me, the $12 price tag for this dessert means nothing. I would gladly lay a $100 dollar bill on the table to relive the experience we had today.
I know this seems a bit dramatic, but let me tell you why I feel this way. It might be attributed to the energy of Chester.
I have been to Chester at night. I know what it looks like when the stores are lit up and people are milling about. I know how people love the area and I know how difficult it is to please the public when it comes to food. Restaurants fail daily and the competition is fierce. When I taste something like I tasted today, I think of the individuals who run these restaurants meeting after hours. I think of a chef sitting in his apartment putting together a menu, wondering how we’ll react to it. Cooking for someone is deeply sensuous and rejection can be heartbreaking. It’s truly a field for the sensitive but tough.
So, when I write about something I experience, I am writing not from what everyone sees, I am writing from what I think went into what everyone sees. As my life wears on, I am slowly learning that this is what is making my life truly valuable. The old sayings are finally starting to make sense…
“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You