Thursday, February 6, 2014.
It’s my birthday. They say that one’s imagination is at its peak in the teen years, during which our brains are hard-wired to break away from the ways of our parents, therefore to make this a better world. I was pretty much set in my ways by the time I was twenty-one. Even more so the second time I was twenty-one, and almost sedentary now that I’ve iterated that epoch a third time. On the other hand, at twenty-one I would not have been able to imagine myself at sixty-three. I find it very easy and comfortable to recall (and sometimes act like) a sixteen-year-old.
Interesting number, sixty-three. It’s divisible by three, seven, nine, and that critical twenty-one. But it can’t top next year’s factors: two, four, eight, sixteen, and thirty-two. I will have to figure out something to so with these five factors and powers between now and then, so I can bore even more readers.
Wait! I have one more stultifying datum. Another twenty-one years from today, I will celebrate not only my fourth coming of age, but the first time since the Mardi Gras on which I was born that my birthday coincides with that celebration.
A few days ago Mary Ann asked what I wanted to do for my birthday dinner. “I want a thick steak,” I told her. Where? We decided on Doris Metropolitan, the new steak place in back of the Upper Pontalba. I’m hearing nothing but good things about it, even from a few friends who are much pickier than I am.
But the weather dissuaded us. On my way across the Causeway at showtime, fine sleet (but not quite snow) was blowing around in the slipstreams of the cars in front of me. This was predicted to get worse, although not like the freezing-rain mess we had to deal with a couple of weeks ago.
Fortunately, we have two great steakhouses on the North Shore: Keith Young’s and Gallagher’s Grill. We love them both about equally, but it had been longer since we called on Pat Gallagher. I crossed my fingers he would have an empty table.
“It’s funny you came tonight,” he said. “I cut a really nice bone-in strip a few minutes ago, and I thought about you, and now here you are! I saved it for you.” Nice to know that a chef is aware of my personal preferences.
I started with a glass of Cigar Zinfandel from Cosentino Winery in Napa, whose vineyards are unusual in being in the cigar-shaped spit of land between Highway 29 and the railroad tracks. I spent a morning there with Mitch Cosentino in the 1990s. I think the winery went belly-up, but apparently new owners have taken over and kept the name. This Zin proved a good wine both for the steak and the caprese salad I had before it.
Pat sent out a generous amuse-bouche of crab claws with a rich, cheesy sauce. That’s right up Mary Ann’s alley, and she did most of those in. Meanwhile, I had a wonderful asparagus and crabmeat bisque, loaded with cream. Pat Gallagher could subtitle his restaurant “The House of Butter and Cream.” But I took my statin pill before I left the house.
The strip Pat saved for me was everything I wanted–so much so that I almost finished it, something nobody my age should do. Juicy in the center, crusty at the outside, sizzling in butter. Hey! It’s my birthday!
Mary Leigh was intrigued by the bone-in filet mignon, a very large slab of beef cut away from a porterhouse. I couldn’t believe how much of that she ate. It must really have been good, because my daughter is highly conscious of her figure. But she’s a steak lover from way back.
Mary Ann had her usual upscale entree: a fillet of pompano with crabmeat in a butter sauce. She was very happy, too.
I had a slice of cheesecake with a single candle stuck into it so I could make my birthday wish. Then, as if the wish would be granted, the waiter asked whether there were anything else I wanted.
“No, thanks,” I told him. “This is already the kind of dinner you should only eat on your birthday!”
“Are you sure there’s nothing else?” he insisted. Nothing, thanks, I said, continuing my failure to pick up my cue.
“Nothing?” the waiter said. “Not even a pet bunny?”
“Oh, yes, I would like a pet bunny,” I said. I figured he must have waited on me before. It’s one of my standard shticks, the answer to the inevitable anything-else? question, one that gets a wide variety of responses from servers.
But this was a first. He whipped out a stuffed bunny–the kind you’d catch at a Mardi Gras parade. I had been hoist with my own petard, by my own daughter, whose sense of humor may be the sharpest in the family.
A wonderful end to a nice party for an insignificant birthday.