Meals With Meaningful Memories

Written by Mary Leigh Fitzmorris March 03, 2021 05:35 in Dining Diary

Last week we did something we have done annually for 32 years, beginning on our wedding day. We spent time at the Windsor Court. There are certainly perks to doing what Tom has done for nearly fifty years. Tom was an influencer before the word existed on Instagram. PR people want influencers to experience the pleasures their clients provide, and the Windsor Court offered one of their penthouse suites for two nights post wedding. We said yes, of course.

It was a great way to start a life together, and we have revisited every year since. Jude came with us the following year, then Mary Leigh too, making it an annual family staycation. And soon the kids were gone and we moved to visiting the hotel for dinner sometimes, or lunch.

Through the years, the hotel became our pied a terre when we needed one. It was the headquarters for extended family reunions and a wedding party base for family weddings.

Last year we followed tradition and got in before the world changed. And this year we wondered if we should bother, because, well, the world has changed significantly, and maybe it would just be a different experience.

If only that thought had deterred us as it should have. 

We went for lunch because it’s been many years since we did dinner, and even longer since we stayed over. And I have really enjoyed the “Meat and Three” lunch that was a phenom there a few years ago. Between the mask monitoring that loomed over us and the overall desertedness of the place, the end of this lovely tradition was sad.

We were the only people in there, and service staff was understandably small. We sat at a table that in all previous years had a small vase of flowers and thick crisp linens encased around heavy silverware. Today, a small placard sat in the middle of the otherwise empty table, reminding us that COVID lurked about and because of this, there would be no menus. It had instructions for accessing a menu online.

At this point we should have left, but it was pouring outside and we are slaves to tradition, even though today’s experience would have nothing in common with the 31 years before it.

I wanted their “Meat and Three” although, the selections had been drastically scaled down, and I began to wonder if they still had the delectable herb mini-biscuits. A housemade mini-roll and biscuit came out on a small plate, with the black salt-coated butter. Alas, something familiar.

We ordered quickly. Tom got a grilled chicken with roasted sweet potatoes and I got the “Meat and Three” of chicken gumbo, mac and cheese, and sauteed veggies alongside a small slab of short rib. This was all almost as good as in previous years, except that the choices for sides was really diminished. The gumbo which I have always thought some of the best in town, seemed off, but it could be the overall disappointed funk in which I consumed it. The mac and cheese was still really great, but I sent the veggies back to swap it with a Windsor Court salad, which is also tradition. (The night we were married I woke from a nap and got a Windsor Court salad, where Tom and I ended up discussing my aversion to eggs chopped too small. What constitutes too small? was the question that intrigued Tom. We still discuss that to this day.)

Tom’s herb grilled chicken was very nicely done, and the sweet potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts made a very balanced combination with the Hollandaise sauce and a crown of watercress.

We didn’t have time to linger, but Tom got a creamy delicious and enormous creme brulee, which put us out of the hotel in time for what seemed like hurricane feeder bands the entire ride through town. Fortunately, the Causeway was a less  intimidating drive.

The need to focus on staying alive kept my thoughts occupied in town, but on the bridge they were left to wander about how sad it all was, and the bad call I made that left today as the last memory of this long standing tradition. A bitter taste. Nothing sweet about it.

For dinner we kept another long-standing tradition, but did it close to home. We always have pizza that day (a long story many probably already know) but we went to Meribo in downtown Covington, to experience a much-ballyhooed 

Happy Hour like Domenica’s only better. The pizzas are not half-off, but all are $7. These are not small pizzas, and this is a fantastic deal. They are a lot like the Italian-style ones at Domenica, with the charred bubbles on the edge of the crust, and usually buffalo milk mozzarella, but not always. The pepperoni pizza is regular mozzarella, probably because who but a culinary Philistine would order this? As an unapologetic culinary Philistine, I am always delighted to see plain boring American mozzarella blanketing my pepperoni. These are not Hormel pepperoni, but the larger gourmet slices. I’ll put up with it.

Also on the table was Tom’s Margherita pizza with its requisite melted buffalo milk slices and a dotting of basil leaves.

The pizza menu is divided into white pies and red pies, and there are a lot of choices. We got a “rocket” pizza with sundried tomatoes from the white pie section, and the other two had a red sauce base. We got the arugula pizza because we wanted a white one, but it’s not something we would get again. It’s not because there was anything wrong with it, but we just got carried away ordering and preferred our predictable choices. We wouldn’t get it again for another reason - there are a lot of interesting choices and at these prices we will be back often. This is a deal! No wonder it is the talk of the town. 

We bought a bottle of champagne from an anniversary a few years ago, and were told there was no corkage. Another reason to love it. 

Meribo will be four years old this year, and we are delighted to have this place so close. The space it occupies at the end of Lee Lane is one of those revolving door restaurant spaces. I have called Meribo “the curse breaker” since it arrived upon the local restaurant scene. It has housed several good restaurants, none of which made it too long. Meribo has something working for it the others didn’t. The luxury condos surrounding it are full of empty-nesters with lots of disposable income. But this place is good enough to hold its own. Bright and glamorous, I have said from the beginning it reminds me of my favorite restaurant in the whole world, Bottega Louie in Los Angeles. Both are primarily white tiled with a wood burning pizza oven in the back, manned by busy pizza makers. The flames from this oven warm the room psychologically, creating a buzz that sometimes becomes quite a din.

Should the cacophony of happy chatter become too much, the large outdoor space is covered and happening in its own right.

The vibe is young even factoring in the empty nesters, who tend to be a hip bunch. I would even call it a scene here, with its wine, craft cocktails, and communal tables.

Pizza is not the only thing here. Italian gourmet with an eclectic menu, Meribo has pastas and roasted meat entrees as full plates, and oddball hip things like whipped ricotta and skillet bread with melted cheese and a really delicious marinara. Loaded tots are loaded with pimento cheese, and Italian queso includes pesto. The sandwich offerings offer two trendy requisites: a chicken sandwich and a burger.

We like Meribo. We’ve always liked Meribo. And whenever we go we wonder why we don’t go more often. With prices like the ones at this daily Happy Hour, we will.