Tonight I had THE BEST MEAL I'VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE (or TBMIEEIMEL for short).
That in itself is no small feat. Sure, I realize I'm no Bobby Flay. And I know no one is going to ask me to be a guest judge on "Iron Chef" any time soon, but I like to think I have somewhat of a distinguished pallet. I mean, psh, I subscribe to Bon Appetit.
And if that doesn't give me enough culinary cred, I'm a veteran cruise-goer. As in, floating fine-dining that easily expands your waistline by three-inches in seven days because they employ some of the best chefs in the world and it's impossible not to eat your way through the entire ship. Plus, well, gluttony is my favorite of all the sins. And in that respect, I'm a well-seasoned sinner. (The only sin I do better is taking the lord's name in vain. And frankly, if he didn't want us to do it so much, he should've made "Oh God" less applicable. I mean, it works in so many situations -- pain, frustration, ecstasy, excitement, sympathy. The only word more versatile is, well, the F bomb.)
There wasn't any one thing that made this meal TBMIEEIMEL. Everything just combined perfectly so that when we walked out of the restaurant, I felt compelled to exclaim, "That was THE BEST MEAL I'VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!" And although that endorsement should be all the description necessary, I find it unworthy somehow. Like it doesn't do the five courses enough justice. Like it doesn't capture the essence of exactly how good this meal was. And, unfortunately, even my reliance upon making up word won't quite cut it in this case, either. I mean, "awsomenesstastic" isn't quite right. Not even my favorite fake word, "scrumtrulescent," works in this case.
It was even better than that.
The ironic thing (and, yes, I seem to be having a lot of irony in my life lately) is that I wasn't even all that psyched to go out. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's nothing better than a holiday that makes it okay to splurge on a fancy meal. It's just that we could use that money toward SO MANY things right now -- replacing one of the failing appliances in our kitchen or the outrageous fine we just received for my outdated vehicle registration, for example.
But my mom sent us a Valentine's card with a little cash in it toward a night out. And Jerry's mom called before our reservation and said, "Buy a bottle of wine on me." And it wouldn't be right to let our parents down. Especially when they are the most awsomenesstastic parents ever.
The other ironic thing is that I wasn't that sure about our restaurant choice. It's a small unassuming place a few blocks from our house. A few weeks ago when we were deciding where to go, I picked it out of sheer convenience. With Jerry's new schedule, staying out late on a week night isn't fair to him, so it seemed like the obvious choice.
We had been there once before when my mom visited, and the food was excellent, but I wondered if it could compare to last year's Valentine's feast at the restaurant our friend owns. I mean, a steaming pot of cheese fondue for two is kind of tough to top.
I didn't even know what I was in for.
The restaurant actually had a special Valentine's Day menu where you can choose from two selections for an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert. One item from each category jumped out at me immediately and, despite its hefty price, I didn't even need to look at the regular menu. Besides, if ordered a la carte, I knew the meal actually was quite a deal. (Not to mention I saw a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries on a dessert tray on our way to our table and knew I had to be having those.)
The first course was an explosion of flavor. It was a beautifully arranged ravioli dish with "hand-harvested" mushrooms of some sort. When our server set it down in front of me, I could actually smell the roasted nuts that the chef sprinkled on top. It was a-maze-ing.
The second course was a smooth crab bisque served at the perfect temperature, accompanied with fresh bread, topped with a light dusting of Parmesan cheese and pads of butter shaped like rose buds.
The third course was an Asian pear salad with beautiful greens, sugar-coated nuts and two slices of warm brie. I am an avid fan of brie, but warm on a salad? GENIUS.
By the main course, I didn't think I could eat any more. Even though the previous portions were reasonable -- the soup was served in a dainty tea cup, for example -- I just felt full. But when my giant sea scallop-topped lobster tail came out, and the aroma of all that delicious goodness hit my nostrils, it was as if everything in my stomach magically shifted to one side to make room. And I'm glad. Because I can tell you, in all seriousness, that I reenacted the deli scene from "When Harry Met Sally." Only for real. It was like great sex on a plate.
And then, just when I didn't think it could get any better, I was presented with three of the most perfect chocolate-covered strawberries ever with a fantastic orange cream sauce. And I don't even like orange flavor all that much. But this? THIS orange cream sauce? Divine.
As our waiter continuously returned to our table to check on us, I kept wanting to tell him that I hope the food is this good in heaven, but my mouth was too busy discerning all the flavors in everything to bother articulating anything. I mean Cognac-glazed pureed sweet potatoes in a ramekin? Where do I even begin? (I mean, other than by taking the lord's name in vain for lack of anything better to say. It's hard to believe, but "Oh. My. God." doesn't even come close.)
To top it all off, the service was incredible. Completely worthy of a 25 percent tip. Sure, it didn't hurt his case that he started off the evening by corking our champagne with the compliment, "I'm sure you don't want to talk about work, but if you don't mind my saying, ma'am, I really love your column."
Even though it completely caught me off guard and totally made my day (maybe even more so than the chocolate-coated strawberries), I will never mind if everything out of everyone's mouth after "If you don't mind" is followed by such a statement.
He even said that he and his daughter saw my poster at the mall last weekend. And at that moment I was glad he was filling my glass. Because I needed a swig.
So, here I am hours later, so pleased with that meal that I'm already looking forward to next Valentine's Day. And the one after that. And the one after that.
And no broken dishwasher or lame excuse for a police ticket will ever make me feel guilty for splurging on that caliber of a meal ever again.
Best. Meal. Ever.