I love going Out To Eat.  Not just out to eat, we do that often enough.  We have a really good Szechuan place, a really good Mexican place, a really good BBQ place, and it’s always a treat to let my in-laws wrangle the kids through dinner, bath, and bedtime while Andy and I enjoy some grown-up conversation over a tasty meal cooked and served by someone other than me.  But there’s eating out, and then there’s fine dining, and the latter is the greatest pleasure I know.

I truly love fine restaurants.  I love gracious hosts and servers and bartenders and coat checkers and their relaxed, welcoming smiles and their easy manners.  I love quiet dining noises, low voices and clinking silverware and the rustle of napkins and servers gliding back and forth, in and out of the kitchen.   I love the gleaming orderliness of table settings, glasses and soup spoons and salad forks placed just right.   I love an artful menu, bound in leather and printed on pretty paper, its words carefully chosen to be as beautiful and elegant and concise as the dishes they describe.  I love the moment a big, heavy, white plate is set in front of me.  I love those dazzling first few seconds while my eyes take in the composition of the dish and my head feels light as my nose catches the first whirl of steam off the plate and I try to remember what exactly it was that I ordered.   I love the thought and consideration and chopping and simmering and searing and plating and even dishwashing that goes into my dinner.  I love the cooks in the kitchen who stand and sweat and concentrate and turn out flawless filet after flawless filet, night after night.  The restaurant is my temple, a quiet, beautiful place to contemplate the skills and artistry of others and to give thanks for my own good fortune and good company.

We have not been Out To Eat in nearly four years, not since our son was born, not since we left New York.  We’ve been too tired, too pregnant, too busy, too strapped for cash.  Tonight, we remedied that.  We ate at No. 9 Park in Beacon Hill, and it was exquisite.

I ordered the parsnip and sunchoke veloute, studded with rich, sauteed sweetbreads,  which was smooth as satin and barely sweet.  The pekin duck breast was perfectly cooked and tender as the best filet of beef, and had a crispy, salty skin.  Wilted Chinese broccoli, delicate roasted garlic ravoilini, and a rich concoction of duck liver and confit were well-balanced accompaniments.  Andy had ricotta ravioletti with chestnuts, honey, and sage (only quibble: the sliced, toasted chestnuts that garnished the dish were tough to chew), and Colorado lamb three ways (medium rare saddle, braised shoulder, merquez sausage) with a fresh chickpea cake.  Delicious!

glasscork1I took a gamble on a wine I’d never heard of, and it was a winner:  Heinrich Blaufrankisch from the Burgenland region of Austria.  Light like Beaujolais but with more character, like pinot noir, it was a perfect match for my meal.  And it had a glass cork!

For dessert we shared a persimmon cake, which was spicy and slightly bitter like a good gingerbread, served with a quenelle of carrot sorbet.  A lovely finish to a wonderful evening.