Sunday, August 27, 2006

Stain-resistant skirt saves evening

Saturday night, John and I had a date. My daughter's art teacher from toddler daycare recommended a soiree that her new boyfriend/chef was hosting at his restaurant. It was located near Gare de l'Est, the train station featured in the movie, Amelie. We climbed the same stairs Amelie's love interest takes when chasing after the man with the red shoes, and walked along and above the train tracks until we came upon the tiny restaurant, where several of the smoking, chatting patrons were spilling out onto the street. I had forgotten what a soiree was supposed to be like, which is not like a normal evening at the restaurant. It's basically a party, but you pay a flat fee for the food (served like hors d'oeuvres) and alcohol. So, it was like going to party where we didn't know anybody. We weren't quite in the mood for that, so we took off looking for another place to have our dinner out.

This was a neighborhood I wouldn't feel comfortable walking around by myself at night where most of the dining establishments are bars and where there's a large sign with huge, dirty yellow, capital letters advertising SEX SHOP. But I felt safe with John and knew we'd get some cheap eats in the area. John spotted a nice-looking exterior to a Franco-Lebanese restaurant, named La Princesse, so we went by to check it out.

The menu looked good and very reasonable so we went in. It was a cozy place with an old stone wall on one side where there was a large and rather interesting relief of some Greek ruins. Since it was just after 8 pm, we were one of the first ones there for dinner (dinner starts around 8 pm for most people in France). After he took our order, the waiter went back to chatting with his friend, who was seated but obviously not there for dinner, instead of taking our order directly to the chef. I later realized there wasn't any urgency because our meal of assorted little dishes, usually called mezza, started off with the cold, previously-prepared appetizers of hummus (blend of pureed chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic, and lemon juice), tabouleh (chopped and dressed parsley), baba-ganoush (roasted eggplant dip), and a delicious crumbly cheese (type of feta?) accompanied by Lebanese flatbread. It wasn't bad. We finished it all rather quickly and I was nearly full. Right after, we were quickly served seven more little dishes, five of which were deep-fried (not good for our diet). John ate most of the hot dishes, which included a pastry stuffed with the same cheese served earlier, another pastry with seasoned ground meat, marinated chicken wings, flatbread stuffed with cheese and meat, and falafel (yummy fried balls of seasoned, ground chickpeas). Not bad for twelve euros per person.

We had just finished eating when the waiter brought over the menu again so we could select a dessert. In the process, the waiter clumsily knocked over my nearly-full wine glass. It was a bit of a shock getting a lapful of red wine thrown at me. For the moment, all the waiter did was ask, "Ca va?" (it's okay?). No, it's not okay. You think you'd be okay with a glass of wine in your lap? I just said in French, "No, this isn't very good." I was calm, but I was trying to convince him that this was more than just a little spill of water on the table by the tone of my voice. I did my best sopping up the mess while in my seat with some napkins. The waiter apologized and brought over a dishcloth with hot water. I continued working at my mess and finally decided it would be more effective to go to the restroom to finish the job as my legs were also wet and sticky. Eww!

The chef was very sympathetic and brought over some more napkins to me and offered to watch the door when I said I was going to dry my skirt under the hand-dryer. Thank goodness my skirt was black and dark red, and made of this stretchy, synthetic material which I discovered was non-stainable! It was quickly dried to my relief and looked as good as new, although I totally reeked like a very ripe homeless person.

I returned to the table and the puddle of wine at my feet that didn't get cleaned up, and John and I shared his dessert. He ordered the flan which was really good, but the waiter also included some baklava and other overly sweet things to appease me. He also gave us each a little cocktail of coconut milk and probably vodka. Those were nice gestures, but I was not appeased. For me, an adequate apology would be taking my dinner off the tab instead. Maybe he would have if I was wearing an expensive, white, silk dress?

I didn't let the accident spoil our evening. John and I enjoyed each other's company thoroughly. It was nice to walk through Paris as if we were a new couple, and hold his hand, put my head on his shoulder, nuzzle up against his neck. It's hard to believe we've known each other for almost ten years.

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