As everyone knows, it was Tom's birthday this past Friday. We both had the day off, so we decided to go out to lunch rather than to dinner.
And just where did we go, in a town with a variety of choices from tamales to burgers to sushi, from Ethiopian to Turkish to Thai??? The Real Seafood Company, which is Tom's favorite birthday place but which I hadn't been to in years and years.
The restaurant had been significantly redecorated since I'd last seen it; it was warm and bright and airy, whereas I'd remembered it as dark and very old-fashioned. We sat together at our booth, as we always do; the last time we sat across from each other was when we had dinner on our first date. Ever since, we sit next to each other ... awwww.
Anyway, we were presented with an extraordinary menu -- fresh fish selections prepared in any number of ways (grilled, broiled, and Asian-style among them), a raw bar (not high on either of our agendas), pastas, salads ... I know, you think there was the usual brain paralysis! But for once, there were pretty clear winners; the waiter only needed to come to our table twice instead of the usual 3 times!
We started by sharing a cup of the exceptionally rich, smooth Butternut Squash Soup with a Blue Cheese Crouton and drops of basil oil. There was clearly cheese on the toasted bread, but I think there might have been a touch of it in the soup, as well. The serving size was perfect -- anything larger would have been an appetite spoiler, whereas this simply enhanced our desire for more wonderful treats. It was absolutely luscious!
Tom ordered the blackened swordfish, and chose his beloved redskin potatoes as a side dish. I truly think he could eat potatoes every single day, and possibly for each meal of every day! They were cooked simply, but really that's all anyone needs -- potatoes, butter, salt and pepper ... it's the little things that are important. The fish was crispy outside with just the right amount of spice, while still tender and moist inside. And it was drizzled with a fabulous red pepper and garlic sauce that was an exceptional complement!
I heard the Maple-Glazed Salmon calling to me over the din of sandwiches and fish 'n' chips and whatnot. It was served with roasted vegetables -- carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, onions and cauliflower -- as well as a julienned fennel-apple slaw and a drizzle of basil oil. Both of our meals came with a traditional cole slaw as well, that our waiter dusted with freshly ground pepper.
The vegetables were crisp but not crunchy, and the fennel was accompanied by strips of green apple which were ideally suited to it. But even as stellar as all of these were, the shining star was the tender, sweet salmon. The entire plate was filled with a variety of colors and textures, and the fish shone through the vibrancy surrounding it. It was a perfect plate.
Thankfully, Tom knew from prior experience that the Seafood Company is particularly welcoming to birthday boys (and girls), and we didn't overstuff ourselves; for not only did we get a gift of 50% off our lunches, but there was a complementary dessert waiting for us as well.
Our waiter brought out a tray filled with creme brulee, apple-cranberry crisp, key lime pie, chocolate mousse, and coconut cream pie, any of which would have been a worthy choice. But the winner of this little competition was the pumpkin cheesecake topped with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with caramel pecan sauce ... and festively topped with a birthday candle.
Oh, this was an astounding way to end our already tremendous meal! The cheesecake was smooth and creamy, but not too sweet; the caramel sauce made up for that, and if the cheesecake had been too sugary they wouldn't have played nicely together at all. The ice cream cut a bit of the richness, but still we left the last couple of bites. We were done ... happy, and done.
The food, the service, the ambiance, the special touches ... all of it made for a truly memorable and joyful celebration ... :)
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