The Perfect Table, or How to Dine Out

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The perfect table.

I follow a few simple rules when dining out. First, only dine in places serving cuisine and dishes that I couldn’t make myself. Second, as my good friend puts it, if your meal is under three hours or courses, you’re doing it wrong. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be the perfect table.

When I worked in the restaurant industry, we referred to “the perfect table” as one that coursed out their meal and ordered a bottle of wine with every course. There are several variations on this theme, but generally the perfect table starts out with a round of cocktails before looking at the menu. Then, they share a bottle of wine with their appetizers. Following appetizers is the main course and another bottle of wine or two. Lastly, dessert arrives along with a round of after-dinner drinks.

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The Champagne and oyster course.

I love starting off the meal by sharing a half-bottle of champagne with my dining companion and a dozen oysters. If I’m dining Italian, then the meat and cheese board is a must. From here, depending on my appetite, I could go into a soup or salad course, or I might dive into the entrée. Whatever the choice, there will always be a new bottle of wine to pair with the meal– a substantial red if I’m eating a meatier fish, steak, or hearty pasta; white if it’s lobster or a lighter fish. I’m partial to an unoaked Chardonnay or an Albarino. Depending on the number of guests I’m dining with or how quickly we sip our wine, a second bottle will be ordered for the table.

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Pass the Courvoisier.

Finally, after several hours of libations and good cheer, time for what is perhaps my favorite part of the meal: the after-dinner drink. Nothing complements a delightful evening of food and friends quite like a snifter of Courvoisier. Some reach for the port, others a Brandy Alexander, but me—I love cognac.

With there being thousands of dining options in New York, I want my dining experience to be just that—an experience. I want the restaurant where I dine to grant me access to food and wine that might otherwise be out of my reach. If not, there’s no point in eating out. While I don’t dine in this manner every weekend, I do strive to be the “perfect table” at least once or twice a month. Of course, being the sensible New Yorker that I [almost] am, I always budget for such meals.

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Vacation Made Me Realize What I Want in Life, More Vacation

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau

WI sunsetLast week, I returned from a two-week vacation to my native Wisconsin and it made me realize that what I really want out of life is more vacation. I can’t even remember the last time I took a trip for the sake of taking a trip. My vacations have never lasted more than a week and so I almost felt guilty taking off two weeks. Almost.

I know when you go on vacation you’re supposed to recharge and return to your daily life feeling all invigorated with a new perspective on life and perhaps a new addition to your daily routine that you acquired like eating smoked bacon with every meal or doing awkward yoga poses on the edge of mountain at sunset, but I’d like to maintain the vacation lifestyle forever.

photo-33I’d love to live in a cabin in Northern Wisconsin and spend my days hiking through the woods and my evenings sipping cognac by the fire, staring at the constellations and trying to remember the name of that damn king constellation located next to Cassiopeia the Queen or remembering if Orion is even visible in the sky this time of year. (Note to self: I really need to brush up on my constellations. My 2nd grade science teacher would be ashamed of me.) Or marveling that the universe is enormous beyond what my brain can comprehend and we as humans are incredibly tiny and insignificant, so throw another log on the fire and let’s have another round of s’mores!

photo-34It would be nice to enjoy a $2 brat here and there and sip a $5 cocktail out of a pint glass from time-to-time at the local watering hole where the bartender knows my name and plays my favorite song without me even having to ask. I would love if the only worries I had in my day were that I forgot to apply bug spray and there’s too much sand in my tennis shoes from the impromptu dip in the lake. I hope the rain comes after I finish this round of mini golf. Hey, we’re out of cognac!

photo-35And how about all that free time to use devouring a good book? To me, no vacation is complete without spending quality time in the comfy chair in the corner of the living room by the window, or in the back yard under the patio table umbrella, or on the front porch in the rocking chair amongst the pages of a really good read. Sometimes with a beer in hand.

Can’t this be my real life? Can’t I be a professional vacationer and in return I’ll report back to you all on my travels? I promise it will be interesting!

The responsible adult in me knows that I have to return real life (at least physically), but I learned what my vacation had to teach me and I’m keeping that with me. Although I’ve returned my daily grind in the Big Apple, I’m approaching it with my enlightened vacation mind. I’m making the time for things I enjoy doing most and not feeling guilty about it.

long live passion