It was one fine French restaurant, “Delice and Sarrasin” in the West Village in NYC on a perfect night in July. There were some unusual things about this night and the first was the weather. It had been relentlessly humid for days and going into the subway was akin to descending into hell. Sweat would just drip from my forehead until the relief of an air-conditioned train car arrived. Much as I tried to be very still waiting in the station, it was still difficult to breathe. But this night was glorious with a summer breeze, no humidity and that nighttime glow I have only seen in New York City. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night I try to recreate the sound of the buzz and the energy I hear there that I find oddly soothing. The third unusual thing about that evening was that 40 years had passed since our wedding day in Quogue, Long Island. It seemed impossible to imagine that we have defied the odds and stayed together for this long and even more, that we still love each other so much, and have been to heaven and to hell and back several times. From this love six incredible sons came to the earth and each one has made a difference in one way or another, despite the short stay of one of the sons.
But perhaps, the most unusual part of the evening was that we were about to dine on French cuisine that was also vegan food! This really seems like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But in the end, it may have in fact been the best meal I’d ever eaten in the sweetest, cutest restaurant with the man I adore.
The small tables in the tiny restaurant were very close to each other so when this couple sat next to us I was intrigued. He was a very tall man with very large fingers that I noticed immediately. In retrospect maybe he looked so large because everything else in this space was so small. He had gray hair and looked to be in his sixties. She was a Diane Keaton type including the attributes of a mature Annie Hall! He was madly in love with her, holding her hand across the table and trying hard to appreciate the vegan food she liked, though he couldn’t help but like it since it was so delicious!
I noticed a wedding band on his left hand but when I couldn’t see hers, I thought, “Uh oh, he’s cheating on his wife!” Then, I eavesdropped and heard him describe a friend of his having told him earlier in the day that he would have made a great dad and that it was too bad he’d never had children. She smiled and agreed that having a son would have been wonderful but that it was okay that he’d never had one. She was kind and caring. I don’t think they knew I was listening but it was becoming challenging for me to stay focused on my own husband and food. I’d decided we should talk of the best moments of our lives instead of the worst ones, which we tend to dwell on. I kept trying to concentrate on the task at hand and to stay present.
But about the food. Our adorable French waiter guided us along insisting we begin with Escargot. There are certain tastes I’ve missed over the almost five years of plant based foods and something like Escargot is one, though I have not thought of it before. Out it came in the little plate right out of the oven with the six inset spaces, so hot that we were reminded not to touch. And there were these delicate, garlicky, “buttery” gems made from oyster mushrooms served with home made French bread and I can only think of one word to describe these and it is “divine.” For some reason even the Rose wine (it seemed like the appropriate one to order) was completely delicious. Then, came our recommended entrees. Shep had Boeuf Bourguignon that might have made Julia Child take a bow. It was sublime and meaty and hearty with plenty of Burgundy sauce for dipping more of the French bread in. As for me, I had the Tagliatelle aux Fruits de Mer et sa Douce Creme. Oh my! “Shrimp, Scallops, and Squid” in a light creamy sauce on ribbons of tender pasta. There was no speaking while I ate this and was carried away to heaven.
Every single course blew us away and in the end, the waiter encouraged us to try dessert. We chose a strawberry, dark chocolate, and cream crepe with slivered almonds (La Francinette Crepe.) It was gorgeous, almost the size of the table and it literally caught Annie Hall’s eye when she said, “Wow!’
Grateful for the invite into conversation I said, “You must have this. It is beyond imagination.” I continued with, “it is our 40th anniversary so I figured I would order dessert which I never do.” I mentioned how unusual it is to be able to eat French food when one eats a plant based diet and she agreed. I shared that I’d been texting my niece. Katie who works in a French restaurant in Wilmington, NC and she said there’d be no way to make French vegan food! Then Tall Rob said, “Oh I live in L.A. but go to Wilmington regularly on business trips and I always eat in one restaurant there, “Caprice.” Of course you’ve guessed, this IS where my niece Katie has been a server for many, many years and he promised to ask for her the next time he goes there to dine.
“Oh,” Annie Hall said, “forty years – wow, we have been married nine!” “Really?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “Living in L.A we had an odd meeting after a lifetime apart following high school. I had five grown kids and went to park my car one day. I had difficulty parking where I wanted to, so I drove around the side of the parking lot where I saw this very tall man reaching into the trunk of his car. I thought to myself, “I wonder if that is Rob from high school, dozens of years and entire lifetimes later,” recalling how tall he was in high school. Then he stood up and I realized, It was in fact, Rob!” “Tell them what your next thought was,” Rob said to her beaming. “Oh, next I thought to myself, Oh shit, I’m going to have to get married again!”