…and no, it wasn’t a bad 70s porno. I had a dream where I was minding my own business, when I heard a knock at the door. It was Amanda Freitag and her car was on the street in front of my house. I looked in the car, and saw Alex Guarnaschelli was in the front passenger seat.
“Grab your coat. I hope you’re hungry, because we’re going out.”
So I got in the car, which was pretty nice, and Amanda soon followed. After she buckled her seat belt, she looked to me in the back seat and asked me what my favorite restaurant in Muskegon was. “Hennessy’s. It’s downtown.” “Groovy.”
I direct Amanda to Hennessy’s, and on the way, Alex starts talking. “We taught you about cooking last time, and another lesson will follow. But now, you need to learn how to eat. We’re going to teach you how to critique food, the same way we do it on Chopped.”
“Wonderful.” I admitted that prior to this, I’d been rushing through mealtime, not really stopping to savor each bite.
Amanda laughed as she pulled into the Hennessy’s parking lot. “That ends today.”
We walk through the door, and are promptly seated in a booth. Alex and Amanda sit on one side, I sit on the other. Alex starts looking at the beverage offerings. After some discussion, they decide on a bottle of Riesling for the table.
Waiter, it was someone fresh out of high school, asks us what we want. Alex, speaking for us at the table, orders the Marguerite Flatbread appetizer and the bottle of Riesling.
Amanda puts her hand on mine, sensing I was nervous. “We’re going to walk you through ordering. Just trust us.”
Alex asks “what do you normally order?”
“The spinach and portobello boxty. And a beer.”
“Is it good?”
“I think so.”
“Today, you’re not going to order that. Part of being in food means having a curious mind, wondering what food tastes like. And if you keep ordering the usual, you’ll never grow.”
The waiter comes back with the flatbread. Amanda cuts a piece off, puts it on a plate, and gives it to me. “Taste it.”
I take a bite and chew it, trying to pick up the various flavors hitting my tongue. I especially notice the balsamic reduction.
“Good,” Alex smiles. “Time to order.”
Amanda starts. “I will have the chicken and portobello marsala.”
Alex chimes in. “I’ll have the coconut red chicken curry.” And before I can order, Alex says “he’ll have the bagun agus cabaiste.”
I take a sip of wine and smile. “I’ve been wanting to try that.”
“Good,” Alex nods, and so we wait for our food. After 15 minutes with some small talk, our food arrives. Amanda starts eating her ravioli, telling me that it’s well seasoned, the dough is nice and light, and that the Marsala isn’t overwhelming. “What do you notice about your pork chop?” she asks me.
“I can taste the pork. Just enough salt, it’s moist, and it melts on the tongue. The cabbage and bacon ragout really adds that needed bacon flavor.”
Amanda smiles and takes another bite of her pasta. “Now you’re getting it. Try your mashed potatoes.”
“Velvet. The garlic is there and I can taste the butter.”
Alex takes a sip of her wine and chimes in. “See what you pick up when you actually taste your food?”
I finish my wine. Amanda pours me another glass.
“This is what being a foodie is all about. You’re not only cooking, but you’re tasting everything. You have to be adventurous when you’re out. Hell, you have to be try new things at home, too. Try new vegetables at the farmer’s market. Ask your farmers how they like it. Your world is going to open up.” Alex puts her fork down. “I’m full. I’ll get a box.”
Amanda polishes off her ravioli and says she’s full too.
“What about you?”
“I’ve had enough.”
Amanda smiles and adds “when you taste your food, eating it slowly, you won’t need to eat huge portions. You know on Chopped, when we tell chefs that their appetizers are too big? You have to keep portion size in mind when you cook too.”
The waiter comes back with to-go boxes and the bill. Alex pulls out her credit card and puts in the folder. “This was good. You’re going to be a great foodie.”
The waiter comes back and takes the credit card. Amanda smiles at me again and says Alex is right. “You’ve got spark.”
After the waiter returns with Alex’s card, Amanda pulls a $10 bill out of her wallet and throws the tip down.
“Let’s go home.”
They return to my house, pulling into the driveway. They both get out of the car, hugging me and telling me they’ll be back soon. And as Alex gets back into the car, she looks up at me and says “remember what we have taught you. Be well.”
And then they take off.
—-Wonder what it means…