Foodie: What should we wear to Splendido?
Beast: I’m wearing my new Italian linen suit.
Foodie: Get out! You are not!
Beast: When else am I going to wear it?
There was one tiny problem though: the Beast bought the suit in Italy after he’d put on 14 pounds, which he’s since lost.
Beast: I look like a little kid wearing his dad’s suit!
The Beast remedied the situation by wearing a sweater under the suit which bulked out his man child chest. I wore a black dress with golden ocher leggings and my shabby-chic vintage Chanel flats.
Not only was the Beast’s suit too big, his brogues were too. He had to walk like a clown on our way to catch a cab.
We were so nervous about being late for our 9:30pm reservation that we arrived about 20 minutes early. So we sat across the street on the curb waiting for the time to pass.
Foodie: I feel like a fake.
Beast: What do you mean?
Foodie: It’s like we’re little kids pretending to be adults going out to a fancy restaurant.
Beast: I feel like that, but you’re 35 now.
Foodie: Would you stop saying that out loud please?
Beast: Sorry. Let’s go get you a birthday cocktail inside while we wait for our table.
Like I mentioned in my earlier post, Splendido recently changed ownership. The new owners, former employees Victor Barry (now executive chef) and Carlo Catallo (star sommelier and general manager), dropped the prices and softened up the stiff decor and atmosphere of the original restaurant. But for rug rats like us, it still looks–and feels-pretty fancy. While the hostess checked on our table, I became extremely nervous.
Foodie: What are you looking at? What? My chest? It’s blotchy isn’t it.
Beast: Yes, just a bit though.
Foodie: Fuck. I haven’t even had a drink yet.
And then something I never could have predicted happened: We were recognized.
Handsome Doctor: So who’s the Foodie and who’s the Beast?
Foodie: Oh wow! Hi there! How are you? Ahhhh..
Handsome Doctor (extending hand to the Beast): Hi there, I’m Mick.
Foodie: YES! MICK! Sorry, I’m just ahhh, a little excited and ahhh….
Beast: Nice to meet you.
Foodie: IT’S MY BIRTHDAY.
Handsome Doctor Mick: Well happy birthday! You’re going to have a wonderful time. It was really nice seeing you.
Thank goodness the hostess came to take us to our seats to save me from the shit storm raining out of my mouth. We were seated right in the middle of the dining room, which was packed.
Foodie: Oh my gosh I can’t believe I forgot Mick’s name! That’s Jessie B’s boyfriend! (Jessie B is a gem of a gal who’s a colleague at the restaurant. She’s also a singer, dancer, writer and tart maker.) I kept wanting to call him Mitch and I knew it was Mick but my mouth was going to say Mitch so that’s why I didn’t say anything!
Beast: I don’t care what his name is–that man is probably the best looking guy I’ve ever met.
Foodie: Isn’t he gorgeous? Can you believe he’s a doctor? He looks like how doctors looks in soap operas, not in real life. AND, he loves F & B! Isn’t this just too fabulous for words?!
Beast: He’s so good-looking.
Foodie: You already said that.
Just then our server came over with two glasses of something sparkling.
Server: Monsieur and Mademoiselle, some Cremant de Bourgogne blah blah something french blah, with happy birthday wishes from Mick at the bar.
Foodie: Well that’s just about the loveliest thing ever! I feel like a princess! Don’t you feel like a princess?
Beast: Yes I do. He’s just so handsome.
Foodie: You’re handsome too you know. Just look at you in your big-man suit! Now let’s take a look-see at these menus. I already know what you’re having: you’re having the suckling pig with the blood sausage, aren’t you.
Beast: How did you know? What are you having?
Foodie: I have no idea. I sort of want to try the roasted halibut but then there’s the strip loin with the king oyster mushrooms and the thyme peppercorn jus. I’m a sucker for peppercorn jus you know.
Beast: Don’t get fish–you’ll just be disappointed.
Foodie: I love fish at restaurants!
Beast: I think it’s so plain and boring. Get real meat.
Foodie: I don’t know what you’re talking about. But listen to this idea–and feel free to say no if I’m being too bossy, even though it is my birthday–how about we start with the shrimp and scallop ceviche, and then we’ll share the pappardelle pasta with rabbit ragu as our primo and then you order your suckling pig and I’ll have the strip loin.
Beast: Sounds perfect. And you know what? I’m going to drink wine tonight so pick out anything you like.
Our charming and capable server took our order quickly. And by the time we finished our birthday bubbly, complements of the handsome doctor Mick, our ceviche arrived.
Beast: Aren’t you going to take a photo?
Feast: I don’t think I can. I’m too self-conscious and I don’t want everybody to think we’re tourists or weirdo foodie types.
Beast: Oh just get over yourself and take the photo! Want me to?
Foodie: No! I’m faster and more discreet.
Beast: This is really quite good!
Was it ever! The BC shrimps and scallops were served in citrus juice with some fennel and orange segments, topped with a sea green foam of avocado, yuzu, and wasabi. The dish was served in a sea shell on a ball of crushed ice.
You’re probably wondering where our wine was. So were we. The sommelier, who’s also co-owner and general manager, was extremely busy, but he saw me intensely probing the wine list and promised to be right back. He hadn’t returned by the time we finished the ceviche. When he did return, I was fairly certain I’d made my choice:
Sommelier: My apologies for keeping you waiting.
Foodie: Oh don’t you worry about that. Now, I was pretty excited for this one over here (gesturing at the Beast) to try the Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo but maybe there’s something you think we should try–
Sommelier: Well the Marina Cvetic is absolutely wonderful but we do have another Montelpulciano available that, unlike the Marina, is a little more reserved, less in your face, but it delivers more over time. Would you like me to bring over two tasters?
Foodie: Well that sounds just wonderful. Thank you.
And just like that, the Sommelier vanished into the thick of the dining room again and our pappardelle with rabbit and chanterelles appeared in his place, delivered by our server who called us Monsieur and Mademoiselle again.
Foodie: Wow. I thought rabbit looked more like duck. This looks like chicken.
Beast: But it tastes infinitely better than chicken. This is really quite nice.
Foodie: I wish we had some wine to drink with it though.
Half-way through the pasta course, the Sommelier came back with our tasters in hand.
Beast: This wine doesn’t really taste like anything. I like it!
Foodie: I don’t think I’m sold.
Beast: Give it some time–remember what he said about it changing?
Foodie: We don’t have time because we’re almost finished our dinner. Okay, so we’re not almost finished. But I don’t think this is going to wow me in ten minutes.
So, once the Sommelier came back, I ordered the Marina Cvetic. Now this Marina is a real person: She’s the wife of Gianni Masciarelli–a greatly admired and adored Italian wine producer in Abruzzo who sadly passed away last year. Marina caught the winemaking bug and came out with her own version and the vintage I tried years ago was spectacular. I haven’t had it for some time and I had a sneaking suspicion that the Beast would appreciate it.
Foodie: So? What do you think?
Beast: It’s amazing.
Foodie: It is! I’m so happy you like it too.
Our main courses arrived just in time to enjoy with our wine.
Foodie: Did you hear that? He keeps calling us Monsieur and Mademoiselle! Don’t you think that’s funny? How’s your suckling pig?
Beast: It’s amazing, but I can’t seem to take a photo of it that isn’t blurry.
Foodie: Give the camera back! You’re so obvious when you do it. Holy shit (me looking at his photo) this is a terrible. It looks like animal innards with a side of poached pear and a burnt dink.
Beast: I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I bet Mitch could take a perfect photo with those handsome surgeon hands of his.
Foodie: It’s Mick and I don’t think he’s a surgeon.
Beast: How’s your steak?
Foodie: It’s cooked perfectly and it tastes great, but to be honest, it could be much warmer, and I can’t taste any thyme or peppercorn in my thyme and peppercorn jus. I like the french fries though.
When the Beast and I finished, we still had two full glasses of wine–and room in our tummies–so we decided to order a round of three cheeses. However five cheeses were delivered, we think on account of the wait for the wine, and for the actual cheese plate: by the time the cheese arrived, which we ordered to drink with all that wine, the wine was all gone.
Our attentive server saved the day by bringing over small glasses of an alternative red to enjoy with the cheeses, all of which were incredible!
Beast: This was so good. That P.E.I cheddar? Wow. What was the blue cheese again?
Foodie: No idea, but it makes my tongue go a bit numb.
Beast: Me too, but I don’t care. How about we get that trio of sorbet and a couple of espressos.
Foodie: Aren’t you full? I’m full to the point of being in pain.
Beast: The sorbets will be tiny though.
They were tiny. Regardless, ingesting them nearly put me over the edge.
Beast: Mmmn. Good espresso.
Foodie: You’re right. It’s strange how other fancy restaurants tend to let that little detail slip, isn’t it? I mean, it’s often the last thing you have and so you’d think you’d want to wow your guests with a great little coffee but most of the time it’s just a cup of hot black water.
Our epic Splendido meal lasted three hours and 45 minutes. It was close to 1:00am by the time we’d digested enough in order to be capable of standing up. We were nearly the last ones to leave.
This birthday meal was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had, and it was certainly one of the most generous gifts I’ve ever received. But it wasn’t just the wonderful food that made it so remarkable. In fact, it was more on account of the handsome doctor sending us drinks; of the Beast and I gabbing about our jobs and about us; of the incredible service, even though there were hiccups here and there; of the Marina Cvetic Montepulciano; and mostly because of the Beast surprising me with the meal in the first place.
I’d go back I think, if only to try the 28 oz boneless Black Angus rib steak for two from the wood-burning grill. We saw a few couples order this thing and it looked–and smelled–like perfection.
I’d also go back if Doctor Mick asked me to meet him there. The Beast could come too.