I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
Once in a while, especially when there is a birthday involved, it’s good to throw caution to the wind and enjoy a treat that is – typically – nowhere near accessible. When we lived in Pensacola, it was the occasional dinner at a place like Scotto’s Italian Grill, or Jamie’s French Café. In Tampa we made a couple of runs to Ybor City’s Columbia Restaurant. Here in Raleigh our guilty pleasure is Poole’s Diner on McDowell.
Dinner at Poole’s was all Rebekah wanted for her birthday this year.
Reservations are a must, as is the ability to concentrate on good conversation in the middle of so much noise. Also – and I was trying to explain this to my mother, who can’t get her head around how spending so much money on a meal could possibly be worth it – it is important to have an understanding of and appreciation for what goes into fine cuisine.
The quality of the food sourcing. The vision of the chef. The imaginative creations. The art of preparation. The way a kitchen works on that scale. The finely tuned skills of the sous chefs. The timing. The plating and the presentation. The amazing result – food that is delicious, perfectly prepared, and one-of-a-kind.
To my point, our appetizer: Heirloom Tomatoes (with grilled cornbread, buttermilk blue cheese, red onions, and white balsamic thyme vinaigrette dressing). The cornbread is warm; the tomatoes are amazing; the seasonings are perfectly nuanced.
The treat was an explosion of amazing flavors and I would happily have consumed another plate instead of the main course.
But I didn’t, fortunately, because the Pan Seared Hanger Steak (with beer-braised cipollini onions, smashed potatoes, and chimichurri) was amazing. Ditto Rebekah’s Fried North Carolina Flounder (with marinated field peas, sauce gribiche, and roasted tomato relish). And let’s not forget the amazing Macaroni au Gratin.
Then, for dessert, we shared a serving of Strawberry Hand Pies (with Lemon Cream Cheese ice-cream and benne oat crunch). The coffee, from Counter Culture, was rich and perfect.
This is not “dinner” but what must be called “a dinning experience.” You don’t hurry, you ask questions about the dishes, you are glad that there is a serious amount of time between courses, you pause between bites to let the flavors and the textures play in your pallet, you take in the ambience and just smile at one another because this is all so very good.
And then there is gratitude, lots of it.
Evenings like this raise our consciousness as practitioners of the human experience. And in so doing it gives me hope. When the way we interact with anything is elevated – food, people, art, church, beauty, etc. – then there is this sense of what is possible, and I believe this is good for all of us.
So often, confronted by the insistent sensationalized voice of various media, we easily lose our faith in people, in our culture, and in what is possible.
But the message of the New Testament stands clearly against such dismay. “God’s intention was to make known to them just what rich glory this mystery contains, out there among the nations. And this is the key: the king, living within you as the hope of glory! He is the one we are proclaiming. We are instructing everybody and teaching everybody in every kind of wisdom, so that we can present everybody grown up, complete, in the king” (Colossians 1:27-28).
Life is good, and the good news is strong. We must never forget this. – DEREK