The spouse and I packed up the two older boys (they’ll be 4 in April) and took them for their first ski weekend in Colorado, to hang out with E’s brother K, and K’s cool wife Jen, a sculptor who now shows all over the world (and at Burning Man). One of the great pleasures of being married to E is spending time with these two (plus we have kids near the same age who adore each other). And when it’s just the four of us at dinner there’s something about the way our humor cues off each other and builds until I am literally doubling over and wiping tears from my eyes. The older I get, the more deeply I appreciate humor — if I could go back in time and give some advice to my teenage/twentysomething self, it would be, Oh for crying out loud, girl, lighten up and get over yourself. Enjoy everything, ’cause when youth runs out it doesn’t come back, no matter how much Botox* you give it.
And because life has a sense of irony, I threw out my back while packing up the car. No snowboarding for me. In any case the highlight of the weekend had nothing to do with snow (although one kid in particular loved the ‘slopes’ as soon as he got over his bewilderment about why he was on them), but dinner at a restaurant in Vail. K. is a trained chef and restaurant co-owner as well as dot.com entrepreneur; his restaurant regularly lands on ‘Best of’ and ‘Top 10’ lists in gourmet magazines. His thing is casual high-end dining (also local ingredients, eco-friendly). When he moved to Boulder, he quickly recognized a need for a certain kind of neighborhood restaurant that would cater to an affluent, small town population drawn from the big cities. People like himself who want high-end food without the bother of dressing up or making a formal experience out of it, a place where they could eat lunch or dinner everyday if they wanted. The restaurant hit the ground running and made money from the start. I’m always glad to visit Boulder just to get the chance to eat there. The food is very good.
To dine out with K. is to get a glimpse of chef solidarity; the chef came out to speak with him (and us) several times during the meal, and the bill was snatched back as soon as it hit our table so that we could get our “fellow chef discount” (not small, either).
I learned two things from K. this weekend: the phrase a) What would Wolfie* do? and b) this country has an attitude toward breakfast that makes “high-end breakfasts” impossible. “People just think they can change everything, substitute everything — I’ll have this, but with that, and I’ll take my eggs this way, not that way, and I don’t want that…They feel free to mess around with the breakfast menu in a way they would never do with dinner. They make it absolutely impossible for the chefs.” He declared that he “would never do breakfast again” and said, a touch sadly, that even Americans who can afford it don’t want to spend money on breakfast. They are not willing, for example, to pay twenty-five dollars for a truly masterful eggs benedict.
“I would pay twenty five dollars for that eggs benedict,” I said longingly. It’s true. Sad, maybe, but true.***
The restaurant not only had an excellent wine list but was taking fifty percent off all bottles in a bid to buy customer love****. K. and E. took advantage of the situation — the unusual discount, the presence of another person willing to split the cost of an obscenely expensive wine — to go big: we ended up drinking a ’98 Petrus. On top of the pinot noir we started out with, I got a bit drunker than intended. Waste not, want not, after all, so you can see how I was drinking responsibly.
* Not into it myself, at least so far. There’s something to be said for facial animation, and I don’t like the whole “mask of youth” thing, which looks exactly that: like a mask.
** Wolfgang Puck, of course.
*** I’m not a foodie, just a hedonist. Who really, really likes her eggs benedict.
**** Money can’t buy love (or happiness). But it can buy an excellent alcoholic experience.