We celebrated two of our good friends' birthdays in Calgary at River Cafe. If you are familiar with Calgary, it is located in the Prince's Island Park. I've walked by there several times checking out the menu outside, but have never actually been there. It's pretty fancy and expensive. We left the children behind in care of some loving friends, put on some 'fancy' clothes to meet our friends. For me, sharing good food with people who know and appreciate it is one of the most satisfying experiences.
When I go to fancy places, I am reminded how un-fancy I am. I try to put on my best behavior but something always goes wrong to reveal my true color. I mean I was raised well, I think. When I meet my parents' friends and colleagues, I sometimes have to put on my fancy self. But maybe just maybe, it's okay to be who I really am. Actually, I am okay with my non-fancy self. It's real and it's way more fun to be real. No pretense. But it's funny how 'fancy occasions' make us think we should act differently. It's a trap I don't want to get caught in.
Once, some friends treated us to a night in a hotel. I don't own suitcases. I have some good travel bags, but honestly, since I don't travel on airplanes much, I prefer to travel with laundry baskets. When we got to the hotel, it was definitely fancier than I thought. Men in smart uniforms came to assist us to our room. "um...no thanks. I can manage".
So, back at the River Cafe. We were greeted by a gal taking our coats and other courteous staff. Our friends are by the rustic fire place starting the evening with a glass of viognier. It went down nicely as our anticipation of the wonderful evening unfolded. We were there to catch their early bird special. Our appetizer was Red Lentil Hummus served with warm flat bread, preserved tomatoes and roasted garlic. I liked it almost better than the traditional hummus made with chickpeas. For our entree, we had the choice of Steelhead Trout with Roasted Heirloom carrots, purple potato Creme Fraiche Croquette, cider cured Salmon Caviar or Hanger Steak served with Walnut Spaetzle and parsnip Puree. I chose the trout, and the steak for Scott, so we can share. Our pleasant waiter, always serving the ladies first, of course, said to me, "ma'am, would you like still water or sparkling water this evening?" "ummm.....can I just have some plain water?" "Sure, ma'am. how about some still water then". After I exhaled the sigh of relief that I was able to order water, my friends nonchalantly told the waiter, "I will have still water please".....AS IF they have always called it "still water". ALL OF THEM! We laughed so hard about that.
The dinner was simply amazing. Great company. Good wine. Two and half hours of pure joy. Every bite was savored. I love eating with my 'foodie friends', because we eat good food and we talk about some other good food at the same time. I dream of traveling. Traveling just to discover good food all over the world. There is so much I have not seen or tasted. This evening gave me a little glimpse of what that might be like. Traveling with like-minded friends, savoring every bite, every moment, the conversation and the friendship. Sounds like it would make a good book, even a movie. We decided to call it, "Eat, Eat, Eat", instead of "Eat, Pray, Love".
Of course, I would like to insert a giant disclaimer here by saying good food does not have to be fancy. In fact, so much of the good food I have experienced thus far have been very simple. It was prepared with much thought and care, with fresh, good ingredients. Not complicated at all. Most importantly, good food must be enjoyed with good company. That is a must. Eating alone is almost never fun....for me, at least. I would rather share a glass of cheap wine with a good friend than eating a five-course gourmet meal alone. I have had some amazing food from humble food stands on street corners or on a patio at friends' backyard on a lazy summer evening.
As the evening went on, we saw more people filling the restaurant. Lots of fur coats and kisses on the cheeks to greet each other. Real fancy people. I wondered if they came here often. Probably so. I was happy and content. Not envious. I love my simple and not-so-fancy life. I don't want a fur coat. I have been in situations where I had to kiss people on cheeks to greet them. I was very awkward. I am okay with not knowing what "still water" is. The evening was epic, and I'd love to eat there again one day.....but I want to wait long enough so that every moment of the evening become memorable just like it was last Saturday.
If you are interested in seeing some photos and a different perspective of the evening, check out this post by my friend, Krista.