Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Engagement Dinner

Mike’s parents drove up to the city a week after we got engaged to take us out for a celebratory dinner. The evening went much the way our whole proposal did, which is pretty much how I expect this entire wedding process to go: flirting with disaster right up to the last moment- then everything falls into place.

First, Mike knew right away where he wanted to go- Blue Ribbon Brasserie in Park Slope (Brooklyn). Blue Ribbon is a great, low key place with fantastic food. They got an honorable mention in this year’s Michelin guide. They have other restaurants in Manhattan, as well as providing the food at Brooklyn Bowl. We’ve been there for birthdays, anniversaries, even New Year’s Eve dinner one year. It’s where I first discovered that I LOVE caviar. (On toast, with a little crème fraiche. Yummmm….) The atmosphere is elegant but casual and also family friendly.

Sounds perfect, right? Well, long story short, Mike and I each thought the other was making the reservation. So naturally when I called in a panic an hour and a half before his family was due to arrive, the waiter at least had the manners not to laugh at me when I asked if they had a table for 6 on a Saturday night. Because of course they didn’t, not until 10:30. I quickly called my back-up- Dressler in south Williamsburg, another favorite. From the owners of Diner, Dressler just received a Michelin star (for, I believe, the third year in a row) and has amazing food and ambiance- and is right down the road. (A quality I didn’t fully appreciate until later.) Again, booked until 10:00 pm.

I was frantically scanning my brain for appropriate restaurants for not just his parents and younger brother but also his 80 year old grandmother (who is perfectly healthy and able but still, the trip to Brooklyn is enough, I wasn’t about to subject her to the rickety piano benches for chairs and high decibel Grizzly Bear that constitutes atmosphere at so many of our W-burg haunts) when I finally thought of Jolie. It’s French, and has a great Wednesday Happy Hour ($1 oysters all night, PLUS 2 for 1 drinks for women at the bar). It’s at the top of Boerum Hill on Atlantic Avenue, a part of town that doesn’t get a ton of night life so I thought we had a shot. And, eureka! They could take us at 7:30.

The total distance from my house to the restaurant is barely 3 miles. We’ve driven there tons of times- in fact, we’d had lunch at the Soul Spot, less than a block away, just 3 days before. So we decided it we could certainly afford a short detour past Ft Greene Park to show his mother where we’d gotten engaged. Everything should’ve been fine, except there was some construction on Flatbush, we couldn’t get on Atlantic, I got confused and long story short, we finally turned around outside the projects in Gowanus. We worked our way back easily enough, but it was not exactly the scenic route and friendly road trip I’d imagined. Eventually we made out way to the restaurant and a nearby parking garage.

We were seated overlooking the little garden underneath a huge photo of Hendrix, across from another of Jagger. (Later the bartender told us the story of Frank Sinatra’s mug shot, taken in the 40s when he was arrested for adultery.) Mike’s parents went above and beyond as usual- they’d already helped us out considerably (see the Proposal story for one example) but they still showed up bearing gifts to the dinner they were paying for. They’d recently been to a charity auction and had allocated a good portion of their raffle tickets to successfully winning us a session with a photographer for our engagement photos, as well as some custom framing from another company! It’s very sweet and fits in perfectly with my tentative engagement shoot plans- I’d like to do some ‘traditional’ portraits, maybe in Ft. Greene Park or in the Conservatory Gardens in Central Park, and then I’d like to do a shoot outside in Brooklyn, more casual and fun. Mike’s mother and brother also got me a huge stack of bridal magazine and a wedding planning guide. His grandmother and step-grandmother each gave us cards with other types of gifts- equally appreciated!

We had a fun French waiter/drummer, great cocktails and everyone enjoyed their food. At the end of the night, while we were waiting for our dessert, Mike’s step-father disappeared for a minute and reappeared with our waiter, bearing a delicious bottle of rose champagne. I need to stop here and mention that I LOVE champagne. LOVE. Love love love. Caviar can’t hold a candle to the flame that burns in me for real, French bubbly. Usually I have to make due with Korbel at home, or the much more moderately priced cavas and proseccos when eating out. (I celebrated the night of our engagement with a bottle of Moet, and there’s a bottle of Clicquot on top of the refrigerator awaiting my next excuse.) So this was quite a treat for me.

At the end of the night, while Mike and his step-dad were getting the cars, his mother and I snuck another quick glass of wine (a lovely sparkling wine, of course!) at the bar and I let slip some location ideas I’d been bouncing around. It was a wonderful evening. Mike and I went home, where I drank even more champagne (every celebration is an excuse/a reason to drink champagne!) and we watched Saturday Night Live. All in all a lovely night!

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