Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dinner and a Movie

Yesterday, my oldest cat turned 13. So happy birthday, Mr. C!

The family spent the morning preparing for Papa's arrival. My dad was driving down from Rockford in the middle of campaign season to visit us and spend some time with X-man. When he got here we tried to go have lunch at Black Dog Ale, but they had a 20-minute wait, which doesn't work with a hungry 4 year old, so we went to Crane Alley instead.

I got a black bean burger and sweet potato fries. This was perhaps the wrong food choice because several hours later we went to a special dinner at Prairie Fruit Farm. The farm opens each spring with breakfasts every Saturday before the Urbana Farmers' Market opens. Then they do special dinners until the close of the growing season. Usually dinners are served outside on a wooden patio. But as it was 54 degrees when the sun started to fall away, we ate in the barn next to the kitchen. Each special dinner has a theme and is prepared by Alisa Demarco and her very friendly kitchen staff. The theme for our dinner was "100 yard dinner." That means nearly everything (outside of butter and oil) were prepared within 100 yards of the kitchen. As you can guess, since they make goat cheese, we ate a lot of it. You can see the complete menu here.

The appetizer course starts at 4 p.m. We arrived at 4:30 p.m. dressed in jeans, tennis shoes. I had a t-shirt, a wool sweater and a windbreaker on. MacTroll wore his boots and a pair of jeans with a long sleeve t-shirt, a fleece and he carried the top part of a gortex coat to break the wind. The wind was blowing brown leaves from the tree, and everything at the farm looked pretty picked over.

The farm served ice water and warm pear and apple cider, but MacTroll looked kind of disappointed that I didn't inform him we were welcome to bring our own beverages. In his old age, having wine with dinner is apparently something he looks forward to. I'm sure he does it when he dines out with folks on travel. But he and I get out usually only once a month, and I can count the number of alcoholic drinks I've had in the last calendar year on one hand. So, you know, the BYOB kind of escaped my attention.

There appeared to be two groups of people at the dinner. One was a theme of local business owners supporting other local businesses. The other was appeared to be very professorial/artsy. They apparently get a lot of repeat diners at their dinners because Wes, one of the owners, said in his welcome that he recognized and knew most everyone there. I think MacTroll and I looked like the odd ones out.

We sat with a large party of folks. They were very friendly. One was an artist who was there with her significant other who owns That's Rentertainment on campus. His mother was also present. She and I had some lovely discussion. On the other side, was a couple that worked at the Natural History Survey who know our neighbors Jeff and Wendy. And then another man who was there with his college-aged daughter worked for Yahoo and his wife runs a gift shop in Monticello. I engaged him in my surprise that Bee Active Toys, which originated in store space next to his wife's mad the move to Tuscola and apparently has done so well, they're opening a second store at Market Place Mall next to Macy's. I liked the store in Monticello and I followed them to Tuscola when they moved. Think Art Mart -- but with a wider selection, particularly for bigger kids.

There were LONG waits in between each course. And, unlike, when he eats at home, I sat there and watched MacTroll eat everything -- even the stew which was full of root vegetables. He even ate a fried green tomato. I inquired why he'd try everything here, but at  home if I put chunks of tomato in anything he picks them off. He said he didn't know why. And I'm so taking that personally, because there's no other reasonable explanation.

It was the first time I'd had guinea hens. The breasts weren't anything exciting, even though they were stuffed with fruit. But I did enjoy the legs, which is funny because usually I'm not a dark meat fan. But they cooked them so well, that the meat fell off the bone. The meat was also much darker than typical chicken. Much more rich in flavor.

Our favorite course was the cheese course (big surprise). We got three small pieces of cheese made at the farm, a bit of jellied currant and a bit of honeycomb. In my old age, I'd rather have honey than chocolate of any kind. I can't explain it. It just happened since I started losing weight. And that honeycomb was amazing. There's something about goat cheese and honey or goat cheese and jam that just goes so well together. Put the honey and goat cheese together on some decent whole wheat bread with a bit of pear and toast it for a few minutes and it's a heavenly sandwich.

The dessert was my least favorite. The apples were much too tart, even though they were supposedly honeyed. It tasted like a sour yogurt with fruit at the bottom.

I'm trying to remember how much we paid for the dinners. I think it was $85 a person. Hence, this was MacTroll's birthday present (which isn't until Oct. 27th). But he enjoyed it, and it was something very different than the usual downtown trip.

Afterwards, we called Papa, who was still going strong with X-man, so we went to go see the Social Network. When I first heard this movie was coming out, I was a pass. And then -- I read that Aaron Sorkin did the screen play. This was only helped by the fact that Trent Reznor does the music and that it was produced by Kevin Spacey. Crap. Okay. If Aaron Sorkin wrote it the dialogue between characters will at least be fast moving and entertaining. If you don't know Aaron Sorkin, he wrote Sports Night, the West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. He also wrote the American President and A Few Good Men.

I knew what to expect from his work, and I did not leave disappointed. What was weird, was the fact that we went to a movie where the theater was full. That never happens for MacTroll and I. So the 19 year old who was behind us complaining about the "no texting at the movies" rule made me laugh. I don't give a shit about the rule. As long as there's not some beep or vibrate that's going off every 2 seconds next to me, whatever. But I found the rule entertaining given that we were sitting in a theater watching a movie which mentions more than once the addictiveness of social networking.

Indeed, it's sucked in the creator -- of course it made him billions of dollars, while it just sucks the life force out of the rest of us. :-)

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