Scallops, duck and creme brulee
September 30, 2005
Darkness subsided and morning began with a caramelized coffee brewed from our at home coffee bar. Another day had begun. As efficient as a quarterback, I planned out my sneak for the day. My 4-year-old needed a plan. By 6 that evening, I would be sacked. How would I explain my unusual absence? I resolved that the truth shall set me free. At 5 p.m. I said, “Mommy and Daddy have a date tonight.” Expecting questions and declarations of “please stay home,” I had my bargains on the table. I felt prepared for anything that came out of her mouth. I even had her grandma lined up for a night of books and cuddles. I was prepared for her questions. But I forgot to be prepared for the unexpected. From her lips came a new twist. “Is it your anniversary, Mommy?”Shocked by her question, I immediately was submerged in thought. Was she thinking that Mommy and Daddy only go out on a date on their anniversary? Indeed, she was right, a “date” had become an “annual” event in our lives within 10 years of marriage. Wow. Our kids are so intuitive. And also impressionable.But I am glad to note that in this seemingly sinking moment, I felt in some perverse way as if we had lifted our daughter to a higher plane of thought. Obviously, the idea of a date, carved-out time for Mom and Dad, was akin to a holiday. It was special. Yet, apparently to her, a date for Mom and Dad was only a yearly event. That mindset needed to be changed. So now, one great couple steps in. For this commentary, I shall call them “Jane and John.” Jane called the other night. She was looking for my mom and dad, who also live in the valley. She had surmised that they were on an “off-season hiatus,” yet she and John persisted in checking up on them via their kids. As good phone calls can lead to fun plans, she invited us to dinner in lieu of our parents. We accepted, and an unforgettable evening was set in motion.Little did Jane know how much we needed this date. Second-home owners with a taste for culture and warmth and goodness, Jane and John know good dining. They chose The French Press in Edwards. I can still savor the creme brulee in the back of my mouth as I write. The crisp sugary coating with the foamy delectable mixture swirling from my lips to my mind as I swallowed still linger. This was a taste that I never want to forget.As you can read, I am not a food critic. I jumped right to the dessert as I explained our five-star dining experience. I neglected to tell you about the scallop appetizer, bean soup and chef’s pasta. Oh, and then there was the duck, presented with fresh mango. Not to mention the smells of beef and other specialties passing by to other tables. My hands are growing weary as I type. I am longing for last night’s supper again. The smells are still ripe. The savory delights of Angelee, the chef at The French Press, are still on my mind.And only as can be in a small town, Angelee is on my mind, too. You see, Jane and John are those second-home owners with a big heart in our valley. They don’t just dine at a restaurant. They get to know who is behind the scenes.They appreciated the hostess. So it was really no surprise when the chef, Angelee, came out to stay hello to Jane and John. They hugged her close. Through conversation, I learned of her personal connections to New Orleans. Her loss was apparent. Yet stoically, proudly, she endured. She epitomized what I had heard of the stamina of people of New Orleans.Her food seemed ever more delectable when Jane told me how Angelee had gardened at her New Orleans home side by side with her mom many years ago. That is when Angelee learned about herbs, cooking and growing a kitchen menu. Sigh, no wonder that dinner was so delicious. It was bred of history, gardening and care. When Jane and John invited us to dinner, I had no idea what a delightful evening was in store. Beyond the meal, they introduced me to a new friend. They also taught me that when possible, one should thank the chef when dining out. The experiences of the people preparing the food in such a place as Vail are unique and amazing. This is one of the world’s finest locations for dining, and the people in the kitchen are worthy of knowing. As I learned, their heart and soul go into their menu.As off-season rolls on, and we have an opportunity to enjoy some dining specials in our valley, remember to perhaps “meet the chef.” Thank them. Appreciate them, and they will not forget you. But from one mom to the next, also be sure to make a date with your husband. Don’t wait for some special occasion. Our kids learn a lot from what we do and don’t do. Elizabeth H. Chicoine of Eagle writes a weekly column for the Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.