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Fodder for future conversations

February 17, 2009

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. We were all gathered 'round having our Valentine's Day dinner of homemade pizza and ice cream sundaes. The real Valentine's Dinner, however, happened on Friday night. Mainly because we couldn't get reservations on Saturday night, but we didn't want to miss the show so it wasn't that big of a deal. We went to a place we've never been before, a restaurant called the Lake Elmo Inn about 45 minutes from home. Something fancy, and we took the kids. That's what happens to romance with kids in the picture. They invade and you have a choice: you can leave them at home to eat macaroni and cheese and watch a movie while you go have dinner, or you can cave in and invite them, too, and double the joy and the bill, and the laughter, and make a family event of it. Which we did.

I printed the menu earlier in the week, so the kids knew what they were ordering, and they didn't even look at the menu — sunfish, crab cakes, and chicken fingers, with linguine, not potatoes, and just water, please. They enjoyed the spicy corn dip I ordered, and they ate more than a basket of bread, once they figured out where to find the butter. They were surprised by the palate-cleansing lemon-sorbet, during which an explanation of what, exactly, is a palate, ensued. Mr. Sundberg ordered steak, and I had chicken rondele, which was lovely with wild rice and breading. No one could eat all their food, and I ended up eating 'most everyone's sautéed vegetables, and after the mysterious luxury of the cinnamon-oiled hot towels, we indulged in New York style cheesecake with strawberries, a pecan-crust tart with cream filling and chocolate topping, and French silk pie. Then came strawberries dipped in chocolate, more water, and the check. The tip alone was about what we usually spend on dinner, and the kids grew quiet when they saw the bill. That was SO good, they said. Thank you so much, Mom and Dad.

There are people in the world who would hear this story and shake their heads. "You should have left the kids at home," they might say. "A meal like that is wasted on children." Well, I'm of the mind that children ought to experience decadence now and then, and dinner out is one of the rare opportunities for such a thing. I don't mean often, mind you. But I think to have a memory or two of a fine time in one's childhood can't hurt a person, and if it happens to fall on Valentine's Day, then Valentine's Day it is. It's fodder for future conversations among siblings, and it's a way of helping them gauge where they're at in the world. But more importantly, they had an experience. For a moment, somewhere amid the candlelight and hot rolls and conversation, between the sorbet and the chocolate ganache, something took their breath away. Worth every penny of $137.74. Not including the tip.


Good Morning Frittata
This one's easy to prep ahead of time and throw together any morning of the week. You can substitute ingredients, or add some cheese for extra zip.


3 T olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. sliced fresh mushrooms
12 eggs
3 oz. pepperoni, sliced thin and chopped
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In 10 inch cast-iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes until vegetables are tender. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, pepperoni, milk and black pepper.

Pour egg mixture over vegetables in skillet. Place skillet in oven. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until egg mixture is set. Use a spatula to slide the frittata onto large serving platter. Cut into wedges, serve warm. Serves 8.

Enjoy!

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