DARLENE’S BLOG – MAY 2018

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Gotta Love the Taste Restaurant

There is always something exciting going on at Taste Restaurant at Avanti. The Chef, Emilio, is an incredible artist making food that is as good to eat as it looks. Each dish he prepares is like a little work of art – so thoughtfully and colorfully arranged on the plate. He often leaves the kitchen and comes into the dining room to greet his guests. When complimented on how gorgeous and delicious the food is, he snaps back with fun comments like “We eat with our eyes first, my Dear!” and, “An empty plate makes me happy, because I know you liked it. When you leave something – even a little bit on your plate – I worry I did not please you!” Chef Emilio’s specialty is Italian cuisine from his native homeland of Sicily, Italy.

No one loves Emilio more than Gwendolyn. Although stick-skinny, she eats like a horse and is a real foodie and dining-manners expert. She was known to be a marvelous cook in her life and ran a manners course for the local Country Club kids to learn table manners and gain a sense of social etiquette. Truth be told, she’s a “manners meddler”, always calling people out on their food choices and lack of social decorum. Once, Gwendolyn saw Curly Sue eating a tuna salad with a glass of milk. She barked at the waiter to remove the milk and to bring Curly Sue a proper lunch drink, like an iced tea or flavored sparkling water. This rudeness carries over into the manner arena too. 

Once, Gwendolyn gave Lillian some leftover yarn in knitting class that she was about to toss in the trash (as she had finished her sock-knitting project and the yarn wasn’t really enough to start something new). For days after this “gift,” Gwendolyn did not speak to sweet Lillian. When Lillian finally asked her why she was getting the silent treatment, Gwendolyn explained she was disappointed Lillian did not send her a thank you note for the yarn.  Lillian explained she thought Gwendolyn was tossing the yarn out anyway and did not realize this super-casual and hand-me-down gesture required a formal handwritten note above and beyond her verbal thank you. She apologized and thanked Gwendolyn verbally again, but the two were never the same. But I digress…

Gwendolyn’s younger sister, Helena, was visiting today. Where Gwendolyn had a stick up her arse, Helena had a ray of sunshine. She was in her early 70s and a fun-loving hippie-type, who wore tie-dye dresses and colorful beaded necklaces.  She had wild hair with a messy bun worn on top. Lillian, Curly Sue and I really looked forward to her visits—especially since she always brought us homemade soaps, lotions and handmade jewelry. She was a very generous and thoughtful lady.

Gwendolyn had arranged for us all to eat at Taste Restaurant for dinner. Lillian and I decided to head down to the establishment on the early side to grab a drink together before the other women arrived.

I showed Lillian the ridiculous note Gwendolyn had slid under my door earlier today. It read “Darlene and Lillian: please do not eat a large lunch or have an afternoon snack or fill up on appetizers tonight. I’ve ordered a special Timpano from Emilio in honor of my sister’s visit and need all you girls to come hungry for dinner so we can finish it.”  

“What a control freak!” I laughed as Lillian rolled her eyes, took the note from my hand, crumpled it up and tossed it in the trash.

It’s true as we age our appetites diminish, but this food control had to be stopped. However, Gwendolyn was so hard to deal with and wasn’t going to change her ways, sometimes I just complied as it took less energy than to battle her. We all did.

Lillian and I found our table at Taste Restaurant and sat down. Our favorite waitress, Maria, came by to offer us some new appetizers they were trying out: beef and spinach cheese sticks.  Oh, they smelled so delicious. I was very hungry.

Maria plopped several of these new piping hot and delicious-looking appetizers on our plates and moved on to another table.

These gorgeous Italian egg rolls seemed to be staring at us, calling out to us—begging us to try them.   

Lillian and I stared at them. Again, they looked and smelled so good and we were very hungry. 

“Maybe we shouldn’t,” said Lillian. “I don’t want to hear Gwendolyn bitch.”

“I know, but we’re hungry and I have a headache. I need protein,” I responded.

In sympathy, Lilian took one bite of the cheese stick.

“Well, it’s for your health. Health does come first,” Lillian smiled and we chatted and chewed.

I gobbled down a whole cheese stick. What fun! It felt reckless and rebellious and brave as Gwendolyn and crew were soon to arrive any minute.

Then Lillian ate another one, then I, another. We kept on eating and eating. Like it was our last meal. Soon the plate was empty.  Oh, my gosh, these appetizer beef, spinach and cheese sticks were scrumptious. That Emilio. What a culinary genius!

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Gwendolyn, Helena and Curly Sue walking towards us. Quickly, Lillian grabbed the plate and looked at me.  We certainly did not want Gwendolyn to learn we had been eating and incur her wrath. I grabbed the plate from Lillian and tossed it between my legs under the table where it landed by my feet. I saw Lillian brush a few breadcrumbs off the table cloth and reposition her silverware. I looked down at my place setting and all looked untouched, like we hadn’t eaten.

Gwendolyn, Helena and Curly Sue joined us at the table as Maria came by and asked if we wanted more beef and spinach cheese sticks. Both Lillian and I tried to clue Maria in to our plan of pretending we did not have them.

“No, Maria, you must have us confused with another table,” I said. “We’re not eating anything as we have that huge Tipano coming.”

Lillian got up from her chair and clicked her walker two times like she was using spurs on her horse to take flight.

“Yes, Maria, run along now. We old ladies need to catch up,” said Lillian who winked at Maria, who understood that I was asking her to scram.

Gwendolyn looked me square in the eye and said…

“You have a little spinach caught in your teeth and a grease spot on your blouse—you might want to clean that up!” 

“Timpano, Timpano—get into my belly!” said Lillian trying to cover for me.

“The jig is up,” said Gwendolyn to Lillian.  “I know what you two did!”

“Oh, calm your pits, Gwendolyn. You’re not the freaking food police!” Helena chuckled.

“Maybe y’all can write her an apology note,” snickered Curly Sue.

Gwendolyn couldn’t help but crack a smile, and for the first time in her life—let it go.  Helena smiled back at her pleased she wasn’t fussing.

With laughs all around, we raised our glasses to honor Helena’s visit and Chef Emilio’s Tipano that would soon arrive for us to taste at Taste Restaurant.

 

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