When I was growing up my family never had money for eating out much. Especially when I was little we rarely dined out. If we did it was usually with my grandparents and was either Sizzler or a mexican restaurant. But I loved eating out. Even walking into a Denny’s seemed glamour to me at 10 years old. Adults brought me food and there was a general buzz and excitement in the room. It seemed to me that the most important people were at restaurants.
As I got older and was asked out on dates I started eating out a little better. My high school boyfriend took me to dinner on the roof of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA and took me to see “Les Miserable” one night. It was so fancy that when they brought over a platter with my utensils on it I had no idea what I was suppose to do. The kind waiter gently told me to take my salad fork from the platter and played it off like it was a silly fine dining ritual. My boyfriend, whose parents apparently ate at nice places all the time, always knew where to take me. We dined at Geoffry’s in Malibu & The Chart House and he spent all his money from his valet job on taking me out. It was a relatively short but intense relationship and he certainly set the bar high in terms of my being spoiled by nice things.
Then I met Boris. Boris has been my friend now for 12 years. (Well, we actually didn’t talk for a couple years in there somewhere but besides that….) Boris had a flare for living the high life. I met him while singing (yes singing) at an Italian restaurant that he was eating at with a friend. Boris is one of the only straight men that has a wide repertoire of musical theater knowledge and proceeded to test me by asking me to sing a wide variety of songs at his table. (I’m sure the diners nearby were incredibly annoyed) Anyway, he tipped me $40 and that was that. He came in again another time and then called up the restaurant and asked me to dinner. I said yes, but it had to be at Chili’s next door. After our dinner at Chili’s he invited to take me out to for my upcoming birthday and asked me where I wanted to go. I blurted out, “Spago’s!” (which was Wolfgang Pucks premiere restaurant at the time) and that’s where we went. He later told me that he was thinking more along the lines of TGIF Fridays but didn’t have the heart to tell me no. And thus began my many adventures dining out at fancy places with Boris. We had a year long string of dinner dates (and trips to the theater) that spanned from japanese restaurants to steak houses, seafood places to fondue. Oh, and I was 19 and he was 30. But the age difference didn’t matter because we weren’t officially “dating.” My friend Michelle (who Boris always refers to as my “black friend”) thought the whole thing was fishy but Boris and I have remained friends and over the years and after I was married he’d bring his girlfriends up to Santa Barbara for my husband and I to meet. Michael loves Boris. I probably could write an entire essay on Boris since he is an incredibly interesting personality, but I’ll save that for another time.
Then began the string of random dates with random guys that never quite panned out. There was Dan who took me to a very nice fish restaurant on our first date. I ordered macadamia crusted halibut and it was delicious. It was my first experience eating halibut and I was skeptical I would like it but eager to be adventurous with seafood. It didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, my relationship did disappoint mostly because of me. Our dates were cut short when in a moment of frustration with a phone message he left me I let out a long winded vent of what I didn’t like about him to a friend that accidentally got recorded on HIS voicemail. That wasn’t a fun conversation to have when he confronted me about it. And then there was Brian. Brian took me all over the place. It was with him that I experienced eel for the first time. We also went to Kings Fishhouse in Calabasas one night and I ordered something with the dressing on the side. It reminded him of Meg Ryan in, ” When Harry met Sally” which I hadn’t seen. We went back to his house and watched it and I proceeded to spill ice cream down the front of my shirt. Lovely. I wonder why that relationship didn’t go anywhere? Finally there was the boxer. The boxer and I never actually went out. He came into the the italian restaurant I was working at and approached me about accompanying him to his next fight in Vegas. He promised plane flights, hotel suites, dinners – the works. I was polite but refused to give him my number. He came into the restaurant again for a second attempt and got me to sit down at the bar with him. I was uncomfortable because usually when someone mentions a trip together intimacy is assumed. I was 19 and vigilant about not having sex before marriage so I knew I would need to be fairly forward about my standards. I mentioned my beliefs and he actually asked if he could covert to my religion. I remember saying a very lame, “yes…?” but after that it sort of fizzled. He could tell I just wasn’t going for it and he relented.
So between my high school boyfriend, Boris and other random dates along the way I was relatively spoiled with good food. I don’t think when I met Michael (who later became my husband) he was ready for the high expectation I had for lavish dates. He was just out of the Navy and starting photography school so his earnings at the time were modest to say the least. And it was in this time of general want that we fell in love and got married. No one can say I married for money since I was in reality marrying into student loan debt! But after both our graduations and the success of our photography business we have been lucky enough to dine at some amazing places together. From Los Angeles to New York, Paris to Italy we have been so lucky to eat at some of the worlds best restaurants. My darling husband has taken my passion for the culinary arts seriously and has enjoyed all these experiences right along with me. Michael isn’t just another boyfriend or friend. He is my true soul mate and without him my life would seem pointless and sad. He brightens everything and probably is the reason I love to cook. His love and enthusiasm for my culinary adventures keeps me excited. When we sit down in a restaurant we first look at the decor and comment on the design. When the first course comes we take a bite and give our critic or praise. Same with the second. We judge the service and staff. We talk about our overall experience and I take notes on my phone. We are a restaurants worst nightmare. But we have fun and even though its not for anything but our own enjoyment and maybe a posting on my blog, its something we can get into. And just like everything else in our life, we enjoy it because we enjoy it together. I love you Bear.