Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

The Three Hour Meal

by James Glaser
February 17, 2007

I wanted to do something nice for Valentine's Day for my true love. First off I thought a dozen roses would be nice, but even though I am not cheap, there was no way I was going to spend forty bucks for twelve cut flowers. Every other week down here a dozen roses can be bought for nine to twelve dollars. But valentine's day week they raise the price by a factor of four, and that is price gouging for sure.

Like I said, I wanted to do something nice. About a month ago the lady at the little restaurant named the Renaissance, in Railroad Square, asked me if I wanted to have a special meal there on Valentine's Day, and I said, "for sure." As that day got closer I started thinking maybe I had made a mistake. To say the place is small and funky would be an appropriate description at best. Oh, the food is always great, but the kitchen is in a railroad caboose, and the dining room is a small building attached to the kitchen on the side. So, the kitchen is up high in this caboose and you eat down on ground level. The place can only hold eighteen, and for sure you would never call it romantic.

Like I said, I was a little worried that I didn't make the best of plans, but as the evening unveiled itself, I was proved wrong on that count. The meal started at six, and we were the first ones there, so we had our pick of tables. On each, was an antipasta platter with smoked salmon rolled around cream cheese, different cheeses, dried tomatoes, pickled okra and mushrooms, and olives pickled so hot that my eyes watered, and my nose started running. I loved those olives, and Wanda let me have them all.

About half way through that, the place started to fill up. Oh yeah, the place did not serve wine, but we could bring our own, and were advised we needed to bring wine glasses too, which we did. The next course was French Onion Soup Gratinee. I don't know what the "gratinee" means, but the soup was great and there was a big piece of bread in the bottom of the bowl. I have to tell you that every day this restaurant starts their noon soup early in the morning, and it is always great. With the soup we got the first basket of hot bread with an herb butter. The bread was very good, and we ate it all and had seconds. We could have left then, maybe we should have left then, because we were already full.

Next came a mixed green salad, with a lemon basil vinaigrette, that had a large crab cheesecake in the center. This wasn't like a small diner salad, this was like a full meal salad, and it was great.

After that the main course was served. Herb Dijon Crusted Lamb Chops with a Port Wine reduction sauce, golden chive potatoes and green beans. Meat and potatoes, I could ask for nothing better, but I did have to work on that because I was stuffed by then.

The real name of this place is, Renaissance Coffee & Tea Company. The coffee they brought after the main meal was really to my liking. It was light and soft, and we had two cups before the desert came, and that was something called, "Fresh Berries Sabayon en Phillo." Blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries in some sort of sauce made with cream and Champaign, in a cup made out of many layers of edible looking tissue paper.

One more cup of coffee, and we were ready to waddle out of there. It was a wonderful night, and the three hours flew by. I hope I never eat that much again, but if I do, I hope it is close to being as good as this year's valentines day meal.

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