Tuesday, April 5, 2011


(Cafe Wepler, Edouard Vuillard, 1912, Cleveland Museum of Art)

Tantalizing aromas greet us as we enter the restaurant.

Quickly, I take it all in.

This is a French bistro at its finest.

I see the rich patina of carved wood paneling surrounding the restaurant's walls.

Old leaded glass windows sparkle above the wooden surrounds.

Lush green plants - mostly ferns - bring color and warmth to the room.

The place just feels good.



Not fussy.

We are seated immediately.

Our pleasant server arrives to welcome us and take our drink orders.

We order the usual - spring water with lemon wedges on the side.

He places menus into our hands and tells us he will return in a few minutes.

We study the selections while he is gone.

This is a neighborhood bistro off the beaten tourist path.

Naturally, our server speaks French.

The menu is written in French just as it should be.

I think to myself: "Oh dear, I'm already in trouble."

That's because I gave up and threw in the towel after just three weeks of linguistic torture in my college French class.

Today, I can translate a variety of art terms in French but that's about it.

So this isn't looking good.

Bob and John are drifting in the same boat as I am.

That leaves Heidi as our only hope.

Kindly, she speaks to our server in French.

He understands just enough to say:

"I bring someone knows English."

Seconds later, a new server arrives with a white laminated menu card.

He points and says:

"Card - menu in English."

All of us breathe a sigh of relief - including the server.

He smiles broadly and departs for the kitchen.

We pour over the menu cards for a few minutes.

Then John says: "I'm leaning toward "plays with ox beef stewed in the former greenery," adding, "how about you guys?"

We know this is no time to break into raucous laughter.

This is because we are not complete social idiots.

So we go to Plan B and break into "contained chuckles" instead.

Getting into the spirit of things, I pipe up with: "I'm not in a carnivorous mood. I'm going to try the "soft, velvety pumpkin scents of yesteryear."

Our chuckles are quickly escaping their "container."

Bob enters the fray with: "I'm going with the "burned out paved hind, sleeping on its pancakes of chestnuts with the grande union sauce."

* * * * * *

Here's the thing:

When I was a little kid, my dad, sisters and I got the giggles one Sunday in church.

I don't know what started it.

I don't know who started it.

But the upshot was this:

The four of us were just seconds away from needing emergency surgery on our abdomens before we managed to contain our smothered laughter.

Our faces looked like inflated tomatoes.

Our breathing was so shallow and infrequent, we could have been pronounced "dead" in any decent hospital.

And our sides felt like they were going to explode with pain.

Which they almost did.

That's what happened to us after Bob's comment.

* * * * * *

Heidi returns to a semi-state of sanity before the rest of us.

She explains: "You know what happened. They used a computer to translate for them."


That makes sense.

John and I order the fresh salmon.

I normally hate salmon.

So I don't know what possesses me to order it.

But I absolutely love this salmon!

And the perfectly sautéed potatoes put the whole meal over the top.

Bob gobbles down his lamb stew in record time.

He declares, "This is really very good."

This is high praise coming from the Bobster.

Heidi noshes on her veggie plate, saying, "Everything tastes fresh and looks so colorful."

Later, we shoot for the moon and order dessert.

John and I are serious chocoholics so we order the "chocolate fudge baked in a minute."

Heidi orders the "crumble mango/pineapple and milk shake."

Bob, as usual, decides to sponge off the rest of us.

The server brings our sweets and places the plates in front of us.

John and I gaze at our chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache and chocolate cake concoctions for several seconds.

A crisp chocolate covered cookie lies in the middle of this dreamy dessert.

John says, "A skilled architect must have put this thing together!"

I reply, "I know! It's so pretty I hate to eat it!"


Like that's gonna happen.

John and I gobble up our scrumptious mounds of chocolate.

Heidi enjoys every drop of her elegant, fruity milk shake.

Bob brings up the rear with his declaration:

"It all tastes good to me."

Stuffed to the gills, we sit and chat for awhile.

Eventually, I notice that the patrons have thinned out.

I look at my watch.

"Guys!" I say, "do you realize we have been sitting in this place for at least two hours?"

Bob adds, "It's been a long day. Let's head back to the hotel."

We pay our bill, thank the staff for their excellent service and head out the door.

* * * * * *

Some restaurants have the "it" factor.

They have it all.

A lovely decor.

Tasty food.

And a superb wait staff.

This restaurant was one of those places.

So we returned for a repeat performance the following night.

No arm twisting was necessary.

The staff welcomed us with smiles and open arms.

Everything - let me assure you - was just as sublime the second time around.

The only thing missing?

Our chuckles.

1 comment:

  1. No chuckles here, a full on belly laugh with tears.