Dining Al Fresco in the Street is a Scene Right Out of the Movies
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
One of my all time favorite movie scenes is from the 1942 flick “Now, Voyager.” Glamorous Bette Davis is with dashing Paul Henreid. He lights two cigarettes, inhales, and then places one between her lips. She looks at him lovingly. He looks at her longingly. He tells her that he wants to prove she is not immune to happiness. I also like the scene because Henreid’s character is named Jerry. Major confession: I tried that bit of stagecraft with a girl when I was 17 years old and burned the tip of her nose. I can’t begin to tell you how immune to my kind of happiness she was.
For some reason I always think of that scene when I am in a romantic setting. It happened recently when I was celebrating the reopening of restaurants with a lovely lady who was as eager as I was to get back to fine dining after the lengthy lockdown. I discovered at an early age that I liked good food but was woefully lacking in the skills needed to prepare it. Besides, when I attempted to emulate a great chef, my kitchen was left looking like the Three Stooges had a food fight in it. So for a reasonable price, nice people brought me delicious food without me having to shop, cook, or clean up.
Yes, restaurants have finally been given the green light. Limited indoor seating has forced restaurateurs to be creative in expanding seating by placing tables outside. If you’ve driven or walked through town you’ve noticed the proliferation of outside seating, specifically tables set up in the curb lane on streets. Large planters and other screenings offer a semblance of privacy. With a little imagination you can overcome the feeling you are dining alfresco in the middle of a parking lot.
We weren’t the only folks eager to return to restaurants. There was a line of people on the sidewalk waiting to be seated in the street. A charming hostess who handed us menus and thanked us for gracing her restaurant with our presence directed us to our table. That reminded me of one of my restaurant pet peeves. I once had a host who insisted on placing the napkin in my lap. Sorry, Charlie. I’ll put the napkin in my lap! And I’ll decide when. The next friendly restaurant host who wants to play hanky-panky in my lap with a napkin will have more than the corona virus to worry about.
The planters did provide a semblance of privacy. A tree also sheltered us, partially obscuring some of the street lights. I must admit I felt far more secluded than expected. In fact, the setting was downright romantic.
As children we played in the street for free. After I glanced at the menu I mentally figured dining in the street was going to cost around a hundred dollars. Hey, but the ambiance was great, the company extraordinary, and I knew the food would be perfect.
Yet, with all of that, one is aware that cars are cruising within inches of your entrée. It is now possible to pair your dinner with Fumé Blanc with real fumes. Imagine – the sommelier splashes some wine in your glass. You swirl it. Raise it to your nose. Inhale the bouquet. “Do I detect the faintest soupçon of asparagus and just a flutter of Edam cheese,” you say mimicking Paul Giamatti in the move “Sideways.”
“No. I think it’s Techron,” the sommelier replies. “2016. One of Chevron’s best years.”
We placed our order, then raised our wine glasses. I was about to make a noteworthy toast when suddenly I felt a bump on my lower leg. I looked down to discover that one of our parking control officers had swiped a white chalk mark on my trousers. I wondered if she would take a sliced tomato with buffalo mozzarella hors d’oeuvre for a bribe. Good thing we weren’t seated in front of a fire hydrant.
Nonetheless, our repast on the pavement was a wonderful experience that we expect to repeat very soon. After all, where else can you be dining when a limousine stops by your table, a window opens, and a charming gentleman offers you some Grey Poupon?
Curbside dining did not curb my enthusiasm for restaurants. Get yourself to one soon. They are waiting for you and eager to make you feel welcome.
At the evening’s end we had our “Now, Voyager” moment. I remarked to my lovely dinner companion that the only thing missing was a full moon. “Oh Jerry,” she said, suddenly looking and sounding like Bette Davis. “Let’s not ask for the moon. We have the stars.”
Cut. Print. That’s a wrap!
Contact Jerry at email@example.com