One of the million ways in which Alex and I are suited to each other: we share a restaurant philosophy. We very rarely eat out, but when we do it’s an Occasion. We like to find unique and memorable places and try the most intriguing items on the menu. The cardinal rules? No chain restaurants, only local chefs. We almost never order the same thing. We take our time. We ignore the prices. You might say we are studying (at the rate of about two lessons a year) the art of fine dining.
We’ve had succulent bluefin tuna nigiri at the best sushi restaurant in Minneapolis and stuffed wild trout at the old courthouse in Lanesboro, Minnesota. We’ve had fresh seafood paella and roast quail with fern shoots at a tiny bistro with a local chef in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We’ve had tender ostrich steak with garlic mashed potatoes at a cafe in Manchester-By-the-Sea. Last July we had an unbelievable filet mignon with gorgonzola, portobellos, and tomatoes at an inn in Connecticut. And Tuesday night, as a birthday gift to Alex (and me!!) from his mom and dad, we visited the best French restaurant in Oxford.
It was one of those narrow brick buildings with tall windows that reach back much further than you expect and are much older than even they look. The decor was rustic French, with wooden planks on floors and table tops. Short, fat white candles, each burning high and dripping on their dish, provided most of the lighting and the atmosphere. The scene was incredible. And the food was an education in taste for this Minnesota girl. For starters we had a bowl of fresh steamed mussels served marinieres a la creme and tender sauteed calf’s liver with pancetta and baked parsnip chips and a port wine jus with so much depth and flavor I think it took three days to create. For mains Alex had seared duck redolent with apples and Calvados. I had salmon baked with prawn mousseline and served on creamed spinach with a smoked paprika beurre blanc. For dessert Alex had the cheese board–Saint Albray, Roquefort, and Camembert. I had a chocolate Grand Marnier parfait that was the stuff dreams are made of. We ate slow and drank red wine and talked our heads off. It was perfectly perfect.