Adjusting from a rural/exurb environment to a small city has been a very big head realignment for me. There are many things I have had trouble embracing about relocating into the House of the Significant Other, but the one thing this urban scene has going for it is the variety of local restaurants. Being a foodie of sorts, this perk has definitely helped with the transition.
The idea originally came up one November a couple of years back, while sitting in the new Afghan restaurant our neighbor had just opened, eating some wonderful kebabs with a couple of friends. They just kept gushing, “This is so good! We should do this again! We should do this once a month!” The Significant Other and I are not especially social people…..we hardly socialize at all. Given this, I thought our gushing friend’s idea was terrific, and so we all decided to get together the following month. But when the next month rolled around and I tried to set it up, I discovered this was just lip service, because every weekend was met with varied excuses. The month following that produced only more of the same vapid response. Finally, I gave up asking. It was really too bad, because meeting friends over food, especially people you don’t have a chance to see often when life just seems to get in the way, or especially when you tend to avoid social situations, is a rather nice connection I think. It was an idea that was shot down before it began. I was disappointed, but I have to say I think it’s their loss.
Fortunately, the idea was revived with some very good, not-very-social friends who are into maintaining those connections and are also serious foodies who are up for monthly restaurant exploration and a little hanging out. We all boldly came out of our shells to meet on a fairly regular basis. And so The Dinner Club seems to have been born after all.
Afghan Kebab House. French Bistro. Northern Italian. Neapolitan Italian. Seafood. Classic American. Nouveau Cuisine. Japanese sushi. Thai/Chinese fusion. Indian. Tapas bar. The list of what is out there and a mere few blocks away is impressive. Some of these places we have returned to, some we have decided not to return to, and some are yet to be discovered. We have visited both the established and the brand new ventures. A routine seems to be evolving.
Dinner Club has occurred about once a month on a Saturday night, between 6:00 and 6:30pm, when our friends arrive. A few days before this, we decide what kind of food we might want, banter around some ideas, and then I will make the reservation. I don’t know what goes on at their place in the hours prior to their leaving, but at our house it is an incentive to tidy up. Significant Other will usually have worked that day and will often get home less than an hour beforehand. He will be tired but hungry. He will retreat to his Man-Cave, where he will lie in front of the television, beached like a walrus on the couch. I will have to prompt him to put on a clean shirt.
Our friends will arrive when they say they will, almost always upbeat, and sometimes, while not expected, we often have some sort of cool little surprise for each other; a CD of music just discovered, a book to share, a project in the works to show, some chocolate, some cuttings from a plant. It could be anything, or nothing too. We exchange pleasantries, drink some ice water or hot tea, and then we will inevitably stand there and wait for the SO to put on his shoes at the very last-minute before we head out the door to make dinner by 7:00pm.
We have made some discoveries. We have realized that 7:00pm on a Saturday night guarantees a crowded place. We have tried to adjust the time but we can’t pull it together to do that, so this is what it is. We have found that some of these restaurants are acoustically uncomfortable and we have decided the noise level is too much, so in spite of the good food, we will not be back to those – at least not at that busy hour. My friend tells me that there is actually an acoustic rating given by restaurant reviewers, but I don’t think this feature is occurring in our area yet, although I think it is a wonderful idea. We have discovered a couple of restaurants that are expensive but worth it, and some that are not.
We are in search of the economical also, but often we end up pigging out on the appetizers, and then at least two – sometimes three of us, will order a drink, so we usually spend more than we expect. At the end of the meal we will say we are too full for dessert and often end getting one anyway, or at least splitting one or two between us.
We are food critics in our own minds. We rate the calamari and the tiramisu. We discuss the speed of service, the presentation, our waiter/waitress, even the chef or the owner if they make an appearance. We note the decor and ambiance. We chat about other stuff. We decided if it was a success and if we should return some other time.
Afterwards, on the way to the car, two of the four will stop outside the restaurant for a quick smoke. The other two who don’t smoke will always make a little comment about that when they join them. We will laugh. Then we will head back to the house where we will hang out in the front room and relax. We usually find ourselves in the same seating for some reason. Inevitably, the SO will eventually get quieter and quieter until he starts to nod off and the evening winds to a close.
I look forward to Dinner Club – both the food and the company. It sounds like such a suburban, middle-class thing to do, or at the very least a “grown-up” thing to do, but somehow when we get together, in many ways it is as if we are back in our twenties. At least it feels that way to me, and it is a good feeling. We have batted around some interests that might even expand our horizons; taking advantage of what the area has to offer beyond restaurants – things like historic tours, music, art.
Ironically, I don’t think any of us are overly social individuals. As a matter of fact, we jokingly refer to ourselves as The Anti-Socialites. Having this collective routine and steady contact fills that space for me. It gets all of us out in the world for a little while. Dinner Club for the Anti-Socialites. I would love to hear others share how they preserve their friendships and ties through distance and these busy times.