Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Big Valentine's Day Celebration

Twelve years ago, my husband proposed to me on Valentine's Day. He knew it was the one day of the year when I'd never expect anything romantic. We had never marked the holiday in the years we were together, partly because we saw it as unnecessary, silly, and commercial — why not express your feelings and do nice, romantic things all year long? — and partly in solidarity with many of our single friends, who find the holiday depressing. 

That night after work in 1997, we decided to have dinner in a restaurant/bar on the way home. After our cheeseburgers, he pulled out a ring box. With jazz blasting away and astonished diners sitting shoulder-to-shoulder beside us, I was too stunned to hear everything he said or to even reply. But I accepted the ring. The next day, I got another surprise: a charming "re-do" proposal at home, which I could hear.

Since we've been married, I don't think we've ever gone out to dinner on V.D., excluding burritos at Anna's. I've always thought red roses were predictable and dreary, and the long-stemmed ones are freaks. (Miniature organic sunflowers look better on our mantel, anyway.) We're far too money-conscious to enjoy eating in a restaurant that's raised it's already-overpriced prices just because it's February 14. So we might go out on the 13th. Or the 15th. And we are celebrating our engagement nowadays, not V.D.

This year, we had lunch on the 13th at our local favorite, Petit Robert, in Kenmore Square. It's a classic, classy, French bistro with a wondrously varied lunch menu that's served til 5 o'clock. The dining room is elegant but comfortable, with crisp linens and shining silver, attentive and friendly service, French background music, candlelight as soon as it's dark, and heaps of charm in general. 

We both had our usual, the Parisian Hot Dog, which is a thousand times better than any hot dog in Paris (and we tried 'em, so we know). This one arrives hidden in a warm and crusty homemade baguette, smothered under a quantity of melted cheese that even we find excessive — although we wouldn't dream of complaining! Also on the plate are a pile of slender pommes frites and a mesclun salad with mustardy vinaigrette. We always ask for their homemade mayo for the frites, and there are little sauceboats of all the other condiments, too. We ordered Cokes (what else can you have with a hot dog besides a Coke?). We lingered as the lunch crowd disappeared, and had a marvelous time. 

Finishing such a meal takes time and stamina. We were too full for dessert (the white chocolate bread pudding is excellent) so we ordered cocoa and capuccino to help us face the five-block walk home in the cold. The cost of this memorable afternoon: $30, including a good tip. If only Petit Robert had been around in 1997 — how I would have loved receiving a proposal there!

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