It was still very much a beautiful day in the late afternoon of Sunday April 14th when we finished with Engaged Encounter. We walked through the Fan back to the VCU campus for one final meeting, and afterward decided that we would really like to have an outdoor dinner.
First, we walked by a place called Buddy’s that looked like what we were wanting, but the patio was teeming with college kids (http://buddysplace.net/). Just one block away, there was a practically identical looking joint called Curbside that wasn’t busy at all (http://curbsiderichmond.com/). I’d love it if somebody more familiar with these two places could explain why one seems so preferred.
Instead of taking this as some kind of indication, we took our tired little selves to the patio and ordered dinner. Rob had the chicken salad club, which merged homemade chicken salad with slices of roast turkey, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and unnecessary slices of bread that make club sandwiches what they are. Pretty good!
I took a much less dainty approach and had a plain ol’ cheeseburger. They had a pretty impressive burger selection, cleverly named after towns in Virginia (e.g. “The Williamsburger”). I don’t know why I didn’t get the Unicorn Burger, which mixed ground beef with ground bacon, but for some reason I just needed it straight. All in all, this was a pretty straightforward, cheap American food restaurant, and it was just what we were looking for to put the stamp on our official completion of marriage preparation.
By this point, you guys are probably just as excited for us to get out of this cafeteria as we are, but this was the last meal we had at the Engaged Encounter weekend (http://engagedencounter.org/). Once we returned from mass and attended a few more short presentations, we had these little guys waiting for us.
The night before, the coordinators asked us to fill out these little sheets so they could order us box lunch’s from Jason’s Deli (http://www.jasonsdeli.com/). I’d never had Jason’s Deli before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Add a small cardboard box to the equation and it was all just a very fun surprise.
I ordered the Turkey Jack, which was a mound of thinly sliced turkey breast, topped with lettuce, roasted red peppers, red onion, avocado, and pepperjack cheese, all between two fluffy croissant halves.
I’ve got to be honest, I have no idea what Rob had. Maybe I was just so surprised that a catered lunch at a church event from a deli chain could actually be good that I stopped paying attention to his half of the table. I did manage to take a girthy picture of my turkey.
I’m not a huge fan of avocados (shame), but I really did like my sandwich a lot. The turkey was really moist, the combination of fresh and spicy toppings were a great combination, and I’ve never met a croissant I didn’t like. Our box lunches were a pretty cute ensemble, complete with sandwich, chips, pickle, and cookie. This must be when I started paying attention to Rob again.
Pretty good lunch aside, I wanted to tell you that we really enjoyed and benefited from the Engaged Encounter weekend. I was worried that it would be soul-baring and invasive, full of cheesy group activities and holding hands and kumbaya and all of that. But we sat, we listened, and then we broke off to talk to each other about a lot of topics, whether religious, spiritual, or secular, that are important for couples to discuss before marriage. I gauged the success of the event by non-Catholic Rob’s response to the whole thing, and it couldn’t have been better - he even recommended to some non-Catholic friends in New York that they find a program and do it. It had a few awkward and uncomfortable moments, and we didn’t necessarily agree with every single message that came our way. But we’re a better couple for it, and we had some good food, too.
We left Benedictine High School late on Saturday night, only to return dreadfully early the next morning. We were back in their fun little cafeteria for breakfast before early morning mass they were having on their campus.
As tired as we were, we sure couldn’t complain about having something to eat. They provided us with the same breakfast items we’d had the day before (that I didn’t document because I wasn’t sure how to navigate the situation yet), so you get to see them now!
The main items were Chobani Greek yogurt with fruit at the bottom to mix in, a medley of fresh melons, and of course a lot of coffee. I have never bought Chobani yogurt on my own because it costs like five dollars for one little carton, but I like to eat them when they’re provided for me. Unfortunately for that morning, I made the mistake of straying from my usual peach flavor to strawberry. Not as good. And I’m allergic to all types of melon (fun fact), so I left the medley to my better half.
Rob was brave enough to try the hot-ticket item, a Jimmy Dean sausage egg and cheese biscuit, still in the plastic packaging. I really can’t say how or if they were heated or prepared, but I tried one bite and didn’t need another. Even if it had been hot, the muffin was hard and dry, the sausage was questionable, and who knows if that could actually be a real egg. I wouldn’t go tracking those down at the supermarket anytime soon.
Rob illustrates his 7 am face for me between bites, so thoughtful! Anyway, after our little breakfast, we sauntered across the parking lot to St. Benedict Catholic Church for mass with the rest of the Engaged Encounter group. Just a few more hours to go, and we would be considered prepared!
We continued to spend Saturday April 13th at our Catholic marriage prep weekend of fun (http://engagedencounter.org/). We would listen to presentations on important topics for a good marriage (trust, forgiveness, etc). and then retreat to little classrooms in the Catholic high school where each couple would spend time discussing those topics. I was grateful for this time alone with Rob, where we could talk about these things in private rather than in front of an audience of other couples, like I feared it would be.
Despite the fact that food was not one of these important topics, we worked up quite an appetite this way. We were very fortunate that the folks running the show had a very nice dinner catered in from Maggiano’s (http://www.maggianos.com/en/Pages/home.aspx).
I had only had Maggiano’s once before, and it was so long ago that it was actually with a different guy (gasp!), so I was really looking forward to trying it again. They offered chicken parmesan, baked ziti, cheese ravioli, caesar salad, and rolls. By the time we got through the line, there was only one cheese ravioli in alfredo sauce left, so we shared it and lamented that we didn’t have more because it was quite good.
But the rest was surprisingly good as well. My expectations weren’t too high, but the chicken parmesan was really really good, and the baked ziti had the perfect cheese to sauce to noodle ratio. The salad was a little hard to eat because the hunks of lettuce were so big, but I do like a good caesar salad.
We finished our dinner with a selection of many desserts, from which we chose chocolate cake and creme brulee. Both were delicious, and we enjoyed them alongside one of the nice couples who was in charge of the weekend. It was nice to talk to them and hear about their marriage while we worked on our own impending one. I was truly surprised with the bold Italian flavors and substance of this meal, and we were very satisfied with the the all-around quality of our dinner.
On Saturday April 13th, Rob and got up at like six in the morning to walk from my apartment near VCU, through the Fan, allllllll the way to Benedictine High School, an all-boys Catholic school where our required Catholic marriage prep Engaged Encounter weekend was to be held. The fed us some breakfast and gave us some nametags - each of us got to be both of us! This was already a fun day.
I wasn’t sure about the protocol here for taking pictures…I didn’t have my real camera, nor did I feel it would make much sense for me to whip one out in the middle of this high school cafeteria. So I managed a few iPhone shots, the first of which falling over lunch that day.
They fed us noms from Moe’s Southwest Grill (http://www.moes.com/), which we ate as we discussed some of the workbook activities from that morning (and in case you’re curious, we finally did come to understand ourselves). They provided rice, beans, peppers and onions, two tortillas per person, chicken, steak, and chips and salsa. I only stuffed one of my tortillas and was mostly interested in chips and salsa, but the steak was pretty good.
After his first overstuffed taco (he didn’t exactly leave room for Jesus), Rob concluded that the chicken wasn’t so good. But I’ve never been too big of a Moe’s fan myself, so I wasn’t too let down. Granted, we didn’t know what to expect out of this weekend in any capacity, so we were happy just to be fed anything over and above communion wafers. Not the most memorable Mexican food in the world, but in combination with the other pretty good meals they had yet to give us (and of course the marriage tips and Jesus lessons), it was on its way to worth the registration fee.
On the night of Friday April 12th, Rob and I decided to have dinner at a place in the Church Hill district of Richmond called The Roosevelt (http://rooseveltrva.com/). Rob has been really into fancy and old-school type cocktail beverages, and he found this place to be reputable in that area. So, we went. Isn’t it so cute?
We ordered a couple of cocktails from their signature list - he had The Seersucker (M
We had our cocktails with the most unique poutine I could ever imagine. These golden french fries were slathered in pimento cheese and HAM GRAVY. The pimento was what threw me - so unconventional, but so good! Loved it.
Soon after, our entrees arrived. Rob had the scallops you see above. These five little sweethearts were served on top of thick, cheesy
I got the catfish sandwich, which got a helping of buttermilk slaw and remoulade between the buns. The diameter was more like a slider, but the catfish filet itself was very thick, and it filled me right up.
Especially when paired with this teeny little cast iron dish of shells and cheese! I have to say, I wish they had more than their four options for sides. While the mac and cheese was good, by that point I was expecting much more.
We had a great time at The Roosevelt. The ambiance was great, Rob got to have some of the cocktails he’d so desperately been craving, and the menu had a very unique variety. One thing I like about The Roosevelt is that the portion sizes are much more appropriate than the gigantic helpings you get at most restaurants these days. We left feeling like we’d found a really great spot in Richmond that served good food and paid a strong homage to the history of the city.
The next time I saw Rob was on Friday, April 12th. He came to Richmond for a short weekend so that we could do our Catholic marriage prep course, which took nearly every waking minute of his trip. But when he arrived on Friday, I took him to a late lunch in the Manchester district of Richmond called Camden’s Dogtown Market (http://cdmrva.com/)
It’s in a building called the Corrugated Box, which is an office shared by lots of creative minds, including Tumblr! I went there once a few months before to attend a public session on book publishing, and I knew Rob would really enjoy seeing the space. Very designery. And there just so happened to be this cute market/restaurant on the first floor.
We ordered our lunch in a room festooned with dog pictures (we actually saw the depicted dog hanging out at the bar!). Rob had the above short-rib sandwich, which was on special that day. I was special that day, too…Apparently this is how I look when I’m talking and don’t know he’s taking pictures. Scary.
I was surprised by my order - I thought it was going to be a potato salad, but really it was salad…with fingerling potatoes in it! The potatoes were the best part, and so were the anchovies…yum! The toasted bread was also really, really good. But the greens and the vinaigrette were just okay.
This was a very unique little spot. Rob’s sandwich was all right, it was a little chewy, and the meat reminded me a little more of jerky than barbecue. We probably won’t put it on the re-do list any time too soon, but I’m glad we went, saw the space, and had bite to eat. The service was very good, and the market that made up the other half of the restaurant was really cute. Maybe we’ll just have to try some different menu items if we find ourselves there again.
Lucky for me, our wonderful day wasn’t over yet. After our visit to the waterfront, we decided to walk back up through Brooklyn Heights, where we stopped to see Cher’s house from Moonstruck (hilarious). Once there, we figured we’d already come that far on such a beautiful night, that we’d just walk home.
We didn’t make it that far. Junior’s cheesecake had been on my mind for the past few days, so it may or may not have been an accident that we ended up there (http://www.juniorscheesecake.com/). You may recognize it from a trip we took with our buddies Tyson and Kristen almost exactly a year before (http://omnomwithrob.tumblr.com/post/23106044980/you-ask-a-lot-of-questions-when-you-eat).
Based on our experience during that previous trip, we decided to share a slice of the chocolate mousse cheesecake. Though a chocolate lover, I typically prefer my cheesecake plain, unless the chocolate involved is just amazing.
This fits the bill. From the fudgy layer on top, through the creamy mousse, to the cheesecake layer on the bottom, all the way back to the chocolate chips on the spine, this slice was absolutely divine. Clearly Rob would agree.
This was perfection down to the very last bite. I’m so glad we could agree on a flavor, because two slices of this goodness, while tempting, would have been way too much food. It was just right. After leaving a chocolately stamp of approval on my napkin, and we were ready to walk it off all the way back to Park Slope.
I’m not sure why I treasure this day so much, but I really do. We never left Brooklyn, but we saw and did so many things that we’d never seen or done before. And of course, we had some amazing food. I think this has just been a really stressful semester, seldom leaving the work on my computer, never feeling like I’m really living. It feels good to look back on days like this one and remember how it feels to spend time experiencing the world with someone I love. Who just so happens to be getting his masters degree today. :)
Saturday, March 9th was one of the best days of my life. We started at Milk Bar of course, followed by bookstores, playing catch in a park, and going to mass at a beautiful church in Park Slope together. For dinner, Rob wanted to take me to Dumbo (“Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), an area of Brooklyn where I’d never been before.
I was craving Mexican, so we found Pedro’s (http://www.pedrosdumbo.net/), a divey looking place with about four inches between every table.
We ordered a pair of margaritas, which came in cute mason jars. Rustic, barnyard chic isn’t exactly where my mind goes when I think of Mexican food, but I could get down with it. When mine arrived, I took one look at it and said, “I’m so sorry, but I ordered a peach one.” The waiter tried to convince me that it WAS peach, but I mean look at it.
Didn’t taste peachy either, but whatever, it was still good. Rob thought he could detect a hint of it. Anyway, ordering our dinner was actually really tricky. The menu was kind of confusing, and I thought “taco basket” was most likely a basket of tacos. Nope. It was a big taco bowl thing, so then I tried to order the trio of tacos and choose different meats for them. Again, nope…if you had tacos, they all had to be the same meat.
So I ordered beef type tacos, and they were very pretty to look at - very difficult to eat. I had never before understood the utility of using two tortillas instead of one, but these very small, singular, paper-thin tortillas resulted in a big mess. Still, they tasted good, and the toppings in accompaniment with the lime juice tasted fresh and light.
Rob decided to have enchiladas. I can’t remember what kind of meat he got - again, they all had to be the same meat, and I think he got chicken. The grated cheese on top was something I’d never seen on an enchilada before, and overall, they were all right.
I am really not a rice and beans type, but Rob is! So he also got this big ol’ plate that was so much more food than the enchiladas themselves.
I’ve gotta say, this didn’t quite satisfy my Mexican fix. I honestly think I’ve become high maintenance for Mexican food, such that I’m picky if it’s too nice. I prefer it greasy, cheesy, and cheap, with a margarita that could have come out of a slushy machine. But this was still a fun experience in a new part of town (new to me, anyway).
After dinner, Rob walked me down to the waterfront, and we watched Manhattan from across the river, to the occasional clickety clack of an orange line train over the bridge. If he hadn’t proposed to me already, I would have sworn it was coming, and I welcomed him to do it again. I was so happy to be there with him that night.
While Rob and I were out the night before, we spotted a place that Rob said he really wanted to take me. So he did! On the morning of Saturday, March 9th, we found ourselves at the corner of Vanderbilt and Prospect Place at that cafe called Milk Bar (http://www.milkbarbrooklyn.com/index.html).
It was so cute inside! We finagled a place to sit amid the exposed brick and hardwood and ordered a cup of coffee while deciding what to have for brunch. I settled on the “cheddar biscuit breakfast sandwich.”
When it first appeared, I was sad because it looked a bit small. But by the end, there was no more sadness. The two scrambled eggs in the clutches of a homemade chive and cheddar biscuit and smothered in the most AMAZING “spicy aioli” were more than enough for me. I thought the aioli was cheese when I first saw it, which ought to tell you it wasn’t too spicy, but it was SO flavorful. I spoke too soon about the sadness being gone - I was a little down when I couldn’t finish the last bite. So good.
Rob had the most picturesque little plate of biscuits and gravy. Though they weren’t of the cheddar and chive variety, these buttermilk biscuits were a little fluffier and light than mine were, and the sausage gravy was very traditional with an occasional burst of green onion. He had his topped with a soft-poached egg, which led to a discussion of poaching, and we decided we’d give it a try sometime.
This was a great meal. Something I’ve noticed about New York, Brooklyn in particular, is that everyone on the outside thinks it’s so selfish and impersonal. Yet I have never been in a place in the whole world that fostered more togetherness - more sharing of space, more sharing of resources, and more company at your table than you might have in another city or suburb. Surely this is a function of the tight quarters in the city, but it certainly warms your heart when you walk into a crowded restaurant and other folks clear a place for you at their table. Sure they’ve got boundaries…I mean, they probably won’t strike up a conversation with you, which is what makes it bearable for me. But this quiet, unspoken kindness is an experience I feel everyone should have.