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Something Different. Something Special.


porcupine
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In a few weeks Mr P and I will reach a significant milestone, and I'd like to celebrate somehow. Thing is, we are both pretty much over fine dining, blowouts have never been our style anyway, and we can't eat (or can't let ourselves eat) the sheer volume of food involved in most tasting menu type dinners.

I'd love to surprise him with something like two plane tickets to Montreal and a weekend of trying new places there, but we have to leave the next morning for a weekend in New Jersey. Also, jet-setting is out of my budget...

We've been to most of the high-end places in this area. The ones we haven't been to I'm not interested in anyway, mostly because what other people deem "excellent service" I deem "annoying". Neither of us like being fussed over.* Great food, yes, but leave me alone to enjoy it.

In the recent past I've surprised him with things like specially-arranged dinners where the menu was done just for him, featuring his favorite foods (the tasting room at Restaurant Eve, Masa 14). So it's not just where to eat, it's what to do.

Current favorite restaurants (for reference): A&J, BlackSalt, Cork, Dino, Estadio, Et Voila!, Fiola, Palena Cafe.

Help me brainstorm? Thanks.

* best service ever: Inn at Little Washington, sometime around 1990. Waiters were invisible until about 30 seconds after you set your glass down, and then it was refilled and you never even noticed. Invisible until you looked up and scanned the room; they were there to be seen and responded instantly to eye contact (and usually knew already what I wanted; how did they do that?). They weren't freakin' interruptin' us every five minutes to ask how everything is, add one inch of water to a glass, ask if he wanted another iced tea before the first glass was 1/3 emtpy, describe the next course, fold our napkins, wipe our chins.... you see where I'm going with this.

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I'm not sure if this is a direction you're going with the request, but if you're driving to NJ, maybe you could leave a day early and go somewhere in Philadelphia and stay there overnight at a nice place. (I don't really have specifics for you, but there's my idea :) .)

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I too thought about the private chef thing- maybe someone who could give you a class on making something you generally wouldn't make for yourself at home. My co-worker did this with Carla Hall and his Wife loved it, they both had a great time.

But lots of good ideas above.

If you really wanted dinner, what about the lounge at CityZen- only three courses, you can sit at the bar and it's casual, nice atmosphere.

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This thread has jogged my memory quite a bit. You might want to think outside the box and do something relatively simple. When my mother had another stroke which required her to go into care, and required me to be in El Paso for some indefinite time, Dame Edna and I jumped on the Metro just before I had to leave. It was clearly therapy for me, but it turned out to be wonderfully enjoyable. We hit all the museums we could stand. This was in early 2002, so the Building Museum had an exhibition of all the photos taken by some professional in NYC who started taking pictures of the World Trade Center Buildings as they were being built--and was there when they come down. We hit the National Gallery of Art and looked at all our favorites, and proceeded to places I can't remember. All it cost was the price of our subway and bus fares. The weather was lovely, for that time of year, and we walked around this beautiful city and had the most perfect day. The memory of that was a real help to me in the ensuing weeks when I had to clean out my mother's house and was far removed from everything I had come to know and love.

When you are lucky enough to married to the love of your life for a long time, elaborate plans for some big celebration kind of get in the way. In my experience, guys just don't care about that stuff. Especially if they are required to wear a tie.

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Here's what I would do.

Provisions: An FM radio with a speaker and maybe some magnetic playing cards. An umbrella, two chairs and a drinks cooler.

Time: One full day

Cost: Maybe $300ish, if a motel room is required.

I'd go to Ocean City, NJ. Yes, it has lots of kids and families, but that's because it is a dry shore town - so it is wildly popular but not wild, and not pretentious.

I'd stay near the heart of the boardwalk, around 8th street plus or minus.

AM: Wake up and head to the north end of the boardwalk for some Ove's or Brown's fresh doughnuts. Maybe eggs too. Relax, watch the people go by on the boards.

If there's some time, after breakfast rent a surrey and cruise the boards until bikes and surreys are kicked off - 10 or 11am.

Then head to Jilly's arcade and play pinball and skeeball. Spend an hour finding what machines you like, then another hour or so playing competitions on each other's machines...or just to see how well you can each play.

Get some Manco and Manco's pizza for lunch. Brave the crowds if you must.

Nap time. Leave some doors/windows open.

Afternoon - if it isn't too hot, go to the beach. Play cards with your magnetic cards, (something classic like canasta or cribbage) and listen to one of the 6 or 7 oldies stations on the radio as you sit under your umbrella. Just let time slip away.

Talk big plans. Talk about owning a house with 30+ rooms, or how you'd run a billion dollar business. Talk about grand gatherings of friends and committing to bansai trees. That kind of stuff. Enjoy sodas or tea from your little cooler. Walk along the beach and look for sea glass, as you have plans to make a giant chandellier from it.

For Dinner, maybe Luigi's sitdown or Voltaco's take out Italian if your place to stay has a nice table to sit at. Maybe go to Charlie's Bar for a crowded NJ experience but kinda decent (bar) food. Or just hit the boards again for fries and maybe a sausage sandwich.

Then head to Gillian's Wonderland and ride the carousel and the ferris wheel. Shoot the water guns and maybe hit the tilt-a-whirl. Or maybe just sit and just watch and listen to it all.

Lastly, end the evening back on the beach with your radio. Assuming this is a weekend night, at 9pm tune to 98.3, where the "Geator with the Heater" is DJing at his bar a few miles away in Margate and broadcasting it live on the radio. Dance the night away to Motown and later some disco. You'll hear Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops and later folks like Heatwave and Donna Summer. It'll be hard to remain seated. When you can't take any more, get a softserve on the way back to the room.

A few years ago I was returning a surrey after my rental was up. It was nice morning and an older gentleman approached me - "hey, is that worth it?" he asked..."Well," I replied, "I spend all year looking forward to my time here at the beach with my immediate and extended family. Once we're here, I look forward to the morning we pick to go rent a surrey and ring the bell as we join the parade up and down the boards. Worth it? I hadn't looked at this way, but to some degree my entire year culminates here, at this time and place. And yeah, it's worth ALL of that."

The mere fact that you're giving it some thought means it will be special and 'worth it' - almost no matter what you choose. I wish you well!

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Or maybe my OC, NJ idea isn't in the cards. Maybe just sit at one end of the reflecting pool on the mall (or near the Franklin Roosevelt memorial, my fave) and bring a picnic. Talk about how elaborate the picnic food will be - and then have it be PB&J on Wonderbread and a cold can of Mug rootbeer. Delicious!

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Such great ideas. Now I'm really thinking.

Driving to Philladelphia, NYC, Atlantic City are out, because we'll be towing a racecar on an open trailer: not fun to maneuver in a city, not secure enough to dump anywhere. Otherwise, I'd probably have chosen something like that.

Private chef is out, because Mr P HATES to cook (though I'd have a blast). After many years I finally taught him how to boil spaghetti and heat sauce from a jar. I'm not joking.

Hot air balloon ride, winery tour: not on a Wednesday night, and Mr. P doesn't drink*, BUT Tweaked's suggestion reminded me that we've never been to Pawtomack Farm... which isn't open on Wednesdays. But I made a reservation for the weekend before anyway. :-) Thanks!

I'd also forgotten about Ashby Inn, which is now a leading contender. It sounds charmingly pastoral. The other is Mealey's Table, because that's where we went for a late nosh by ourselves after the wedding, which was at Old South Mountain Inn, outside on the patio before they closed it in ( http://www.donrockwe...showtopic=17597 ). Actually that's where I want to go, but Mr P, who is usually Mr. Nostalgia, vetoed that.

Barbara, jayandstacey: your posts reminded me of one year when we were watching every dollar so that we could buy a house; our anniversary celebration was a day trip to Rehobeth Beach and a carryout pizza from Zio's. Funny, Mr P is usually the one who wants to dress up and have a big celebration; this year I'm the one being all nostalgic... But, Barbara, your point's well taken.

Thanks, all, for the brainstorming.

*okay, how do I post just the link to youtube without posting the actual video?!

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Hot air balloon ride, winery tour: not on a Wednesday night, and Mr. P doesn't drink*, BUT Tweaked's suggestion reminded me that we've never been to Pawtomack Farm... which isn't open on Wednesdays. But I made a reservation for the weekend before anyway. :-) Thanks!

My wife and I went to Pawtomack Farm a few weekends ago - wonderful idea.

Barbara, jayandstacey: your posts reminded me of one year when we were watching every dollar so that we could buy a house; our anniversary celebration was a day trip to Rehobeth Beach and a carryout pizza from Zio's. Funny, Mr P is usually the one who wants to dress up and have a big celebration; this year I'm the one being all nostalgic... But, Barbara, your point's well taken.

I think back on the days 15 years ago when my wife and I took a weekend up to Skyline drive and paid for the whole trip from our penny jar...literally down to the penny, eating at homestyle places and staying in a cabin. This weekend we're headed downtown, paying for the hotel on credit card points and going to Eola. Am I happier now? I'm happy as can be, but can't really say i'm MORE happy than 15 years ago.

Which is the beauty of happiness I suppose - it doesn't always correlate to money, luxury, etc. Sometimes the fun of 'different' outweighs the fun that comes from money and luxury, which is why I think the occasional PB&J that I make on a Saturday seems SO jarringly good.

I suppose it's nice to have the option to go to these nice, expensive places and enjoy meals that transcend all else...but when I think back on the happiest moment in my last (say) 6 months, I was pulling slices off a pizza to share with my kids as we sat at the counter at a place in NJ in the middle of winter. i think the bill was around $20. :)

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I will heartily second an overnight stay at the Ashby Inn.

My wife and I stayed in the "Fan Room" which is DIRECTLY above the restaurant. It was great to be sipping port before dinner while the sun set over the mountains and the scents of the kitchen wafted up through the open doors of our balcony.

Then we went downstairs and ate our fill of the food that was producing said scents.

And then, drunk and full, all we had to do was head upstairs.

It was perfect.

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I'd also forgotten about Ashby Inn, which is now a leading contender. It sounds charmingly pastoral. The other is Mealey's Table, because that's where we went for a late nosh by ourselves after the wedding, which was at Old South Mountain Inn, outside on the patio before they closed it in ( http://www.donrockwe...showtopic=17597 ). Actually that's where I want to go, but Mr P, who is usually Mr. Nostalgia, vetoed that.

I heard they are closing (if they aren't closed already). Maybe he will change his mind if he knows it's his last chance?

ETA: Yes, already closed: link. Unless there's a second Mealey's Table somewhere else?

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Although it is a tasting menu, Eola would be a great option, as I found the service to be low-key but professional. Another option would be to pick up provisions at Society Fair (including a nice bottle of wine), head south on the GW parkway, and find a nice spot along the Potomac for a picnic.

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Thanks for suggestions, everyone. We went to Pawtomack Farm and had a really lovely time; nothing beats dining al fresco on a summer evening, and the food was excellent. We also went to Woodberry Kitchen for brunch. What a nifty place that is! (And we also went to a baseball game for the first time, but that's another story.)

Mr P has vetoed driving to Ashby Inn on a weeknight but we will be going there on a weekend soon. He's chosen a current favorite for the night itself.

And, I now have lots of ideas for weekends for the rest of the season. :) I think it's safe to say I was in a rut and am getting out of it now.

donrockwell.com rocks.

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