Monday, February 2, 2009

The Joule of Wallingford

There is a tiny restaurant in Wallingford that goes by the name of Joule. On winter Sundays, they dispense with their everyday menu and offer up a theme dinner for the bargain price of $20 per person. Add to this the fact that they also offer house wine for only $4 a glass and, well, this is a deal that's hard to beat in this city.

But what's really hard to beat is the story of how Michael, Liz, and I finally made it to our dinner reservation there last night.

It started out simply enough. Michael and I motored our way down Lake City Way, heading onto Roosevelt on our way to Liz's place.

"Aren't you going to turn here?" Michael asked innocently when I drove past the Roosevelt Safeway.

"No, Liz told me this morning her house is on 70th, I'll turn there." I had, in fact, dropped Liz off at her place before, but it had been awhile, it had been after dark, and I'd never bothered to remember which street it was on anyway. Momentarily I pulled up across from a house on 70th. Michael hesitated.

"This isn't right," he told me.

"Well, this is what she told me. Come on, get out of the car, and go see if she's there." Honestly, it didn't look right to me either, but I was positive Liz had said 70th... that morning after church, with the fellowship hall full of the clamor of post-service chat.... and I was talking with that new guy... he was standing between us... OK, OK, this sounded bad, but I had repeated it back to her, and had gotten confirmation in the affirmative; this had to be right.

Michael was still unconvinced. We were running late by now, and I impatiently urged him to get into the car while I checked. I lightly ran up the steps of the craftsman on the corner and peeked through the window, only to find a living room that looked very much like an actual living room, complete with mission style furnishings and lovely artwork. In short, it looked nothing like the rental house where Liz lived with seven guys would actually look. I ran across the street, trying to get my bearings. All the houses looked like perfect mini-craftsmens, the kind where middle-class urban families settle when they decide to have children, or at least a family dog. Something was wrong.

It was then that I realized something was more than wrong, something was downright sinister. Michael, and the car, were gone.

OK, Ruth Ann, don't panic. Think, think.

My first thought was to run down the street screaming, "Liz!" I even tried that once or twice, then realized I should be thankful that everyone was probably watching the Superbowl and therefore unable to hear me make a fool of myself. Then, it came to me. 70th Street sounds an awful lot like 75th street, when you think about it... could it be?

I spun on a dime and started running uphill towards 75th. I didn't even pause when I passed the man lugging his Christmas tree as he trudged up the sidewalk; this whole experience was turning surreal. Who takes out their Christmas tree in February? And why carry it for five blocks? I had no time to ask such questions, however; I was almost there.

Liz, however, was not there at all. Three of the guys, all wearing hoodies, answered the door about a minute after I rang. "Someone was coming to give her a ride," one of them offered.

"Yes," I responded, "That would be be me."

Dejectedly, I stood on the sidewalk in my shirtsleeves, warm from my recent run. Surely, I thought, Michael must have realized where Liz was and come to pick her up, and surely he would come back to find me - although, having been left stranded once already at 70th, I wasn't feeling particularly optimistic.

Then, just as I was pondering whether to wait or head back down the hill, our little Vibe pulled up to the traffic light. Michael and Liz were both inside. We made it to our reservation (thankfully John, the other member of our party, had had the good sense to arrive on time), and sat down to a lovely meal. Hot duck noodle soup, ginger roasted carrots, and chicken rolled and stuffed with sticky rice, gingko nuts, and dates were just some of the delightful dishes included in our prix-fixe meal.

At the end of the evening, we stirred sponnfuls of honey studded with finely shredded quince into hot water to create a soothing tea. The theme for the evening's supper had been "Cure for the Common Cold", and each ingredient was purported to have specific health benefits. I'm not sure if dates really have a "calming effect", but we all felt relaxed as the meal drew to a close.

I look forward to another winter supper at Joule soon, but next time I don't plan on running up any hills to work up an appetite.

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