Sunday, January 01, 2006

 

A New Year’s Eve Near Miss

Boston originated what is now a widespread phenomenon, “First Night” festivities on New Year's Eve. Shouldn't that be “Last Night?” No matter, from noon until midnight, across the city, there are film screenings, art shows, dance performances and music recitals. I took the #1 bus across the river into Boston to check it out.

After several hours of walking around and taking in some short films and ice sculptures, David and I needed a drink and a snack, so we ducked into Jer*Ne at the New Ritz Carlton, just across the street from the Boston Common.

The bar is cozy and warm with a great people-watching view both inside and outside. Byron the Manager ensured that we felt welcome and taken care of, fielding our many queries and requests as we parked ourselves for several hours.

After restoring ourselves with Crab Cakes and Champagne, we contemplated starting the New Year with a Random App of Kindness. The crab cake was large and dense with crabmeat, light on any filler. It sat atop an orange-saffron aioli, with a salad of spinach and orange segments. While we enjoyed it tremendously, we were not sure that it had universal appeal.

A gentleman sat down at a table in the window, set for 3 people. He ordered a round of drinks for himself and his companions that had yet to arrive. David and I began to peruse the menu… the shrimp and avocado quesadilla seemed the perfect Random App, who doesn't like quesadillas? The gentleman’s companions, two women, arrived before the drinks did. With barely a “hello,” they asked where the drinks were. We eavesdropped onto the ensuing banter; we knew they would be a fun group to send a random app.

We whispered to our friend Byron to send the shrimp quesadilla. He then passed the word onto their waitress (and, of course, a message to our waitress to put the dish on our bill), with the final request from us, that they should not know in advance. Somewhere in this game of “telephone,” the waitress understood that we did not want her to tell the diners ever who sent the random app. So when the waitress placed down the quesadilla, she said it was from a “Secret Santa.”

We watched with animated anticipation as to how they would react. A couple sitting at the next table also ordered the quesadilla, so we were feeling rather confident that we had made a good choice. One woman didn't touch it, the other examined it rather like a surgeon, peeling back the tortilla to peer at the filling. The gentleman announced that he was allergic to shrimp. Byron quickly swooped in, offering to exchange the quesadilla for something they could all enjoy, but the modest guests refused to look the gift app in the mouth.

This seemed a good opportunity to let Secret Santa remain secret, and let this random app fall through the cracks, but the wine had killed our poker faces, and they quickly realized that indeed it was us who sent the appetizer. We apologized for trying to kill them and they sent us a round of drinks. Our new friends work downtown together at Tello’s, a clothing store. The woman who did not want to eat was saving her appetite for the dinner her sons were preparing at home. God bless anybody who can get teenagers to cook for them!

David and I decided to order a quesadilla for ourselves – with chicken – to help wash down our next round of wine. The chicken was spicy from the melted pepper jack cheese. The quesadilla with thick and crunchy with a drizzle of sour cream on top and a fresh pico de gallo and guacamole on the side. A well executed, classic bar dish.

Some hours later, slightly high from the wine and the experience, we walked out into the chilly evening air. Snow had just begun to fall, and as we noticed the crowds swelling around the Boston Common, we realized we were just in time for the fireworks – a splendid display to cap off our evening.

Comments:
What Julia fails to mention here is that she began the evening with a terrible upset stomach. But she ordered some bitters and immediately recovered. Hurrah for bitters!
 
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