Uttered upon awaking at 2 am in a freezing hotel room in the Park Plaza in Toronto.
Me: Will you marry me?
This is the story of the best meal I have ever eaten.
Not the most important meal – that was two nights later, a romantic dinner for two at the Hillebrand Winery. The most meaningful meal was the meal I cooked to impress a girl and set me on the path to cooking. My favorite meal is easy, an authentic Chinese banquet with friends which will be the subject of my next post.
I don’t think I could pick “a” memorable meal. There are too many; with family, friends, loves past and present (The Thanksgiving of whipped cream and juggling wine bottles? Cooking in Catskill with mega chopsticks?) I have had a variety of tasty meals. - here and elsewhere - too many to name.
This was the best.
Toronto is about 100 miles from here. I have family there, and getting there and getting around are second nature, then as now. Online mapping sites and GPS units tell you to expect 2 plus hours, not counting the border to get there from here. Those people have never driven on the QEW. It's 90 minutes tops. Add a little more time to get your final destination in the city, assuming as you are not traveling during rush hour. Believe me, you do not want to be traveling there during rush hour. Especially in a car with cooling system issues.
My wife is of Scottish extraction. I have always thought it would cool to be. So we decided that when we got married I would wear a kilt. More than that, we decided to buy our own kilt. After reviewing the options we settled on Cairngorm Scottish Imports on Avenue Road in Toronto. They had the selection, expertise and the ability to rent the accessories to go with the kilt. Measurements were taken, instructions were given and the kilt was ordered.
We took off from the office the day before we were married to travel to Toronto to pick up the finished Kilt, as well as the rented accessories. We had planned sufficient time to travel to Toronto to pick it up and return home for dinner. We left at about 11 o'clock in the morning crossed the border and took a lunch break at a roadside Burger King just past St. Catherines. (That was an experience in and of itself featuring the world's slowest server.) We got back onto the QEW and continued our journey.
We hadn't traveled very far when traffic came to a standstill. A massive multi-car accident miles ahead. It remained at a standstill for hours.
Since 2001 one will find well-marked regular exits for an Emergency Detour Route running parallel to the QEW . In 1996 there were none for these well-described ”major ravines with limited alternative crossing”. Could we exit there was frankly no easy way to continue to travel. other than the QEW. That was a moot point - there was no way for us to get off.
You can imagine the state we work ourselves into with each passing moment, convinced that the store would be closed when we finally made it to Toronto. Frantic plans were made for a worst-case scenario as the delay grew to hours. Returning to Buffalo. Me driving solo early early the next morning to pick up the kilt and whizzing back to the ceremony.
We finally made it through the accident and continued on our way. We arrived in city via the Gardiner expressway at about 5:30 certain that the store had closed. The trip up Avenue Road seemed interminable. Every stop light turned red and stayed red for a seemingly interminable length of time.
We pulled up in front of the store at 5:50. The lights were still on in the store. The store was open until six.
I think we both threw up a little bit on the side of the road, half an relief and half venting what we have been through. The people at Cairngorm were marvelous. They stayed open late to do the fitting. And teach me how to wear my kilt and accouterments. With everything safely packed in the trunk and the sense of relief having washed over us, we decided to stop for a bite to eat.
We ate at a little bistro called Remy in Yorkville that we liked. I had mussels and Trish had mackerel - they were quite good I think. Relief makes a great sauce. With a glass of wine to calm our our remaining nerves, every bite tasted as if it was the best thing we ever had eaten.
That was the best meal I’ve ever had.
A brief coda. When we reached the border for the return to the United States we stopped at the duty-free store and I purchased a bottle of Glenfiddich - to fill up the sporran flask I would wear the next day. To drink a toast after the ceremony was completed.
When we arrived at the border checkpoint we were asked if we had anything to declare. I brought up the bottle of whisky and handed the receipt to the customs agent. The agent reminded us that we had not been in Canada long enough to qualify for duty-free. I stammered a profuse apology explaining the purpose of the purchase. The custom agent waved us through. We were 50 yards away when Trish reminded me of the $500 in woolens (plus rental stuff) sitting in the trunk of the car.
The following day resplendent in my kilt Trish and I were married in the chambers of Hon. John A. Michalek, with two of my best friends in attendance as witnesses. Yesterday was our 16th anniversary.
The photo of us was taken the following may in Glen Park. The photographer was our friend Pam, who died too young after a brave fight with cancer. Things change. In preparation for this post I looked at Remy's website. The good news is they're still open. The bad is that their menu is nothing of the French bistro we loved. Ah well. We’ll always have our Remy.