Saturday, November 6, 2010

Landing in the Loony Bin

We are here at my husband's cousin's house in Cleveland - but, oh wait, not to misunderstand - THIS is not the Loony Bin!  :)  At least not just now.  However last night we did happily land in one.

It was one of those wonderful nights where we experienced what I like to call "making a memory."  We went to dinner, five of us, at a restaurant called The White Oaks, built in 1928, during prohibition,and its colored history was documented along the hallways with marvelous pictures of patrons in styles from the 20's, 30's 40's, etc.
 From the coffered ceilings to the patina of the dark oak paneled walls it was a step back in time.  A gentle regression to a time when manners, customs, and cuisine actually mattered.  We were greeted by a friendly and attentive staff, from the front desk to the final sip of after-dinner coffee.  We had early reservations, which was a very good thing, because it began to sleet (which later turned to snow) while were we driving to the restaurant.  But not to worry about getting soaked getting into this fine old establishment, for there was a convenient portico to park under while we disembarked.

We were escorted down a series of long, then short, then quick turn hallways, which reflected the old construction which had probably been remodeled and added onto more than once.  While the interior might not make modern cohesive logic, it made for perfect dining ambiance.  I counted no fewer than four fire placing all either roaring or glowing in the lamplight from the wall sconces which were also from a bygone era.

After a series of turns, step ups and then - careful, watch your step here, a couple of steps down - we arrived at our assigned seating destination.  It was a large round table, situated in a generous bay window which overlooked a burbling creek, surrounded by colorful oaks, elms, and maple trees in various fall colors.  Deer wandered by, unhurried and unafraid.  An entire brace of mallards, wonderfully colored drakes in the lead, swam down the creek below.

As we settled in noticed various posters, placards, and sayings on the walls - and there were even a few signs affixed to the tree trunks outside the bay window.  First we noticed a sign that encouraged diners to protect the "state bird - the loon."  While we are from California, the other three diners are all native Buckeye's and they looked oddly at one another and simultaneously asked each other, "Isn't the cardinal the state bird?"                                    Photo of ...                                                           
Then they quickly answer each other, "Yes, it is."
 So we sat and puzzled on that for a moment until the waiter arrived, at which point they inquired of him, "Why do the signs refer to the loon as the state bird?  The cardinal is the state bird of Ohio."

The waiter pointed to the smaller print at the bottom of the signs on the trees and said, "That says the State of  Minnesota."

Now we all looked at each other and said, "But this is Ohio."

"Um, hum", as he efficiently poured water into each crystal goblet, as though this were self-explanatory.

Now we were intrigued, so the native Ohioans tried again.  "Okay, if this is Ohio" (this was the first that I knew that this was up for conjecture) "then why do the signs say the State of Minnesota?"

"Because the owner wanted it that way."  Well, of course.

The waiter departed and we all looked at each other and burst out laughing.  Then I looked at the stenciled wall trim above our table which read, "Normality is abnormality in this locality."  Now we were getting somewhere.

By this time we were all in a high mood of hilarity, and the laughs just kept on coming.  But better yet, the food just kept on coming and it was all wonderful.  The menu offered everything from mahi-mahi to venison.  The clams were fresh and one member of our group quickly declared they were "the best he had ever had in his entire life!"  This was a declaration not made lightly.  Then as he speared another clam, it came lose from the shell a little more quickly than anticipated and ...whoops ... flipped right off the table and into the floor.  I was reminded of the line from Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts declares "slippery little suckers" - and I stifled another laugh.

There was prime rib done to perfection, clam bake without peer, fresh shaved horseradish, julienne squash and carrots, sweet potato fries, and on and on and on it went.  Eventually, we came to the after-dinner coffees accompanied by warm breaded chocolate desert.  What a wonderful evening. 

Food, fun and family - all done with good humor, good manners, and good service.  Wow!  It probably doesn't get any better than this.
& & &
When was the last time you "made a memory?"  If it was some time ago, I encourage you to take the time and opportunity to make a new one soon.  God bless you. .....Marsha Y.

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