“Good evening. It’s a pleasure to see you again.” Mario the matre’d greeted the six people as they entered the intimate North Italian bistro. His eyes roved around the entrance-way. “But where are Mr. Gideon and the lovely Miss Phoebe?”
Myrth, in the process of handing her coat to the woman at the cloakroom snapped a reply. “They are not here.” Her partner, Ryan, poked her as a reminder to keep her temper in check.
“Your usual table is ready. Follow me.” Mario led them to a round table, the dark red cloth contrasting with the white linen napkins.
When they were seated the sommelier appeared. “I will taste the wine,” Victor advised him.
“Very good Sir.” Following a discussion in rapid Italian they finally agreed on a Barolo.
After all the attending ceremony, the sniffing, the inspection of the cork and finally a small sip and nod of approval from Victor, the steward distributed the menus and mentioned the evening’s specials.
Eve studied the menu, placed it on the table, then glanced at each of her friends. “Ohhh it’s been so long since y’all could get together at the same time.” She all but wiggled in excitement.
“Yes.” Beth agreed. “It has been too long. A pity Gideon and Phoebe were unable to join us to make it complete.”
Myrth tossed her head, her normally rosy cheeks flushed even more so with annoyance. “They just could not say ‘No’ to Phoebe’s sister’s invitation for dinner. That Sara. I would like to….”
Ryan again attempted to placate his out spoken partner and put his hand over hers. “Get over it Dumpling. We have no control over the situation.” Myrth’s brown eyes sent daggers in his direction while she fingered the amulet around her neck.
Victor brought the wine to his lips then on second thought raised the glass for a toast. “Let us enjoy the evening,” and with murmurs of agreement the group clicked their glasses.
The waiter, Tony, approached the table, welcomed everyone and stood ready to take their order.
Charles peered around the table to ensure the group had decided on their meals. “Ladies first,” he told Tony.
While they sipped their wine Eve reminded the group of their conversation in the car on the way to the restaurant. “Since Gideon and Phoebe aren’t here we can discuss what to get them for Christmas this year.”
“I like the idea of a Fortnum & Mason Hamper,” Beth nodded.
Ryan pushed the bridge of his glasses higher up on his nose, and said, “We can select the specific items to include at a later date. They have an amazing assortment of choices.”
“Maybe some Arsenic for Phoebe’s sister? Whoops, my bad.” Myrth attempted a contrite expression which only garnered her disapproving frowns from the others.
“Fortnum’s first hampers were created to meet the demands of well-heeled travelers, journeying to their country estates, to see their families and friends or to take the waters in Bath. In the late 1730s, many of Fortnum’s customers used coaches that began their journeys at the many coaching inns placed along Piccadilly. The food at coaching inns en route could be quite poor, so customers asked Fortnum’s to prepare travelers’ baskets for them. These first versions of their famous hampers held delicacies such as game pies, fresh bread, West Country butter, scotched eggs, cheese, hothouse fruit and rich fruit cake, with mineral water, small beer and hock to drink.”
Victor could never resist showing off his vast knowledge of history.
“How do you know? You’re not that old mon Vieux,” Eve grinned.
“I see his French is rubbing off on you,” Charles commented, “but with your southern accent it sounds like an entirely different language.”
“That’s fascinating,” Eve gestured to Victor, “but the scotch eggs is out of the question.” Eve’s expression conveyed her dislike of the item.
“They would appreciate chocolates, wine, single malt scotch, though the fruitcake can stay. Gideon is still old fashioned regarding certain customs.” Charles was Gideon’s best friend and knew his preferences.
Tony arrived with the first course and deftly served each dish before the group had realized his presence.
“This dressing on the beet salad is remarkable.” Charles stopped chewing long enough to voice his opinion.
Beth tapped a fork against her teeth. “Speaking about Christmas shall I make that rutabaga dish again?” she asked the table at large.
“Yes with turnips please,” Ryan requested, his spoon held in mid air.
“Regular potatoes or yams?” Myrth inquired as she delicately removed the onion from her salad.
“Good lord woman you have to ask? The way we soul collectors eat you can never have too much food!” Luckily Victor’s words did not carry past their group.
“English women in the 1600’s often wore carrot leaves in their hats in place of flowers or feathers.” Eve’s pride in her knowledge caused the others to chuckle. “It was in my history book. For the class I’m taking at the university, so I understand what Victor is talking about when he starts to ramble.”
“I do not ramble as you put it.” A tall man at over six feet, Victor sat up straighter in an attempt to appear dignified, not as a person who rambles.
By the end of the meal after eating and polishing off three bottles of wine, coffee and dessert they all agreed it was another fine day.
***written for Blogophilia Week 39.6 – Another Fine DayBonus Points:
(Hard, 2 pts): include three items you might find in a Fortnum & Mason 1730 Hamper
(Easy, 1 pt): Mention a root vegetable