Beet of My Heart

I opened my email the other day to find an enticing little note sent by B. “What’s your schedule like this coming weekend? I’ve been thinking about your love for beets, and I’m told Café Maude has something yummy along those lines.”

This was the first date idea he offered out of the blue — and I must’ve clapped a little bit when I got his invite. It’s pretty clear he knows the path to my heart is strewn with funky vegetables.

Off we went for a 6 pm table at Café Maude, a restaurant best known for how hard it is to eat there. Even at that early hour, we sat in a far, not-so-ambient corner near the kitchen, a flash of light uncomfortably lighting up B’s face every time the door swung open. I was looking forward to the charming cocktail list. To B’s dismay, This Charming Man was no longer on the menu, but he asked for it anyway. Nothing was going to come between him and a drink that could make him sing a little Morrissey tune. The bar obliged. I had Ivan Putski, a dirty vodka martini with olives, onion, and black pepper.

We ordered our meal in a sort of unplanned give and take, throwing out suggestions and narrowing it down one by one. We shared everything. We didn’t decide we would, we just did. Plate after plate, the server paced our meal, and B and I kept everything in the middle of the table, slowly eating and sharing our opinions of the food.

The salad of red and golden roasted beets, mache, frisee, chevre, walnuts, and truffle champagne vinaigrette was perfectly lovely. The house-cut fries were great, but the truffle-mahor “fondue” (a.k.a., room temperature dipping sauce served in a ramekin) was lackluster — and I still don’t know what mahor is. We were pleased but not impressed by the roasted Brussels sprouts with rosemary brown butter, onions, and granny smith apples. Same for the Tuscan rice and parmesan croquettes with asparagus cream, basil, and pancetta. They’re great alongside a cocktail, but not especially memorable, and the asparagus cream didn’t taste like the vegetable it was named for.

The last course was glorious enough to carry every other plate of food that crossed our table: PEI mussels (that’s Prince Edward Island for those of us not familiar with island acronyms) with shallots, garlic, white wine, sweet tomatoes, chives, and grilled baguette. It just sang. The only problem is they served it with one lonely slice of thinly cut baguette, which doesn’t make sense, not on any island.

“I love eating with you,” B said. “When I go out with other people, we don’t share and it isn’t nearly as much fun.”

He’s right, I thought. Have you ever eaten with friends who get territorial about their meal? Those solitary souls eat by themselves, no matter how many people are at the table. Not only did B and I share this time together, we shared the same experience.

“And eating with you reminds me of that scene in Julie and Julia,” I said, “where Julia and Paul eat their first meal in Paris together, enjoying it so much they can barely keep their mouths shut.”

We ordered dessert, and after the server left, I posed a question that had been on my mind for awhile. “Would Julia have been the same without Paul? I mean, would she have been nearly as successful without him?”

B replied, “Of course not.” It’s true. It was all the eating they did together that filled her with such passion.

After cheesecake and a chocolate pistachio torte, we drove off to Magers & Quinn for books and Golden Leaf for tobacco to continue the pleasures of the evening, two bon vivants not exactly taking over Paris, but at least enjoying (and sharing) our own little corner of the world.

9 thoughts on “Beet of My Heart

  1. kat

    I love eating with my husband too, he always makes me try new things! So speaking of beets & cocktails have you tried the Beet Cosmo at Craftsman? I tried to get one the other night but it was so popular they had sold out of beet infused vodka

  2. Carrie Post author

    Beet-infused vodka? In a Cosmo? At Craftsman? Where have I been?! Thanks for the tip, Kat. I’ve been there many times, but this puts it on the top of my list of places to go.

  3. Naperville Jill

    Carrie, your writing is astonishing! I feel as if I am discovering the flavors while you do. So you may have shared the evening with only one other person, but you’ve shared the experience with many, many more. Thank you!

    Incidentally, do you have any beet recipes? I’ve never made them before and need some guidance. Did you know they’re the number one veggie for the liver?

  4. MIMI

    I came in form my reader to say the same thing as Jill. This is such a wonderfully written piece. It’s like I fell the glow of that evening too after reading this. Maude’s is my neighborhood restaurant and I agree with everything you said about the food. I always ask for extra bread with the mussels when I order it.

  5. Carrie Post author

    Oh, Jill. You’re just biased because of all that editor nostalgia we share! Just kidding. I’m grateful for your compliment. Truthfully, I haven’t felt the need to get fancy with beets. I roast them in tinfoil or boil them. In both cases, I eat them with crumbled feta or goat cheese, red onions, and parsley. I’ve heard about this newfangled concept of grating them, which intrigues me, but they’re so good and hearty in fat cubes that I’m hesitant to do anything else.

  6. Carrie Post author

    Mimi – What nice feedback. If I conveyed a glow, then I’m really happy. Thank you for stopping to comment. Now I know the trick to the mussels!

  7. angelique

    This post makes me want to go out and get a date solely for the Cafe Maude experience. However, not just anyone will do, as you point out….it’ll be beet season soon!

  8. Carrie Post author

    Angelique – I think you and I are due for another date sometime soon. 😉

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