And yes, we are that really annoying couple who often orders two different things and halves our plates so we can enjoy both dishes. So when we dined at Crystal & Jules last week, an upscale restaurant in downtown Madison, I conceded the ravioli. He was, after all, the pasta guy, so he should get dibs.
I ordered an enticing stuffed chicken breast, and looked forward to a fairly even swap. I didn’t clarify the ground rules on this occasion, assuming since we had both been pondering the ravioli, he would give me half.
Before that bite, everything rolled along smoothly. I ordered my usual Pinot Noir. This time a 2009 from Napa Cellars.
We considered appetizers. I leaned toward the Herb Crusted Mozzarella Cheese, because anything served with Roasted Red Peppers appeals to me. But in the end we decided on the Shrimp & Crab Fondue, with its variety of melted cheese and French bread accompaniment.
It was hard to stay focused on the appetizer, because I kept imagining that soft, slippery ravioli on my tongue.
It was crisp and the dressing tasted fresh and exactly the way I like it. I lingered with the salad a bit, still imagining the ravioli, but savoring the crunch and flavor like culinary foreplay.
Kurt was equally pleased with his salad selection.When the entrees arrived, the timing was perfect. Our server, Tiffany was as sweet as she was attentive, watching both the kitchen and our table. Each course arrived in beautiful cadence. We had time to enjoy the food and our night out together without that feeling of being herded through to free up a table, and without the long periods of abandonment sometimes felt in less well-orchestrated establishments. Yes. this cadence was…perfect.
Which is why, with the teasing Caesar salad and perfect timing of the dinner, I was really worked up for that pasta. I was not just an epicurean. I was Epicurus himself, ready to give myself over to half of Kurt’s Three Cheese Stuffed Ravioli and tell the world to do the same. When it arrived, I saw that the menu had delivered what it promised: “Covered with crab, prosciutto ham and a San Marzano Tomato White Wine Cream Sauce.”
My stuffed chicken arrived as well, along with my favorite side– grilled asparagus. I cut into the chicken breast to expose the delicious stuffing of sauteed spinach, bacon and onion, mozzarella and provolone, then swirled it in the tomato sauce. I tried to focus on that first, delicious bite as I watched Kurt cut into his ravioli.
The pasta disappeared into his mouth, and his eyes practically rolled back in his head. I was just starting to cut my asparagus apart, but between my own lack of grace, and the distraction of his obvious ravioli elation, I sent pieces of asparagus skittering off my plate and across the table.
I could tell there would be no swap so I resigned myself to one bite. He was generous with it, loading one large forkful while reaching his other hand underneath it so no sauce was lost. He gently placed it in my mouth. I was finished. I tried to go back to my chicken, but despite its own 5-star taste I could only eat a little. That one bite of ravioli was perfection.
Exactly what a three-cheese, stuffed ravioli should be.
Owner and chef Andy Richmer stopped by our table, as he graciously did with each patron that evening. I had just finished writing “orgasmic” in my notes about the ravioli, and asked if I could take his photo. We had already learned from our server a little about the restaurant. It was named for the two most important women in his life: his mother, Julie (“Jules”) and his fiance, Crystal.
Our waitress, Tiffany, was not only the perfect personality and attentive server, but when I found myself constantly giddy over the mix of Dean Martin’s “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head” and a rendition of “Sunrise Sunset” that was not from Fiddler on the Roof, I learned the playlist was also her doing. Her taste in music, it seemed, was as happy and blended as her personality.
Tiffany would also later become one of my favorite people in Madison, by providing helpful information to a quest I put on Facebook, researching my own Madison roots.
Though we were more than satisfied with the entrees, Kurt can never resist key lime pie any more than I can say no to the combination of chocolate and raspberry.
We traded tasty bites, applauded the meal’s ending, but couldn’t stop talking about that ravioli.
Kurt promised next time he would try the Costa Rican New York Ship as suggested to him by Andy. I swore that next time, an entire plate of ravioli would be entirely my own.
Until then, eat, savor, and if you’ve inherited that epicurian gene, go ahead and make love to your food.
It’s the simple pleasures that make each moment perfect.