Thanksgiving dinner at Four Square was wonderful. As expected! This was my second time eating there and it's been fantastic both times. It was a prix fixe, with choice of appetizer and main course, and then everyone got the same dessert. I had pheasant and chestnut soup to start, and venison wellington in dried cherry sauce. Georg went for the seafood extravaganze with a tuna sampler -- tuna tartare, smoked tuna carpaccio, and cooked tuna wrapped in rice paper with a spicy sauce -- and then salmon in saffron cream sauce. We traded tastes and everything was outstanding. I want to learn how to make saffron cream sauce. My venison was wonderful. It was served with mushroom risotto and collard greens. Which sounds like a yucky combination but was actually very good. I didn't want to fill up on bread but in the bread basket they served this cornbread that was so delicate, it was just like pound cake. Georg said he thought there had to be some wheat flour in it. I think he's right; no matter how finely ground, there's no way they could have gotten that light texture from just corn meal. I had to ask for another piece of that.
The dessert was three things: a caramel custard which was a bit too eggy for me, but Georg liked it very much; a little chocolate brownie with a block of peppermint ice cream, which we both loved; and an "apple cinnamon beignet," which was the only disappointment of the meal. First of all, it was nothing like a beignet, and I'm annoyed by the fancy restaurant habit of naming everything after whatever food is hot at the moment. We had a "wasabi beignet" last year at Morimoto and that wasn't anything like a beignet either. It's like how a few years ago, every sauce with fruit had to be called a chutney, no matter what was in it or how it was made. So I guess every small pastry in a trendy restaurant is going to be called a beignet for awhile. But aside from my persnickity trendoid food complaint, the apple cinnamon "beignet" wasn't great anyway. It was a bit tough actually. But the apple cinnamon part was good.
I got lots of compliments from the staff on my outfit (the polka dot dress, first time I wore it this year!). I think our waitress must have told the other staff about it because another waitress came out at some point to see it. She also gave me a tip on a thrift store I hadn't been to before with good vintage patterns. While she was telling me about the store, she accidently said "shit" and then turned red and looked around to see if anyone had heard her. That was funny.
But the funniest thing of the evening was definitely the group sitting near us. It was three men about our age, one young guy, and one older woman. Based on their conversation we guessed that it was maybe a man who had moved down here for work, and his mother and two brothers had come down to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his partner? They sounded like New Yorkers based on their accents and speaking volume, the mother for sure at least. She was hilarious, loudly commenting on how surprisingly good the restaurant was, "because you don't expect fine dining when you go to Durham North Carolina!" Also arguing about something, proper decorations for a baby's room maybe? All I know is she kept saying "But Amber? Why would Amber want blue elephants?" Her funniest moment without a doubt was when she explained the e.coli outbreak at the state fair, shouting "They touch the animals, they put their hands in their mouths, next thing you know, they've got the bacteria!" while someone else at the table tried to shush her. I seriously hope they couldn't see me laughing. I turned away and didn't make any noise, but I was probably shaking from laughing silently.
The rest of the day was great too. We watched the Philly parade as I wrote earlier, then spent the afternoon in the garden planting rhubarb. I broke my mattock! Boo hoo! Hit a rock and the blade snapped right off. I hardly even felt it: just a weird noise and the mattock came up with a big piece missing. Luckily I had another mattock, but it's a smaller one that doesn't dig as deeply. I'm going to replace the big one tomorrow.
Anyway we dug out a big area on the end of that bed along the driveway which is going to be the vegetable garden, added lots of compost and peat, planted the two rhubarbs, mulched over them, then covered the slope all around that area with newspaper and old straw. I sprinkled blood meal over the straw because the Gardener Guy (I love that show) says that attracts worms which eat the rotting straw, which is a good way to improve bad soil. Also instead of taking the extra clay from the hole and using it to fill another hole somewhere else, I piled up some dead leaves at the bottom of the slope and loosely mounded the clay over the leaves. I figure the leaves will compost under there and then the soil won't be quite as bad there. Also I want the ground at the bottom of the slope to be higher because there's a city water pipe under there, but I don't know how deep it is. I'd like to raise that bed a little so I can plant without worrying about hitting the pipe.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until after doing all this that I realized the rhubarb bed would have been a perfect place to plant daffodils. As I recall, rhubarb dies all the way back each winter. So the daffodils would get lots of sun in early spring. Then when they had bloomed out, the rhubarb would grow and cover the daffodil foliage. By the time the daffodils needed to be divided, the rhubarb probably would too. Also I realized that we had planted the two rhubarbs too close together -- 2 feet apart instead of 3. So today I dug up the front of the rhubarb bed again, moved one rhubarb, and planted about 30 daffodils around them both.
The really bad garden-related thing today was Lina's discovery that the little fence around the hydrangea bed is really no impediment at all. She got in there and dug up half the bed, unearthing a bunch of Spanish bluebells I had planted, possibly damaging two hydrangeas and likely killing one. I'm very upset with her. The worst part is, until we get a better fence around that bed, we can't put her outside unattended. This afternoon after I had cleaned everything up in there, the little brat jumped into the bed and started digging again, right in front of me! I was not 20 feet away, just wasn't watching her that instant because I was refilling the bird feeders.
The problem is that for years I've let her dig in that bed all she wanted. It's always been her favorite place: she likes to dig up a spot and then lay in the dug up place. It's cooler in the summer and I guess also warmer in the winter. Now that we've got nice soil and nice plants in there, I don't want her to dig anymore. But try telling her that. She seems to want to dig bare earth, where no plants are. So I guess in the spring we'll have to plant lots of ground cover in there so it won't be a nice digging spot for her anymore. In the meantime, I wonder if there's anything we can spray or sprinkle on the earth that would be a deterrent to her?