A Dinner To Remember

My sister and I have had many incidents through the years where we have laughed so hard we could hardly talk.  There is one incident in particular that “lives in infamy” in my mind.  We went to a family reunion together and it was a road trip of about eight hundred miles.  It was the first family reunion that her and I had attended together at that particular point in time. Our genetic father died in a plane wreck when I was three months short of being three years old and my sister was three months short of being born. Our mother remarried when I was four and my sister was one, our father had several brothers and sisters that came and visited our family when Annette and were very young but my mother and stepfather became fairly anti-social as the years went by and eventually all of our relatives on our real father’s side stopped coming to visit. We had one aunt who always kept in contact by writing letters to my sister and I and as we got older and could drive we were always invited to the family reunion affairs that they held every memorial day at one of the aunt, uncles or cousins houses. We weren’t particularly interested in attending them as most of them lived in fairly unpopulated areas in the state we lived in and we were pretty much raised as “city kids” and weren’t particularly interested in what we considered the “back woods” life. One year I received a letter from my Aunt Rosalie telling of the recent reunion she had attended and that there had been a visit by a new neighbor of my Uncle Lester’s at that reunion. Lester lived in the most remote location of all of my relatives in a very small place that probably has a population of less than 30 people so the fact that Uncle Lester even had a neighbor was fairly rare but that he had an extraordinary one was virtually unbelievable. The story that was, and the one that is told, says that my Uncle and his son-in-law were playing their fiddles at a bar in one of the nearest real town of Lewiston Idaho and a man walked up to my uncle and said there was a man in the audience who wanted to play with my uncle and his band. It is said that my uncle asked if he was any good. The answer was “he used to play with Creedence Clearwater Revival”. My 65 year old uncle then said “so does that mean he is any good or not?” “Yes he is good” was the answer and John Fogerty played with my uncle that night and ended up buying a piece of property in Troy, Oregon and started up the Troy Resort (it was managed by the Shiloh Inn at that time) so that he had a place to stay when he spent time there. It was during the period of time that he had left CCR in the early 1970’s and was on his self-imposed sabbatical from the band. There is a small article about John and his time in Troy on the internet if you look it up. Well that made these family reunions way more interesting to us than they had ever been before.

I went the first one of those reunions after I found out that John might actually attend with a close friend of mine. John did not come to that one but nonetheless I saw some magnificent scenery and had a good time meeting, for the first time for most of my relatives, some very nice people.

John did show up at the reunion the first reunion that my sister and I went to together but that was only the reason we started to go to these events and not the real subject of this story. That actual family reunion is a story unto itself which I will save for another time and another story.  The story I want to tell about right now is about the funniest dinner I have ever had and definitely the most fun dinner I have ever experienced at a restaurant.

To make the events leading up to this dinner somewhat more minimal than they really were, let me suffice it to say that for the most part it was a very fun road trip with a certain amount of stress along with many other events that were novel to this particular road trip.  My sister and I are very good at traveling together, when one of us needs to stop for any reason we always happily do so, and enjoy each other’s company and have the same tastes in food and enjoy eating and drinking the same things for the most part.

On the last day of this trip when we were three hours from home (the place we journeyed to for the reunion was eight hours from where we lived so we made it a three day trip – one leisurely day to drive to the location of the reunion, one day for the actual reunion event and one day to travel home) and we were both hungry and we were approaching the last small town on our way home before we would be in a very large city at dead 5:00 rush hour if we waited any longer to eat.  So we decided to eat at the convenient location that is a well-known resort destination so we had high expectations that the food would be good and I had read good reviews of it.  When we entered the hotel we immediately got the impression that the place was a bit pretentious but we didn’t see any reason to let that deter us from having dinner there.

We first went to the bar to have a cocktail and relax a bit from the five hours of driving we had just completed. My sister and I walked into the bar and we both ordered a Bloody Mary from the fairly old waiter that asked us what we wanted.  It was the most boring one we had ever had and we started giggling when we both sipped on it and thought that very thought but what did we expect from a seventy year old man who looked like he only drank martini’s?.  A very young waiter noticed us laughing and came over to ask if we needed anything else and I told him that we wanted to have dinner there when we finished our drinks.  He told us that he would put our names on the waiting list and then he walked away.  My sister and I looked around to see who was waiting and there was absolutely no one in the bar or in the restaurant which had barely opened for business. We exchanged a smile with each other over the thought that we would actually have to wait to be seated when there was no one around but it was a hotel so maybe everyone was waiting in their rooms until it was time to eat.

We finished our drinks and walked into the restaurant and were greeted by a middle aged woman.

“Do you have a reservation?”

We looked around and saw almost all empty tables but politely replied “Yes, we had the waiter had put us down for a reservation.”

The woman looked in the reservation book and even though I couldn’t read it very well upside down it was obvious there weren’t very many names on it.

“I don’t see your name here but if you will be done by seven thirty I have a table that isn’t needed until then, will that work?”

My sister and I looked sideways at each other. It had only been 5:30 when we had gotten there and it wasn’t quite 6:00. “If it takes us more than an hour and a half to eat there would have to be a problem.  Oh sorry, that will be plenty of time, thank you.”

The lady took us to a table in the fairly large and totally empty dining room, though I did notice four people had just come walking up to the reservation desk as the lady led us to a table.  The table was by the very large window overlooking the scenic river that the hotel and restaurant were named after so we could at least look out at the beautiful setting the place was in even if the people working there were a bit on the snooty side.  The place might be a bit on the pretentious side but we were hoping the food would live up to our expectations and it looked like it possibly could from the way the dining room was laid out.

A waiter came to the table and asked if we wanted a beverage while looking at the menu and we couldn’t help ourselves.

“Bombay Martini’s please, shaken not stirred.”

Our order didn’t even get a smile from the waiter and he turned and walked away.  As soon as he walked off another man came to the table and said something with a very heavy accent that we later figured out were the specials of the day but there was no way we could understand what he had just said to us.  It was time to look at the menu.

“So did you understand any of what he just said?”

“Not much, it sounded more like he had marbles in his mouth than an accent, kind of odd if you ask me.”

“I guess I don’t want any of the specials since I don’t know what they are after hearing them explained in some language that I don’t think even exists.”

We started to laugh. “I didn’t know dinner was going to include entertainment as well as food but this should be fun, or should I say funny, as well as tasty I hope.”

Just about then the apparent maître-de walked over to the table behind us and we could over hear him explain the same specials, at least we assumed they were the same since we still couldn’t understand him, to the people at that table.  After the man walked away from the table one of the diners at that table said very loudly.

“What did he just say the specials are?  I couldn’t understand anything?”

Another person at the table answered. “I didn’t hear them either because his accent was so strong.”

Upon hearing that my sister and I looked at each other and we tried to laughed quietly.

There was a small room with two small tables in it which was off to the side of the main part of the restaurant and we watched as the maître-de and two young men dressed in waiter’s uniforms walked into it and we could hear the man address the young men in perfect English.

“I want you to move these two small tables together and cover both tables with one tablecloth and put a fifth chair at the opposite end from the doors leading in here. Set the table with place settings for five and then let the hostess know when it is ready.  Do you understand what I want?”

The two young men replied in the affirmative.

I looked at my sister and we didn’t even have to say a word before we both burst out laughing.  A waiter walked over to the table and looked at the two of us.

“May I ask you what you are laughing about?”

“Yes you may ask and then you can answer us as to why the maître-de talks so weird that no one can understand him when I just heard him speak perfect English to the help?”

“I had a feeling that was why you were laughing. He thinks that his having an accent will impress the customers.”

“It is impressive alright. I am impressed at what an idiot he is.  No one is going to order the dinner specials because they can’t understand what he is saying.”

“Let me help you with that part then, we have seafood special with a crab cocktail, a small lobster tail and large prawns. Both are grilled and served with a drawn butter dipping sauce along with risotto and a green salad.  We also have broiled lamb chops served with a red wine reduction sauce that is served with a stuffed baked potato and sautéed green beans.”

“Now that I can understand what the specials are that changes my order. I was going to order from the regular menu but now I want the seafood special.”

My sister ordered the lamb chops.  As the waiter walked away my sister and I burst out laughing again.  The waiter brought a basket of bread and a plate with an assortment of raw and pickled vegetables with a small dish of dipping sauce and placed the food on the table along with glasses of ice water.  Soon after that the maître-de brought us soup and said something else that was unintelligible as he set them in front of us.

That was the last straw and as soon as he turned away we started laughing so hard we were practically choking on our soup.  The people at the other table even looked at us because we were laughing so hard but all we could do was try not to look at each other because if we did we immediately burst out laughing.

The waiter came back to the table and he smiled a little bit.

“Your dinners should be ready in about fifteen minutes, is there anything else you would like before then?”

We managed to choke out an answer.  “Yes we need a bottle a bottle of the Napa Valley Chardonnay that was on your special wine list.”

The waiter brought out our wine immediate and the dinner in about the fifteen minutes that he mentioned. He set plates of very fine looking food in front of us and then asked if we wanted fresh ground pepper on anything.  I noticed that the small red potatoes that were mixed with new white potatoes had been trimmed up to look like mushrooms and couldn’t resist making a comment.

“Yes I would love to have pepper on everything and could I also get some butter for my mushrooms?”

“Actually those are all potatoes, the chef just likes to make the food look pretty and he trims the red potatoes up to look like mushrooms but they are really potatoes and I would be happy to bring you some butter as soon as I finish giving everyone fresh ground pepper that wants it.”  He looked at my face when he finished talking and he could tell by the smile I was sharing with my sister that I already knew that there were no mushrooms in the potatoes.  He didn’t say anything but my sister then made a priceless comment.

“We will make sure we put that in our review.”

The waiter kind of acted a little nervous and walked away to get the butter I had asked for.  We had ordered a nice bottle of wine so it gave my sister’s comment some credence that we might be having an official dinner and we were dressed up in the nice clothes we brought for the family reunion that we didn’t end up wearing (because we arrived on the day of the reunion instead of a day early like we had thought we were doing, but that is also part of another story) so we could have been working for a magazine.  Instead of paying cash like we had originally planned I put the meal on my company credit card just to complete the rouse of eating at the restaurant for an assignment.

The rest of the dinner was a nonevent; we had already had a very interesting dining experience. It was an excellent meal and the most fun I have ever had at a restaurant, still.CGH

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Traveling In Mexico: Puerto San Blas Is A Beautiful Destination!

In 1984 my boyfriend and I decided we needed to get away from our lives in Eugene, Oregon and rethink our personal life journey. We chose Mexico as our destination and a little fishing village Greg had visited twice before named San Blas. It is located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico located between Puerto Vallarta and Matzalan and we decided to drive there. We had an itinerary of driving to San Francisco on to Anaheim, California and from there to Mazatlan until we got to San Blas in about a two week trip. I was aware that once I got there the town had whale watching, deep sea fishing, surfing, waterfalls and hiking in the jungle and beaches that there were NO condos there, NO major resort hotels, NO shopping malls, NO freeways NO golf courses and NO stoplights and a cobblestone street. You don’t need a car to get around although it is handy if you want to go visit surrounding towns or take day trips places with taking the sort of scary Mexican Bus, the drivers go a little faster than I would on these sort of old and winding roads. But they will get you there if you are braver that I was. You can walk around town, and buses run everywhere in Mexico. San Blas is a Mexican town – and traving in Mexico by car all of the way was definitely fraught with a lot of culture shock for me. We went to the beach almost every day and I have to say that as beautiful as it was I did eventually get bored with it, but I guess that is not a bad problem to have. There is a ruins of an old fort that we visited called the “Fort of San Basilio, located on a hill at the northeast side of the city. A cobbled road winds uphill (actually most of the roads here are cobbled) through a banana plantation and past a cemetery and aging mission church, culminating at the fort, which commands a panoramic view of San Blas and the bay. Massive black cannons and crumbling stone walls, a monument to the colonial days. There is a deserted beach with a “wow factor” like no other called Matanchen Beach, just outside San Blas that we drove to several times, when we got “bored” with the long sandy beach we could walk to from our apartment we rented for a month. We took the La Tovara Jungle Cruise, which actually ended up at the end of Matanchen Bay, it was an amazing sight, with the beach going on for what seemed eternity, with not a soul in sight. Our boat was piloted by a young man named Alfredo, he was a nice kid with very large ears, and we went with a couple we had met in town and had a lot of fun together. We saw a lot of turtles on the trip in to the fresh water estuary as well as some very large iguanas sunning themselves on the rocks. When we made it to the small village destination the water became fresh and there was a bar and a restaurant for us tourists to eat and drink at when we got there We drank a lot of beer and we swam in the warm clear water with the “tropical” fish and took in a lot of sun as well. Ir was very cool to see all of the tropical fish, in their natural environment, that were just like the ones that I am used to seeing in my roommate and I’s aquarium that I have back home and then to actually get to swim with them was absoulutely amazing! Our favorite restaurant in San Blas was a place called McDonalds, but it wasn’t like the restaurant with the golden arches. It is located a half block from the plaza on Juarez street, which is one of the three main streets in town. It has a nice atmosphere where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner as you watch the world go by. My favorite meal there quickly became what was called “Brocheta Combinada”, which was a shish-ke-bob with 3 kinds of meat and onions and peppers served with rice. It was always good and was usually prepared fairly quickly. The three meats were pork, beef and chicken, and they did serve fish and shrimp but they never called it “meat”. There was also live music there provided by the “McDonald Brothers”. I do not know if they still perform but since it has been quite a few years since I was there it is not too likely, but I do know that “McDonalds” is still in business as a restaurant in San Blas so I imagine it must be keeping up some kind of quality to still be in business.  This was a beautiful little town with gorgeous beaches when I visited there and I am willing to bet that no matter what has changed it probably still has the beautiful beaches!

I Had A Blast At Expo ’86 in Vancouver, Canada!

When I turned 19 my boyfriend and I drove 8 hours from where we lived in Eugene, Oregon to celebrate my birthday in Vancouver,Canada because he was 21 and we wanted to go out to a fancy bar and restaurant for my birthday, legally since the drinking age is 21 in Oregon and 19 in Canada. We had a great time and we ate at some really good restaurants and visited some awesome regal old Hotels. When I read that the World Fair in 1986 was going to be held there I was determined I was going to go. I figured it was probably the closest the World Fair was going to be held near to where I lived for a long time if not for the rest of my life and I really loved Vancouver when I went and visited there that one time. So I started asked around among my friends as to who might be interested in taking a four or five day trip there to go to EXPO 86. I got a lot of maybe’s but not too many people who would give me a firm commitment and from what I had been reading about how many people were likely to attend I knew that in order to go I needed to make all of the arrangements for Hotel to stay at within walking distance of the Fair several months before we went. I finally got a firm commitment from my sister and her husband and a good friend that I had known for about ten years, my boyfriend wasn’t interested but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from going. I am a very good vacation planner and I had a nice trip planned for the four of us that started on July 1 and we would spend the first evening in Seattle as three of us had to work half a day on the day we left so that would get us into Seattle around 6:00 where we could go out to dinner at our favorite restaurant there and then get a good night sleep and arrive in Vancouver in time to spend a couple of hours scoping out The EXPO site, I read that late afternoon was the least busy time to go there, I had gotten us three day passes that were cheaper that going for two single days admission, before we spent the next two days exploring the whole fair all day. We checked into our hotel that was within walking distance of the fair as was advertised and walked down and spent a few hours looking at the sites and setting aim on the things that looked the most interesting to explore the next day. There had been an advertisement for a service that you could call up and tell them where you were staying and what kind of food you wanted and they would give you the name of a restaurant to walk to so we called them up and told them we wanted steak and seafood and sure enough there was a great restaurant right around the corner. We ended up using the service for the next two nights as well and all the recommended restaurants were great. I had gotten one double bed room for the quick night we spent in Seattle and two rooms for the 3 nights in Vancouver, one with two beds for Terry and I and another room for my sister and her husband. The Hotel we were staying in had a decent bar and restaurant if we wanted to eat or drink something “very convenient”. The four of us walked down to the Fair the next morning after we had breakfast together at the hotel and spent part of the day looking at exhibits together and then went our separate ways to see the exhibits that we each were personally interested in. Terry and I’s plan was to see the really big exhibits we wanted to see first, there were only a few “had to see” of those, like the Egyptian exhibit of things from the tomb of King Ramses II and the Chinese Pavilion was very large and we also wanted to see the huge panoramic theatre and technology center. Those were the ones we noticed had the largest lines also on our two hour quick tour when we first arrived. So Terry and I went to the really popular ones when we saw the lines were short and then stopped at whatever countries pavilions were easy to get into after that. We had snacks and drinks in between. We had arranged to meet my sister and her husband at the

EXPO Theatre for a LoverBoy concert at 6:00 and then walked back to the motel together and ate a restaurant we got another recommendation for. The second restaurant was just as good an Italian place and after we ate we went. When we got done eating we drove to a fireworks celebration at the tallest building in Vancouver that had all glass elevators that kind of freaked my sister and I out when we looked down. The view of the city was amazing and the fireworks were very good. The next day was our last day at the Fair as we would need to get on the road the next morning fairly early to make it back home in one day and pick up my sister and brother-in-laws kids from their grandparents on the way. Once again we had breakfast at the hotel and walked to the fair and went our separate ways again. Terry and I got the big two exhibits we wanted to see done by noon so we spent the rest of the day popping in and out of a lot of the smaller countries offering and ate a bunch of ethnic offerings of foods from several small vendors. We got back to our room about 5 and took a shower and my sister and her husband were still not back by around 6:30 so we called and got a recommendation for an oriental restaurant around the corner and left a note of their hotel room door telling where we were going if they wanted to join us. As we were getting off the elevator in the lobby my sister and her husband were just getting in from the fair. My sister look bedraggled and pissed off. The phrase she looked like something the cat dragged in came to my mind but I didn’t say anything. We told them what we were doing but from the way my sister looked I didn’t expect to see them. Terry and I laughed a little at how much un-fun my sister looked like she was having. Much to my surprise they showed up about half an hour later and we had a fabulous meal and a good time. My sister told us during dinner, when her husband went to the bathroom, that he had tried to make almost every exhibit at the fair for the two days that Terry and only went to the big ones and then just the ones that were not busy after that. She said she wished that they had done that but her husband was on a mission to see everything. My sister was actually fairly pissed off at him for running her ragged for several weeks after that. We went back to our hotel where my sister proceeded to get very drunk to get her hostility worked out I guess. We all got pretty buzzed and started home the next morning with a bit of a hangover but all we had to do was sit in the car and drive 8 hours so it was a pretty non eventful trip home. I had a great time and have very fond memories of the trip, I think if you were to ask my sister I think she is still pissed off at her now ex-husband! Sweet memories!

My sister and brother in law and me

My sister and brother in law and me