Last Wednesday night I attended my friend Ali's birthday dinner at Il Latin. Her father is a regular and insisted that her friend arrange the dinner for her at that particular restaurant. He also arranged with the restaurant staff that we would be served the full spread and paid for the entire dinner. Ali has been told that this would be a 'nice dinner' with a few friends; when she arrived, she discovered that we were ten, in total; a pleasant surprise for her. Once we were assembled, the waiter started bringing in dishes. Before Ali arrived, the waiter had already opened table wine and served bottles of water. The table was already set for ten when we arrived. Cloths covered the whole table, and we each had a cloth napkin, two forks, a knife, and a spoon.
The waiter was extremely friendly, and explained to us that first he would bring us some appetizers if that was acceptable to us.
The appetizer course began with a plate of prosciutto placed before each diner. They then brought plates of cantaloupe slices, a plate of some kind of cold barley salad, a plate of salad composed of tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and basil, and finally a plate of crackers with warm pate. Each platter came with serving utensils, except the crackers. This was all accompanied with baskets of bread. They gave us time to work on this course for a while then cleared away the plates. I was the only one at the table who ate a whole pate cracker. Flavia (a student from China) tried one but did not like it.
There were other tables nearby with other people dining. As the waitstaff served them, they kept aware of how far we had gotten with the appetizers. They cleared away serving dishes as we emptied them, and once it was apparent that we were finished with that course, they took the small plates that had been placed before each individual along with any silverware we left on the plates. If we left all silver off the plates, they took the one fork we had used.
After this, the waiter explained that for the first course he would bring pastas and soups, and for the second a platter of meats. Large bowls were brought to us and silverware replaced, then we were left with two platters of pasta and two of soup. We finished only one platter of pasta (the ravioli). The waiter stayed aware of our progress, and came over to ask of we were finished once we slowed down. The same protocol was followed once this course was over; new dishes were brought to each of us (large plates this time), silver replaced, and the second course brought. This course was a platter heaped high with roasted meat; beef, chicken, and pork. We were also unable to finish this course. At the end of this course, champagne flutes and a bottle of sparkling wine was brought to the table as the dishes were cleared away.
We were then offered dessert. New plates were brought (small ones), and a smaller fork for each of us, and two platters of flaky pastries for the table to share; each platter came with a larger fork and a knife for dividing the pastries. The lights were dimmed, and one of the platters was placed before Ali with a lit sparkler; the waitstaff and all of the guests in our room sang "Happy Birthday" in English. Then they brought glasses of limoncello, them finally glasses of amaretto and biscotti to dip in the amaretto. They offered coffee, but we were all too full to even think of drinking or eating anything more. We all then thanked the waiter and went for a long walk.
Last weekend I also took three separate day trips. On Friday, June 4th I went on a class-sponsored wine tasting in Suvereto. Gualdo del Re is the name of the winery. They grow their on grapes (and olives), press and ferment on site, and offer meals and accommodations.
First they showed us around the production facilities,
Here are the fermentation vats for red and white wine.
This is the aging cellar, where red wine is aged for 12-18 months.
Red wine aging in bottles.
Then they showed us the fields.
We took a walk to the town of Suvereto,
then came back for lunch.
First course; pasta with wild boar.
Second course: roast meats (all pork) with potato.
Dessert; Fig squares.
Each course was served with its own wine; the appetizers with white, the first course with a blended red, and the second course with a merlot. I am bringing home a bottle of the merlot!
After a long, leisurely lunch, we took a very short trip to the beach, then went home.