Sunday, February 24, 2013

No. 466 – TBD

Performer: Live
Songwriters: Ed Kowalczyk, Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer, Chad Gracey
Original Release: Throwing Copper
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None

One of the big changes that took place after Debbie and I began to date in the late summer of 1994, when Throwing Copper was omnipresent on my stereo, was in my dining tastes. I had been a fast-food burger-and-fries guy—mostly by experience.

Debbie had a lot to do with that, of course. Saturday night was our going out to a nice place for dinner night, and we started going to a lot of different places—places I probably never would have gone to before.

But my work with the Grump had a lot to do with that, too. I mean, when you’re always reading about this new restaurant and that one—Columbus’ restaurant scene was in the midst of taking off at that time—you get tempted. I was willing to give things a try, and Debbie willingly encouraged gastronomical exploration.

One of my favorite restaurant experiences happened by accident in fall 1994. Debbie and I wanted to go to a new place in Worthington—I can’t remember the name now—but it didn’t work out for reasons that long have been forgotten. What other choices do we have around here? Well, there’s Bravo.

Bravo was fairly new and very hot. It was Italian with an open kitchen. Debbie had been and loved it, and I had heard lots of good things about it. But, she said, Bravo didn’t take reservations, and on a Saturday night, it would be a long wait. Well, let’s see how long.

How about an hour-and-a-half? That’s what the hostess told us, and that clearly was too long. We were about to choose something else when the hostess said, we have immediate seating at the counter if you want to sit there. She meant the counter that overlooked the kitchen.

On the one hand, I wanted a more intimate booth. On the other, I was running out of steam due to hunger, and I didn’t think I could wait another 90 minutes. Debbie said, we’ll take it. It ended up being the right call. We chatted with the cooks about various things as they worked the pans, as though it were dining entertainment. It also didn’t hurt that they’d slip us a little taste of something now and then. It was so great that we ALWAYS asked to sit at the counter after that. (And Bravo long has gone regional. It’s even up here in Evanston—mere footsteps from Engelhart Hall.)

Another great experience was on our first anniversary in 1995. I told Debbie I was going to take her to a nice place. What she didn’t know was I finally was going to take the plunge and take her to Handke’s Cuisine.

I knew Handke’s was expensive: It would easily be the biggest bill I ever paid up to that point. But I also knew it was Debbie’s favorite restaurant—and I thought for sure she’d guess when I drove past it while looking for parking that Handke’s was the destination. But she didn’t have any idea until we parked off Front Street and hiked back. I looked to my left, then right to see where I was and said, “this way,” motioning to my right. Her eyes widened: “You’re taking me to Handke’s?!?” Hey, only the best for our anniversary, babe.

And it was. Up to that time, I’d never had anything like it in terms of the quality of the food. Yes, it was expensive—north of two bills for two—it also was worth every penny. It might not be the best restaurant I’ve ever experienced, but Handke’s remains the best food restaurant—better even than Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago. I was crushed when I found out that Hartmut Handke retired five years ago—I’d never be able to take Laurie there now. Rats.

We saw Live a month later at Polaris, and this song was a standout, with Ed Kowalczyk singing it in the middle of the amphitheater. By then, my transformation from being a fast-food burger-and-fries guy to a full-fledged foodie …

Well, OK, let’s not go that far. My transformation from being a fast-food burger-and-fries guy to being a fast-food burger-and-fries guy who also loves haute cuisine (that’s more like it) was complete.

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