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Goat Cheese MAG
Bemington's was considered by just about everyone the most elegant and posh restaurant in Featherstown. Its fine cuisine and silken napkins were inspected by every reviewer, who gave it, unanimously, two thumbs up. Immediately after its grand opening, celebrities started popping up. Flocks of fans followed to star watch, and business boomed. The rich, the famous and the wannabes eagerly gobbled the very edible inventions of Chef Jacques Boucher. In fact, rumored anorexic model Sholanna Omarlsky was spotted with an empty plate of escargot with a spring vegetable medley. Tabloid reporters paid more attention to her trip to the restroom following the meal, however. Featherstown wasn't a big city, but it was close to a few. To be perfectly honest, not too many people had even heard of Featherstown before Bemington's. Naturally, Featherstowners were very proud of Chef Boucher and his talent. While everyone was busy being proud of him, I was proud of someone else - his son, Jack.
Entrepreneur Arnold Bemington imported Jacques Boucher from Nice, France along with his son Jacques Pierre Boucher, Jr. (I think you can see why we call him Jack). Arnold was 77 when he started the restaurant and sadly didn't live to see its success. Chef Boucher took over the operation and soon the sky was the limit. The Bouchers were highly respected in our little community for their establishment. Jack, as I said before, was highly respected by me.
Don't ask me how Jack and I got together; I barely remember myself. All I recall was being really surprised. The feeling I got from walking down the hall with him was a lot better than how any teenage girl felt with her wonderful boyfriend at school. People parted like the Red Sea for Moses to clear a path for us. On less biblical days, I was Miss America walking with my studded tiara, bouquet and sash. It was all I could do to keep from waving to the rows of lockers as I hummed, "Here She Comes, Miss America." When the two of us had to part for separate classrooms, I looked down to find only my bouquet of books and sash of a gym bag strap. Jack was my coffeebreak from life, time out from the football game of reality so on and so forth. So, when he invited me for dinner at his father's restaurant, I looked into his gray eyes and knew I would not let my fish sticks background ruin this for me.
Of course, I worried about whether my shoes matched my lipstick and all the usual teenage anxieties, but the main problem was whether or not I could read the menu. My parents were of little help, so I went to my very knowledgeable buddy, Gwen. To Gwen's parents, food was the purpose of life. She once told me their vacations were planned around where the best restaurants were. My family's were planned around where the cheapest motel was, but, hey, every family's different.
"Gwen, darling," I cried, "I need your help desperately! I'll do anything, darling!'' Don't ask me why, but we always pretend we're British. It's just one of the things we do.
"Cheerio!" she hooted, "What can I help you with today, hon?" I call her darling and she calls me hon. So, we're weird.
"Well, darling, Jack and I are going to Bemington's and I do hope to be able to order something that I know."
"Your predicament is entirely understandable! I shall come to you at once. Ta, hon!" The wheels were in motion; everything would be fine.
Gwen's "help" was a book (a really big one) called Today's Gourmet Dictionary - A to Z. My dinner was in two days and I had homework I had missed from having the flu. My slow reading abilities did not help. By Friday, I was halfway through B, and that was all. So when Jack and I walked under the canopy that protected patrons from the harsh light emitted by the neon sign that read "Bemington's," I gulped audibly.
"Are you okay, mon petit choux?" Jack asked in his heavily accented voice. My spine melts when he calls me that. I'm not sure what it means, but it sounds so romantic and European.
"TrEs bien!" I giggled, pushing a chunk of oversprayed hair behind my ear. I pick up a little French when I can.
I'd never been to Bemington's before. Every-thing was raspberry and hunter green and mahogany and other rich colors that reminded me of the library on the Clue board. Soft lights gave one a warm, fuzzy feeling while remaining cool and sophisticated. Jack pointed out some Hollywood starlets hobnobbing in the velvety booth by the far window. He told me their names, but I only recognized their faces. I wondered calmly how I could ever think that something could go wrong in such a lovely place as I eased into a beautifully carved chair in the foyer.
"Let us get seated," Jack offered. I nodded dreamily. He sauntered up to the maitre d' and announced, "Anthony, a table for myself and the lovely lady, if you please." He turned and grinned at me and then gave me this big goofy wink. I giggled, thinking how funny he must look to some of the snobs who come here. They will probably complain to the manager about letting in offensive teenagers! Jack strutted back to me, looking victorious. "Miguel, my friend the waiter, saved us a table by the window. I'm glad I warned him. It's packed tonight. I cannot wait to see what you will pick off our menu, mon petit choux!" Jack beamed, his sheer cheeriness making me woozy as my liquid spine dripped all over the floor.
Miguel and Jack chattered as I followed them. On the table for two was a solitary maroon rose in a bud vase. I carefully took the menu, opening it very, very slowly. Miguel just looked at me. I recognized a total of one thing on the menu - artichokes. No way was I going to eat artichokes! I continued glancing over the entrEes, looking for some food with an appealing sound. It was a toss up between "Chef's Own Ratatouille" and "Fromage de Chevre Marinated in Burgundy Wine Sauce." Ratatouille looked difficult to pronounce and I didn't want to say it wrong and look like the colossal idiot I was. So, chevre it was. It reminded me of my dad's Chevy the way it was spelled. When Miguel came back, I stated my choice as firmly as I could. My hand trembled slightly as I handed the menu to Miguel.
"The goat cheese, a bold choice," commented Jack admiringly. "And I thought that I was the only one who loved that stuff! Is it okay if I have a bite?"
Goat cheese! I thought, horrified beyond belief. I ordered goat cheese. Cheese from goats. Not cows, but goats. Goats that eat cans! Oh my God! But I said, "Why, yes, I positively adore it!" Fear brewed in the pit of my churning stomach and any hope I had of a delicious dinner sank like the Titanic. We passed the interim between when we ordered and when we were served with inane jabber and people-watching. We saw some people who were obviously famous and at least one table who was undoubtedly rich. The famous table practically reeked of image and ego. It was difficult to look at them, because you knew that's just what they wanted. Meanwhile, over at the rich table, half a dozen husky-looking men and middle-aged women laughed at something, probably because of the amount of wine they had consumed. One flabby man laughed until his face turned red, as if it were going to explode. Spittle flew from his mouth disgustingly. I bet Jack that the woman sitting on the far left with unnaturally large pearls smelled like cheap perfume. Jack strolled by to take a whiff, and I won the bet. The goat cheese situation, however, kept nagging me.
Run for the door while you still can! yelled the back of my mind. I valiantly resisted the urge. However, it was even harder to resist when my fromage de chevre came.
Miguel brought over the platter at exactly 7: 57 p.m. In the center of the patterned plate, a whitish blob of some gelatinous substance sat. It was smothered in pinkish slime with specks of a mysterious seasoning.
"Wow, that looks delightful!" praised Jack. "May I have a bite?"
"Help yourself," I eagerly responded. I watched him actually put a piece of that thing into his mouth, chew and swallow it without dying. It inspired me when he - I'm telling the truth - smiled. I grabbed my fork, sliced off a piece of the hunk and tossed it in my mouth before I could think twice. I liked it! It was like firm pudding, but tart. The sauce added a rich flavor to its milky texture. It melted in my mouth and the feel of it against the roof of my mouth was positively heavenly. I quickly gobbled up the whole squishing slab of it before Jack could get another bite. When I was done, I leaned back in my chair with a contented sigh of relief. I ordered something, had eaten it and passed myself off as smart.
I caught a glimpse of the man with the red face. Flecks of food shot out of his mouth as he guffawed at something. Everything moved in slow motion. The red-faced man threw his head back, chortling loudly, and raised his hand. Millimeter by millimeter, the hand sunk lower and lower to the table. BOOM - it struck the end of a perfectly polished silver soup spoon. The handle went down, and the bulbous spoon end rose into the air. It catapulted, whirling through space. The rotating spoon grew bigger and bigger as it came hurtling toward me. It encompassed my vision and then a sharp pain to my head and everything went black.
"Are you okay? Wake up! Are you okay?" pleaded Jack's voice. I had been out cold for seven minutes. I'm told the entire restaurant turned, looked and gasped at me. People rolled their eyes at the red-faced man or shook their heads with disdain. He replied by opening and closing his mouth repeatedly like a puffed-up blowfish.
"I'm just fine and dandy. No harm done, just a little bump on the head. I think I'd better go home now. My compliments to the chef."
On the way home, I was chagrined. I simply could not believe it had happened. After all of my effort, disaster inevitably struck. I could barely lift my head. "I'm sorry," I tried to say.
"For what? It is not your fault that someone thought you were there for target practice. I'm just glad you're okay. I don't care if you don't know a bowl of couscous from a cup of gazpacho," soothed Jack.
"How did you know?" I asked.
"'Very few people order an appetizer as an entree when they go to Bemington's the first time. Don't think that you had me believing you could read a word of that menu for even half a second, my McDonald's girl," he laughed.
"You caught me," I admitted. "I'm glad you don't care." The rest of the ride was a dream, and when I got home, I looked up "gazpacho" and "couscous" in Gwen's big book.