I met my husband in a bar in NYC in February of 2003. I was there meeting a friend who’d just started dating a guy who worked at a large consulting company. This company had a New Jersey office, and many of the younger (or at least single) NJ office people lived in New York and got together for bar nights. My friend texted me to come join her at the bar. While ordering a drink, I got to talking to a gentleman who worked at that company. We had a good chat, he asked me out for brunch, and then a week after that a mystery date that involved taking me to the Aquarium at Coney Island. A week after that, he invited me to dinner at Aquavit.
Aquavit is a Scandinavian restaurant. He’d just moved back to the US after a 5-year stint in Oslo, and wanted to share the cuisine. I thought our budding relationship was going well, and so did he, but apparently he had a few nerves before this date and elected to have some scotch to ease these jitters. Then we ordered the tasting menu at Aquavit, which came with a wine pairing. A shot or two of Aquavit also wound up appearing at some point. It was a beautiful dinner. Not only was the food among the most fantastic I’d ever had, there is a certain glow over everything when you are truly enjoying yourself with another person.
I was pacing myself on the drinking (a single girl in NYC knows these things!) I wasn’t totally surprised when he asked, after we’d stopped by a nearby Irish bar after, if I wanted to come back to his apartment. But I was surprised for the reason: his parents were visiting and he wanted me to meet them.
Figuring this was quite a gambit if he just wanted me back at his place, I said yes. So off we went. By the time we got to his apartment, he was pretty tipsy. As I sat on the couch talking to my future in-laws, my husband told them that we were engaged (Me, sputtering: “What??”). When he went to put me in a cab he stood there on the street shouting “I love you!”
(I discussed this with the cab driver on the ride home. His take: “It’s good to meet a man with nice parents. You don’t want a man with a drinking problem.”)
He turned out not to have a drinking problem. It was just one of those nights. We went to Aquavit this past Saturday while we were in NYC for another party. We probably go there at least once a year. It’s gone through some ups and downs, as any relationship will in 12 years. It seems to be on the up again, with its new chef, Emma Bengtsson, recently earning her second Michelin star. The restaurant was celebrating Santa Lucia day on Saturday, and had a Julbord (a buffet) in place of the usual tasting menu. A quartet of women in white dresses with candles serenaded us. We ate a lot of herring, salmon and Lingonberries. I took a few sips of my husband’s Aquavit, which the wait staff didn’t offer me, probably because I’m so obviously pregnant with our fourth child, due in about a month.
We reminisced about that first dinner there, just under 12 years ago. As my husband noted about his announcement to his parents, he wasn’t wrong, he was just early. But “I never had any doubt,” he said, that this is the way that long ago dinner would turn out.
In other news: We packed a lot of festivities into this weekend. We also went to Longwood Gardens on Sunday evening to see the trains and the lights. The trains were somewhat underwhelming — I remember it being much better in years past — but the conservatory full of poinsettias and Christmas trees was stunning, as were all the lit outdoor trees.