Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Eatons invade Enfield

In mid-May, Robert and Diane Eaton, a formidable sibling duo, came to stay with us for a week and a half. They brought with them the most glorious weather, but as soon as they left it was back to gray skies, though now that it's actually summer we're having some sunshine again. Anyways, the nice weather started the day the Eatons left the US, and we spent that day with the Kiwis, having a picnic on Hampstead Heath, a huge, wild park on the highest point in London. From the top of the hill, we could see the whole city laid out at our feet. We brought blankets, ham and cheese and crackers, veggies, and strawberry shortcake, and the Kiwis brought duck and wild rice salad (I must get the recipe for that one) and Pimm's lemonade. Are you familiar with Pimm's? It's a flavored gin liqueur, although I couldn't really say what the flavor is. It's red flavor. You mix it with fizzy lemonade, mint, citrus, and cucumbers and serve it over as much ice as you can gather in this mostly ice-free land. It is at its best consumed on a picnic blanket. Do try it. We had a lovely time dining and Pimm's-ing and wandering around the "village" of Hampstead with the Kiwis. In fact, we had such a nice time, we decided to do much the same thing the next day with the Eatons.

They arrived on a Sunday morning, and we picked them up and brought them back to Enfield for another picnic in another park with another round of Pimm's lemonade (rather more of it this time). We had hummus and meats and cheeses and bread and olives and other lovely picnicky bits, and Diane and I lounged attractively on the picnic blanket while the menfolk played frisbee. Aaaahhhh.....

Over the course of the week, Andrew and I had to work but we met up with the Eatons for lunches, pints, and dinners. We had raucous and rock-ous evenings filled with card games and Guitar Hero (Robert brought a second guitar as a housewarming gift...good man!). One night we did our favorite Thames walk and went to our favorite tapas restaurant at Borough Market; another night we went to our local Indian; other nights we did pasta or more picnicky bits. Every meal, as I'm sure you can imagine, was accompanied by various delicious beverages. We have to show them the local specialities, don't you know.

Later in the week we all Easyjetted off to Dublin for a few days. Andrew is going to write about that, and I'll post it in a few days, hopefully. Once we got back, we had just one more night with Robert and Diane before they had to leave, and we took full advantage. We all went out to dinner at the Wolseley, where I had tea with Mommy back in September. We all dressed for the occasion and, I must say, we were all on fine form. It was one of the most satisfying dining experiences I've ever had. Some might accuse me of habitual overexaggeration when it comes to food, but I can't see any harm in enjoying life that much, can you?

The Wolseley is a grandiose space filled with leather chairs, shining silver, gilt mirrors and Chinese lacquered cabinetry. The food and service match the atmosphere. The staff were all very professional and attentive, but I think they had a good time with us, too, because I imagine we weren't like the typical clientele, and we were all pretty obviously enjoying ourselves. We had drinks to start with: gin martinis for the impressive Miss Eaton and for Andrew, a kir (white wine with cassis - black currant liqueur) for me. [Robert - what did you have?] I ordered some dressed Dorset crab for the table. It was separated into delicate, sweet white meat and creamy, rich brown meat, and it was the perfect amount; just a taster for everyone. I can't remember everything that everyone had for dinner, but there was a duck entree, a London-special salt beef sandwich, and a gorgeous steak. I had Wiener schnitzel, a first for me. It was delicious! I never really understood the appeal before, but it was amazingly tender and crisp on the edges and sweet and savory inside. We each had a glass of wine to match, and I felt very special when my glass of riesling (perfect with the schnitzel) came in a special little cut-glass goblet with a green bauble on the stem. It was beautiful, and the wine was lovely as well. We all enjoyed our meals and the comfortable setting and the heavy linens and real silver, and we giggled at the specialized cutlery and the funny little old-world flourishes of the waiters. It was all so different from going to a normal restaurant, either here or at home. We felt like movie stars. Dessert was the perfect finishing touch. Tiny glasses of dessert wine and rich pastries (I had linzertorte with dark chocolate and apricots) sent us off into the night as happy as could be. London is wonderful, but London in the company of people like Robert and Diane is unbeatable.

Of course, it wasn't too long until we received our next guests, but that is for another post. Soon. I promise.