Burn This: A Dinner Inferno


In some chapter affixed to an album of memories (affectionately titled: “Recklessly Meandering Through the 80’s”), one might find a late New Year’s entry involving a weekend jaunt to New York. The anti-Christ and I had taken the Metroliner, once again, and arrived that Friday just in time to swiftly check into our hotel and scurry to the Circle Repertory Theater to see “Burn This”. The play was, at best, interesting although a bit morose for a “holiday” Broadway foray. Although they ultimately succumbed to the script, Joan Allen and John Malkovich were both illuminating and well-worth the premium of front-row seating.

By 11PM, George and I were walking through the door of Bistro Sophia for what I had hoped would be the trip’s highlight: our celebratory late dinner and toasts. The restaurant was charming with a distinctly European and lush decor: golden ochre Venetian plaster walls, dark walnut flooring, and huge, huge French impressionist paintings filling the walls gallery-style. Our intimate table was lavishly appointed with, further, a multitude of dissimilar champagne glasses. The A.C. reluctantly scanned the dining room as he simply couldn’t give in to the moment, breathe it all in, and thereby acquiesce to my decision of restaurant.

The colorful and alluring images that “windowed” the walls were incredible and incredibly cleverly devised and placed. Although we could eye entire images from across the room, in our own corner setting we felt as though we were actually about to dine inside a painting, or another world. I looked over the anti-Christ’s shoulders to see an etherial frolic in Alsace, adding a much needed romanticism to his stern and strenuous words.

By midnight, we enjoyed our first of many toasts and awaited out first of seven courses. Yes, my friends, this was to be a dinner to end all dinners, doing so hopefully before the chime of the breakfast! But time was of no import; we had no where to be until Monday at work so I was quite content letting the dinner unfold at its own pace. And what a spectacular dinner it was! Oysters with spinach, brandy, and horseradish. Herbed crabcakes with a simple remoulade. Grilled venison with a port glaze. The meal was further dazzling with creative side dishes, artful intermezzos, and naturally copious champagne toasts, each presented in a fresh and oddly new-shaped glass.

At 3:30AM, when I was paying our check, we were sated surely beyond that of some Roman orgiastic feast and barely able to talk in complete sentences. Two syllable words were even a labor. I looked back into the dining room as we departed, absorbing as much of the vivid and gorgeous walls and artwork. Incredible! It was as if we had welcomed the new year in Paris.

By 4AM, we were sound asleep finally with the late night “Manhattan lights” casting marvelous shadows. I know this because I awakened several times as is my custom. Neither one of us finally emerged to greet the day until mid-afternoon. And, believe me, the process of showering and dressing was quite the arduous and strained ordeal. If I remember in correct detail, we left the hotel in time to get a cup of coffee before heading to yet another theater to see yet another show, this time an upbeat, grand-scale musical. Even the anti-Christ thanked God thus!

Is there a moral to this snippet of a tale, my friends? Of course not. Neither moral, nor lesson were to be learned, unless perhaps it was the credo I silently pondered while on the return leg of the Metroliner. Sometimes the best of moments can spring forth from the worst of times, perhaps even fetid. Oh, yes. I urge you to never, ever, ever gorge on a seven course dinner of multi-thousand calories, at any hour of the day. That weekend, the anti-Christ never had the requisite remedy of antacid or reassurance, at least in my presence! Although at some point, months later, he did remark that such a New Year’s feast was incredible and beyond belief, albeit too expensive.

He could never bring himself just to offer a modest “thank you”! Or appreciate the smallness of the moment.

(Insert here an instrumental interlude of  the Trammps “Disco Inferno”! Please, feel free to either hum, warble, or lip-sync.)

(Image: “Europa” by Juanita Guccione, 1939.)

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