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Date night

I have no idea when date nights became a thing. They were certainly not a thing for most of my married life, and basically I don't think we had them - just birthday and anniversary celebrations. Before we were married we went out on dates - mostly dinner in a London bistro or two - some of them now famous in retrospect I think. Odin's I remember and Bistro 62. I think Odin's lasted for some time, but has now closed or been taken over or something. Bistro 62 though is long gone.

These days though it seems to be a thing with married couples and long may it last. I think it's a terrific idea. Anyway last night we had a date night at home, courtesy of our local fine dining restaurant - Mercer's. And yes I did a whole post on it, but here is another - the actual experience.

The picture of me is awful - most of the photographs of me are awful, but I guess I do look mildly pleased and expectant of a fun evening. We both dressed up to the best of our ability. I got out our expensive Riedel wine glasses and we selected two fine wines from our local area. A Shaws Road 2015 Chardonnay and a Yarrambat Estate 2009 Cabernet Merlot. The Chardonnay was so nice that David drank more than he meant to I think. I put out our best dinner mats, and cleared the table of all the junk. Everything was ready for a romantic dinner for two. I did think of candles, but in the end, for some reason I didn't. Maybe next time.

I had previously watched Stephen Mercer's little video of how to present and cook the meal - well not cook - finish off and heat up being more appropriate words to use. And not even them for three of the courses. I brought my iPad to the kitchen so that I could refer to it again, but I didn't really need to because it was all so simple.

We began with their little 'amuse bouche' - Roasted capsicum mousse with Turkish bread.

Nothing to do for this course except find something suitable to serve it on and put it on the table. The mousse came in a plastic container and I could have just left it at that, but I took it out and presented it in a little dish that we have. I should have tidied up the edges though, but I think David was eager to begin so I hurried it a bit to the table. And I have to say it was absolutely delicious with our Chardonnay.

So on to the entrée - Atlantic salmon and leek terrine with fennel slaw and fresh cherry tomato relish - again nothing to do here but plate it up. Again totally yum, though I didn't get the cherries quite right on the plate.

The main course was Yoghurt marinated lamb rump with sweet potato, sumac cauliflower and tagine sauce. The lamb had been precooked and came in a plastic bag. I had to pour boiling water over this to warm it up and then remove, pat dry and fry off for a few minutes, whilst the sumac cauliflower was being roasted/warmed in the oven and the sauce and the sweet potato heated in the microwave. A bit of slicing of the lamb and arranging on the plate and voilà main course done.

It tasted very Moroccan and the lamb was so tender and so tasty. I'm sure the chick peas did not come out of a tin, they tasted and looked too perfect for that. Yes there is a difference. Maybe I should cook my own next time I make hummus.

Now we had a choice of a dessert or cheese, but we had both chosen the dessert, so we decided we would do our own cheese course. David had saved some of his Mercer's bread which we had eaten with the entrée - you can just see it on the bottom of the cheese board. More than a roll but less than a loaf, and coming with it's generous pat of sesame butter, their bread is just superb. We were instructed to warm it briefly in the oven. We each had a favourite cheese - David's a smoky cheddar and mine an English Red Leicester, although it was a toss up with a Brie. Mercer's choice had been - Milawa goats camembert and Barbar's UK 1833 Vintage Reserved cheddar served with crackers, truffled walnuts and quince paste. Damn, I should have put out some quince paste or pickled cucumber! I always forget to do that. And David was, by now, well into the red wine.

But the pièce de rèsistance was the dessert - Strawberries and cream - which was, of course, not just strawberries and cream. In fact no cream - or rather the cream was in the form of a bavarois placed on a kind of biscuit, topped with the syrupy strawberries, some tiny meringues strawberry sorbet, and a strawberry coulis. Every bite was just scrumptious.

Then to finish us off - quite literally - we got out my home-made limoncello, which swirled around in our big wine glasses was actually rather magnificent. Should definitely do that more often.

It was fun, and worth every penny of the $45 each it cost us. We shall certainly do it again. Indeed we shall have to restrain ourselves from doing it too often because then it wouldn't be special would it? Or would it? I gather they have been sold out every week so far, and David said that Stephen's wife Ute said that it was actually quite a lot of work to do it all. But when I spoke to her on the phone when I ordered our meal, she said it was really a lot of fun too.

Of course it doesn't replace the fine dining experience of being waited on and the surprise of what arrives on your plate, plus getting to know new delicious wines, but it was a pretty good substitute. And if you don't live in Eltham or your local eatery doesn't do anything similar (suggest it to them), then do your own thing. Browse through your recipe books and choose something special, dress up get out your best wine and enjoy. We could have bought a bottle of wine - and some coffee too - but we have some pretty good wines here and this was a suitable occasion to drink them.

And did I mention the lovely roses from the garden? They are still there on the table that was cleared of all the junk lying around on it for the occasion. It's still clear but for the roses which are at the all too brief stage of perfection, and whose faint but ethereal scent greets you as you enter the room.

Well you've got to have flowers on a date night don't you?


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