The Sampler at
The accent to Darlene’s, the restaurant perched at the top of the Hotel Nashville, begins with a bit of a climb, up two flights of stairs through an interior well-appointed with art and antiques, to a hushed and comfortable dining room.
There is a certain feeling of being above the mad rush of every day events—of a time and place set apart for the civilized pleasure of a good meal and the time to enjoy it.
The appetizers were temptingly seductive: shrimp cocktail with classic sauce, a wheel of brie with apples, grapes and French bread, chicken wings, and potato skins. I enjoy the hot crab dip with cream cheese, spices, and almonds. It came with vegetable sticks and slices of grilled French bread.
We nibbled on the dip-covered toast and I studied the other patrons in an off-hand way.
Next to us was a long table with what looked to be three generations seated all together, ranging from a serene grandfather at the head of the table to a boisterous little red-headed boy.
We eschewed the specialty salads in favor of a nice house salad, and as I nibbled at my greens I continued with my people-watching.
At another table sat a man and what was clearly his look-alike adult son and either a daughter or the son’s wife. They were obviously enjoying an evening out as a family, laughing and chatting amiably as they shared a bottle of wine and began their own journey into dinnertime.
My kitchen companion is fond of the French onion soup topped with garlic croutons and mozzarella. I requested the soup of the day, a creamy potato with bacon and herbs, which I consumed lasciviously.
As for the main course, the many menu options included filet mignon, lobster, and catfish or tilapia, chicken Parmesan or lemon peppered, and sides of baked potato, wild rice, and fresh steamed vegetables, as well as pasta Alfredo, prima-vera, or topped with chicken or shrimp.
My wife likes the Chicken Oscar, a boneless grilled chicken breast topped with asparagus spears and béarnaise sauce. This time she opted for the blackened salmon which was large and delightfully prepared.
With my highly-attuned dining sense, sharpened by years of painstaking restaurant dining, I could sense a large steak in my immediate future.
I ordered the rib-eye medium well, which was large, tender, and tasty. We cast off all pretense of dieting restraints and had the (large) baked potato with butter and sour cream.
It was that perfect time of day, with slanting sunlight giving way to early gloaming as the various patrons chatted, nibbled, and just generally un-wound.
The ambience gave a wonderful sense of being apart from all the bustle down below, into a quiet retreat of dining delights peopled by like-minded folks.
When one is dedicated to the epicurean way, one must, by rights, address the very real question of a proper dessert.
There was a deadly looking “Chocolate Suicide Cake” with fudge frosting, a nice bread pudding with caramel sauce, and an ice cream sundae.
I won’t have to tell my regular readers that I ordered the cheesecake with turtle topping and a good cup of coffee.
As I sat over coffee and slowly savored my cheesecake, I was suffused with the warm glow of all things good about modern civilization: good food, happy families, comfortable places, and the leisure time to enjoy them.
Its all about the time, really, isn’t it?
They say “time is money”, but that’s just not true. You can get more money, but you just cannot get more time, no matter how much money you have.
In a way, we all have the same amount of time—24 hours in each day to use as we see fit.
But we seem intent on bargaining it all away, one way and another, not only with careers and occupations, but in the million myriad things which take up our time each day. We never seem to find the time to relax and enjoy simple things.
And yet, these seem to be the kinds of things which most often leave us profoundly satisfied.