After Sweet Thing's nasty shotgun episode, Lincoln Court provided an elegant, luxurious place to dine, unwind and soothe the mind.
Thursday, June 14, 2001
I made the reservation for Friday night, figuring Sweet Thing and I would get dressed up and treat it like a romantic date at a fine restaurant. Leaving ourselves the minimum time possible to get ready (naturally) we got off to a shaky start when Sweet Thing, who was finishing something she had been working on for about an hour and a half, lost it all in Cyber Purgatory-where only God or Bill Gates could decide its fate.
Being the calming force that I am and not at all affected by the tortured excrutiations (don''t bother looking that one up) of my delicate little butterfly, I, despite a rhythmic throbbing of that cute artery that leads to (or from) my brain and an adrenaline-charged compulsion to tear out one or two of my internal organs, serenely talked my Sweet Thing into laying down the shotgun. With one eye on the clock and the other on my heart monitor, I managed to get us on the road to Carmel by the Sea with only a minor delay. When I was sure that it was safe to redirect the conversation to our dinner engagement, I suggested to her that she call Lincoln Court to inform them that we were running a few minutes behind. Life was returning to normal.
By the time we hit the border of Carmel, Ms Thing''s volcanic crust had cooled, revealing a beautiful new virgin (ha) landscape where only moments before had been Hell''s fiery fury. We both began to enter the state of readiness before a big night out. You know that feeling: head held a little higher; stepping a little livelier; senses sharp, attitude right gonna have a hot time tonight.
It was the perfect Carmel evening. The cooling marine layer had replaced that abominable couple of days worth of tropical heat with its perfect natural air conditioning. No shadows existed it was the time before nightfall when the sharp lines of perception are blurred, leaving a flat, two-dimensional vista that tricks the mind into a peculiar perspective. Tourists were not yet abundant, so Lincoln felt peacefully quiet and still. We parked and strolled into the little courtyard and up to the front door of Lincoln Court.
We danced into the place like members of the Royal Family (thankfully, not the Nepalese clan), were greeted, seated and treated to a wonderful experience that will be repeated. I almost don''t want to describe the details about our visit, feeling incapable of clearly conveying the magic created by co-owners Wendy Brodie and Robert Bussinger, and Chef de Cuisine Michael Bussinger. However, duty to God, Country and some guy named Chuck leave me no choice except to try.
The décor is quiet-elegance-meets-big-city-chic-with-Carmel-undertones. The table settings are practical, not unnecessarily cluttered and highlighted by Riedel stemware, cool, triangular prism-shaped matching salt shaker and pepper mill, and a gold face plate with a big logoed coaster that reminded me of my first million-selling album (sorry, I was channeling Elvis). The gold discs provide striking contrast to the muted surroundings.
Strategic placement of mirrors dressed like windows create the illusion of openness. Delicate lighting from crystal sconces echoes soft background music and gentle tinkling of plates and glassware. Staff members, hiply dressed in black, dance gracefully to and fro, professionally efficient, friendly, yet unobtrusive.
Elegantly jacketed menus for cocktails, wine and food turn the diner''s attention to the business at hand-drinking, eating and being merry. Although lacking a bar, Lincoln Court has a full license so the cocktail crowd is catered to. The wine list, not overly extensive but with enough variety for most tastes, is surprisingly fair in its pricing, with lower markups than at many lesser area restaurants. The restaurant is new and seems to be smartly building the list slowly, letting it evolve naturally.
After a cocktail, a couple of airy popovers with just the right pop-to-over ratio, and a short period of settling in, Sweet Thing and I rolled up our sleeves and went to work. We would share the Scallop appetizer on a bed of fresh greens with red pepper coulis (love that word). It was perfectly prepared, expertly crafted, immaculately fresh, and supremely delicious. A glass of Brander Sauvignon Blanc for me and a Chardonnay from a good producer (whose name escapes us both but was a good choice) carried us through the beginning phase of dinner.
Most appealing for the next course were the two soups offered: Caramelized Onion Soup and Creamy Lobster Bisque. Forget silly versions of hackneyed French onion soup and enter into the paradise of this heavenly onion masterpiece in a bowl. And the bisque-the bisque beautified its bowl, soothed its new owner and deified its creator.
David Bruce, in the form of his 1999 Pinot Noir, would be the set-up man to carry us the rest of the way. Taking center stage would be Lamb Tenderloin for Sweet Thing and Filet Mignon for me.
There are fleeting moments in dining when the experience transcends simple reality and transports the diners to a parallel reality where life is only exquisite. As the first bites of our entrées were metamorphosing our sensory systems, we crossed over to that exquisite reality. Knowing smiles and deep, almost spiritual hums serenaded the scene as we blissfully bored into the meal. Every morsel on each plate pinned us to the bulletin board of buon gusto.
We had ignored the temptation of the signature dessert, fresh-made Chocolate Grand Marnier Soufflé. They request that you request it early since it takes at least 20 minutes. We decided late that we would have to try it so we sat around, happily communing with David Bruce, basking in the afterglow of a delightful meal. Naturally, the soufflé was stupendous. Sweet Thing and I had stretched that experience into a three-hour extravaganza. We bathed in the pure restaurant elixir that is the blood of Lincoln Court.
Go to this restaurant. If you can''t afford to eat here regularly, save up and splurge when you can. If you can afford to make this a regular part of your restaurant rotation, do so, and do so buoyed by the envy and sour grapes of all who cannot.
(Share after-dinner banter with Ray: firstname.lastname@example.org)