With just a few hours of 2011 left, there seemed to be just one way to celebrate — a good meal and a bit of laughter. Neither was planned, but both offered a welcome respite from life’s insanity while helping us usher the year out.
We lucked out and got a last-minute table in the lounge of The Capital Grille in Stamford, just three doors down from California Pizza Kitchen where Catherine and her friend wanted to dine. It was the last table to be had, and we were grateful to get it, even though I would have been happy to maintain my post on the couch for the evening.
Basil had insisted on the outing, however, and so I had exchanged my jeans and slippers for a nice outfit and lipstick.
Neither of us could remember the last time we had a nice meal out — just the two of us — so why not. We hadn’t eaten at this restaurant before, but found the food to be fabulous and the people-watching top-notch.
The place was packed with a cross-section of folks, some of them casual, but nicely dressed, others in gowns and heels or suits and ties, and still others in jeans and T-shirts. We weren’t sure what to make of the variety.
One half of the bar was taken up by a group that grew over the course of the night — a New Year’s Eve gathering of good friends, each of whom grabbed a flurry of kisses and a flute of champagne when they arrived.
In the corner was a middle-aged couple dressed for the ballpark who kept a lively stream of conversation going. They made up for the couple next to them, who barely spoke, but went through two bottles of wine and used their phones to continually update their Facebook statuses.
One family with little ones arrived wearing Happy New Year headbands. Their jovial appearance provided a nice foil to the fellow describing his medical problems to a friend.
Perhaps there was a party in the next room, because the more formally dressed folks came through the bar but didn’t stay there. Two in particular stood out: a girl in a stunning floor-length black dress, baring her shoulders and crummy posture in a riot of criss-cross straps, and a woman in a one-shoulder black-and-white ensemble. Her pony tail was rhinestone-studded, and reflected the light as she bounced on by.
All of these people were interesting, but the best people-watching by far came thanks to the couple at the bar who couldn’t keep their hands — or lips — off each other. Casually dressed and perhaps having imbibed a little too much at even this early hour, they took center stage, hugging, kissing and caressing each other. Frankly, it was hard to know where to look. Basil even joked with our waitress that the patrons should take up a collection to get them a room.
When the mall’s early closing forced Catherine and her friend to join us partway through our meal, they crafted a fanciful and humorous back story for the lovers. And then the girls had a good giggle when the couple finally took their leave and stopped by our table to gawk at the plate of desserts the girls were sharing.
Just when we thought the lovers had finally left, they were back: They were so busy romancing each other, the woman had left her purse at the bar.
The rest of our meal, while not nearly as entertaining, was equally enjoyable.
Like so many other families, 2011 brought us numerous milestones — some pleasant, many less so. Somehow sharing this offbeat meal marked a fitting end to this chapter and left us in good stead for the year ahead.
I hope each of you enjoys a steady stream of good food, amazing company and tons of laughs in 2012!