Saturday, November 5, 2011

La Belle Vie, Indeed

Five years ago this week, Chef Matt and I said our vows in a grand cathedral, opened some presents, and flew to Italy, where we ate like gluttons and drank like kings. Every year around our anniversary, we honor the memory of Bella Italia and find an Italian restaurant where we can pretend, for a few hours, that when we walk out the door we will be back in Rome.

This year, we diverted a bit and visited a restaurant that has been on our "to-eat" list since before our wedding: La Belle Vie, a restaurant that graces the top of most local dining lists and has the price tag to prove it. A fortunate twist of events granted us the privilege of a special tasting menu, offered by a chef who is something of an inspiration to my husband. The restaurant gods had granted us a blessing.

It was a menu that, in many ways, inched close to the French Laundry. We ate dishes I could never have imagined, such as foie gras cheesecake and lamb stuffed with blood sausage, and reveled in the transformation of the everyday chicken and trout into something quite magical.

As it always is when we are at fancy restaurants, the pleasure is not only in the food, but in watching Matt adore his craft. We spent much of the night talking about food -- how much we love it, our top five meals of all time, how it personifies our relationship in a lot of ways -- and although by the end of the night my wine flight had caught up with me and I cannot quite recall everything we discussed, I do remember feeling very happy.

Marriage, on a daily basis, is hard. I can see why the commitment can be daunting, and there are moments that certainly test us. But we have made it a priority to take pleasure in each other's company at every opportunity, and to find joy in what the other person loves. It may sound flighty in the face of financial hardship, difficult parenting, and the other trials of marriage, but joy is what we always come back to, and it sustains us.

On our actual anniversary, we spent most of the day apart, shared a frozen pizza after the kids went to bed, and watched "Iron Chef" on TV. Our two vastly different dining experiences revealed a universal truth about marriage: you have brilliant moments within days of ordinary, but if you can find joy in both, then I think you have found "happy."

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