June 26th, 2004


Anniversary Celebration: Miniature Golf and French Cuisine

Wednesday, June 23, was our third wedding anniversary. I took the day off from work to spend it with Lori.

We got off to a late start to the day for all the right reasons, and that's all I'll say about that.

In the early afternoon, then, we headed down southward, toward our eventual destination of Hopwood, PA, where we had a gift certificate to a nice French restaurant.

We stopped around 3pm to eat lunch at the Brass Rail, near the intersection of 51 and the Yellow Belt. They served fairly good American food. Apparently there used to be seventy-five Brass Rail restaurants around Pittsburgh, but now there's only one. That was a surprise to me; I know of few instances of a chain that large declining so far.

After lunch, we drove down to Bill's Golfland in Rostraver township for a game of miniature golf. I wasn't delighted with this course; the greens were very fast, so it took a great deal of precision to make a putt. And the holes were not very tolerant of error. We were both far over par on the first nine holes, and we didn't bother to keep track of our score on the last nine.

We then drove on down to Hopwood, arriving there at about 6pm. Since lunch had been so late, we wanted to delay a bit before having dinner.

Our first delaying tactic was an antiques-and-miscellaneous store. Lori was very attracted to a Tiffany-style lamp, but her interest was greatly reduced by the proprietor's pointing out that the shade was acrylic instead of glass. We bought a cast resin flagstone in the shape of a flower instead, because we appreciated his pointing that out, and got into a fairly long conversation with him about the travails of teaching.

We then went off in search of a flea market for which I had seen a sign, with no success. But as we were driving back to the restaurant, we spotted another miniature golf course, Green Gardens Miniature Golf, just across the street from the restaurant.

Green Gardens was a very nice miniature golf course, with actual moving obstacles (it's pretty rare to find a windmill to putt through at a golf course these days) and some nice designs. The holes were fairly tolerant, too--I finished 21 holes at about 9 over par. I liked Green Gardens a lot and would cheerfully make the drive down to Hopwood to play there again.

After the game, we got into a conversation with the proprietor. His uncle had just died recently, and he was clearly grieving about it. I didn't mind our providing a sympathetic ear; that too is representative of what we do.

At about 8pm, we went across to Chez Gerard. We got to sit outside, near the back of the house and away from the street, and it was a very pleasant place to sit on a very temperate summer night. We got to watch the fireflies gathering as well--fireflies are certainly among the most romantic insects.

We both ordered the six-course prix fixe dinner. Everything was delectable:
- the bread (made according to a special recipe of theirs) had a very nice flavor with herby accents, and the roses of butter were pretty and tasty.
- for an amuse-bouche, we were served a cheese and herb terrine that was so tasty that once I finished mine, I held off eating more bread because I wanted to savor the aftertastes.
- For an appetizer, Lori ordered the "Feuillete de Chèvre a La Nicoise
- Goat Cheese, peppers, zucchini, basil in puff pastry over mixed green salad" (I'm copying and pasting from the menu), and I had the "Salade De Homard Flambée Old Fashion - Lobster Salad Flambéed, tomatoes, shallots, parsley, Cream". Unfortunately, I didn't get to actually see the salad being flambeed, but the salad was extremely tasty. If put to a test, I would say that the lobster itself was merely good (though better than most of my lobster experiences), but the 'tomatoes, shallots, parsley, cream' part of the salad was heavenly.
- For the main course, Lori ordered the "Filet De Boeuf Béarnaise
- Beef Filet Mignon with Béarnaise Sauce", which was sumptuous. I was very tempted to order the same thing, but in an attempt to cover as many tastes as possible, I ordered the "Magret de Canard A la Maroccaine - Grilled Duck Breast with cumin, coriander, turmeric served with a couscous semoula". The duck breast was a bit fatty in places, but the spices and the sauce were warm, round, and delightful.
- I don't remember most of the cheeses we tried, unfortunately. Lori enjoyed a goat's milk Boursin, I believe, and I quite enjoyed a sharp-and-sweet Roquefort. But many of them had a stronger flavor than we wanted, and there was one triple-cream cow's milk cheese that was like a super-Brie--creamier, runnier, and stronger in flavor than normal Brie--that was much too strong for our tastes.
- For dessert, Lori had the "Tulipe Au Chocolat Blanc et Noir et Sa Crème Anglaise - White and Black Chocolate Mousse on a cookie Tulip with Crème anglaise", and I had the "Blanc Manger a L’orange et Gingembre et Sa Marmelade de Fraises - Orange and Ginger White Mousse Bavarois With its Strawberry Marmalade", both of which were delicious.
- We got coffee through a miscommunication, but with plenty of cream and sugar, it too was enjoyable, and I usually don't care for coffee.
- The post-prandial cookies included a brownie-like cocoa tartlet, a truffle-like "fudge bite", and a meringue that was one of the best meringue cookies I've encountered. Chef Severac came out and talked with us while we were finishing up.

It was a very nice dinner--certainly pricy, but worth the price. It will go on our list of restaurants for a special occasion.

At 11 pm, we finally left for home. Lori dozed in the car as I drove back.

Happy Anniversary, Lori.