Dessert, Part 1
I was raised to think that eating chocolate was a sin. Of course, anything that was pleasurable was a sin, according to my mother. I was raised by her, and her alone, and you can bet she kept me in line. She never spared the rod, and she certainly didn’t spoil me, so when I moved to San Francisco, I was as shy as anything, in my ankle-length, not-at-all-flattering dresses and sensible shoes. I hadn’t come there to make my way in the world, though – I’d come there to let loose, to let my hair down, to get wild. To sin.
I found a job at a bakery, one full of delicious scents, and every day I would bring home some sort of confection – petits fours, maybe a pain au chocolat, or, when I was having an especially rough day, a custard-filled eclair. But I could usually only manage about a bite, and then I would push it away. Apparently, my mother could control me even here, hundreds of miles from home. And then Stefan started working at the bakery, and things changed…everything changed.
We’d just fired a young girl who’d been stealing the occasional dollar or two from the cash register. I’d never liked her, anyway, with her belly-baring t-shirts and her heavily-pierced face. I was all set to not like Stefan, either, as handsome as he was, because of his pierced ears and long, burgundy hair, so different from what I was used to. My mother would have thought he was gay and hated him on sight. Which was one of the things that made me, slowly, grow to like him. Then, seemingly out of the blue, he asked me out one Friday afternoon.
“Hey, Mary, I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me this weekend. There’s a new restaurant opening on Polk – my friend Shauna is the head pastry chef there -and I thought…well, would you like to go there with me tonight? His lovely smile was the thing that won me over. “Sure, I said, and told him where I lived.
Once at home, I found myself thinking, for the very first time, “Oh God, I have nothing to wear! All I had were the dowdy dresses my mother had forced me to wear, a few pairs of pants, and some plain, loose-fitting t-shirts. I glanced at my watch – it was a little over an hour till Stefan was picking me up. There was a used clothing store down a couple blocks from me, I remembered, and so I took twenty dollars out of my savings jar and left my apartment, moving as quickly as I could. Once there, I found the section for dresses, and hiding between a dreadful taffeta thing and something especially hideous my mother would have loved, was the most scandalous thing I’d ever seen. It was black. It was short. And there was no chance Stefan would be making eye contact with me if I was wearing it. I held it out at arm’s length, and then walked over to a mirror, holding it up. I decided I might as well try it on, as it was only about ten dollars, and, to be honest, I wanted Stefan to look at me, to notice me, while we were together this night.
The only mirror was outside the curtained dressing room, and I decided that if I was going to wear it all night, it wouldn’t matter if the other people in the store saw me in it. One of the salespeople, a man in a bright orange fedora and a pinstripe vest, raised his eyebrows at me. “Oh, honey, you have to buy that, he said, grinning at me. “You’ll knock anyone off their feet, they see you wearing that.
“Well, I said, smiling a little, “I do want to knock him off his feet…maybe just a bit?
Back at my apartment, I put on what little make-up I had, pale pink lip gloss and black eyeliner, and I shimmied into the dress. I slid on my black Mary Janes, and just then I heard a knock on my front door. I checked myself in the mirror one last time, partially to make sure my breasts hadn’t spilled out over the low-cut neckline, and went to the front door, opening it with a grin.
“Wow, was the first thing Stefan said, the word containing far more syllables than it normally did. “You sure do clean up nice, Mary. He was dressed in a black dress-shirt and black slacks, and his hair was loose, cascading over his shoulders in gentle waves.
“We match, don’t we? I said, managing to embarrass myself before we even left.
“That we do. Although, I think you look better in that dress than I would. Court’s still out on whether you’d look better in what I’m wearing, too. I found myself laughing a little, picturing him in my dress. He gestured towards the hallway beyond my door, saying, “Well, you ready to go?
I nodded, picking up my purse from the chair by the door.
I was surprised when he took my hand as we walked down the steps to the street, but as we continued down the block, I came to enjoy the feel of his hand, his skin slightly calloused, his flesh warm against mine. The night was warm, too, and slightly humid, but not uncomfortably so. Even if I was dressed like a streetwalker, at least I’d be comfortable in the temperate night air.
“The restaurant’s down just a few blocks from here, Stefan said, turning to look at me. “You certainly chose a convenient location to live, right in the middle of everything.
“Well, it’s cheap, was all I could think to say. It was amazingly cheap, actually, especially for a neighborhood that wasn’t as dangerous as some parts of San Francisco, parts I’d never ventured into the whole time I’d lived here. It had almost been two months, I realized, and here I was, still making my way, still managing quite well on my own.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t believe what I have to pay for my little hovel, he replied, then gestured at a place right up ahead. “That’s it. That’s Angelique’s.
“That’s where we’re eating? You’re right, it was close, I said, gazing into the warmly lit restaurant. People sat in tables, some right next to the windows, eating, talking, and laughing. I couldn’t wait to join them.
“Since Shauna’s such a good friend of mine, and since the owner – Angelique – is her girlfriend, we’re eating for free tonight. So order anything you want, Stefan said, opening the front door and holding it for me.
“What a gentleman! And then, wonder of wonders, I found myself winking at him. What on earth had happened to the old me? Maybe it was the dress, but I suddenly felt like an entirely different person. More confident, definitely. It felt right, somehow, like this was who I was supposed to be all along.
The man at the podium up front smiled at Stefan, then saw me, and smiled wider, his eyes obviously struggling to maintain eye contact. “You’re Shauna’s friend, Stefan? he said, turning back to Stefan, and I noticed that the maÃ®tre d’ seemed to be checking him out as well. Not surprising, as Stefan was certainly attractive, but I still wasn’t entirely used to men checking out other men. Not that it bothered me – not in the least – it was just incredibly different from the town I’d come from.
Stefan nodded, saying, “Yep, that’s me. Then he nudged me and smiled. “Must be the hair.
“We have a table for you in the back – Shauna stated that you should receive the best possible treatment from our staff, and that you are to be served our special opening night tasting menu. Follow me, if you will, and he turned, leading us through the room of tables, down a hallway, and through a door, into the room where I guessed we’d be eating
Inside was a candlelit booth with a velvet wrap-around couch, the table set with beautiful, shell-shaped plates, bamboo-handled silverware, and several large wine glasses at each setting. I eased myself into the booth, taking special care to not flash both of the men as I sat down, and Stefan joined me, sitting closer than necessary, but possibly that was because the place settings were rather close together.
“Your server will be with you shortly, the maÃ®tre d’ said, and he left the room, the door shutting almost soundlessly behind him.
“Well, I said, smiling, “I’m really glad you asked me to join you for this. My budget doesn’t exactly allow for fine dining.
“Mine neither. That’s why it’s so nice that I have so many friends in the restaurant industry. Someday, he said, a more serious look on his face, “I’d like to open my own place. I have millions of recipes floating around in my head. Actually, I’ve been saving up to go to the culinary academy here. It’s why I moved away from Idaho in the first place. They don’t know foie gras from a hole in the ground around there.
“I’m afraid I didn’t used to, either. I picked up the folded napkin from my plate, unfolding it and placing it in my lap. Stefan did the same, his hand brushing against my bare thigh as he did.
“Sorry, he said, a guilty expression on his face. “I didn’t mean to – oh! His sound of surprise came when I took his hand and placed it back on my thigh, and he wasn’t the only one who was shocked. What on earth had gotten into me? A further shock came to me as a flood of warmth blossomed between my legs.
Just then, the door to our right swung open, and Stefan surprised me by not removing his hand for a few moments. Then he put it back on the table, as two plates were placed in front of us and some white wine was poured into our wineglasses.
One waiter left the room, and the other cleared his throat. “We will be starting with a ’97 Gewurztraminer, paired with seared scallops topped with olallieberry compote and lemon foam. Enjoy.” He left the room, and Stefan glanced at me, smiling wickedly. “I hope you like seafood?”
“Oh, I love it, although we couldn’t really get the fresh stuff where I lived, out in the middle of nowhere. Looks delicious.” And just when I was about to start eating, his hand returned to my thigh, his fingers skimming the surface of my skin, as he picked up his fork and took a bite.
“Oh. Wow. This is so good, just wait till you have your first taste.” And so I did, picking up my fork and cutting off a bite of the scallop, along with a little bit of the compote and the foam. I made an involuntary moaning sound once it was in my mouth, my eyes falling shut, and I found myself smiling as I slowly chewed my first bite.
“That has to be one of the best – if not the best – things I’d ever put in my mouth.” I sighed, and all too soon, my plate was empty, as was my wine glass, as I’d interspersed every few bites with a sip of the absolutely amazing wine. Stefan ate his as quickly as I did, pleasant sounds coming from him as well, sounds that only added to the sensual pleasures of the meal’s introduction. Moments after we had finished, he leaned towards me, his lips finding mine, his hand, on my thigh during the entire first dish, now sliding up higher, pushing up my skirt, till his fingers were resting on my underwear. As he kissed me, only the second person who ever had, I found that I liked the kissing even more than the beginning of the meal “ and that was saying a lot. He was such a good kisser, his lips gentle but eager, but I had to leap away from them as the door began to swing open again. He winked at me, a wink joined by a devilish, delighted smile, as the next plates were brought in, and the next wine was poured. This time there were three waiters, or I should say two waiters and one waitress, the latter quite pretty in a subtle way. I didn’t know if I was noticing her looks because I was turned on, or because living in San Francisco had opened me up to new things, to new possibilities, but if I had a type of woman, she most definitely was it, with her short, messy blond hair and small but perfect lips. I found myself picturing kissing her, as she cleared our empty plates, a thought I’d never had about a woman before. It was almost like this whole experience, this meal, these kisses, was awakening me in a way that nothing had before. And I knew it could only get better from here, better and better, because we still hadn’t had dessert.
The next dish, which had been described as, “lamb cutlet with a crÃ¨me de menthe reduction, and caramelized mint leaves, paired with a 2002 Bordeaux,” was, unbelievably, even better than the last dish, and the wine was only slightly less delicious than the Chardonnay, probably only because I had now found I preferred white wine to red. I started enjoying the wine a whole lot more as, finished with his cutlet, Stefan’s hand returned to what it had been doing, where it had been touching me, but this time it came almost directly to my crotch, which until this moment had never been touched by anyone’s hand. My ex-boyfriend back at home – we’d met shortly after I’d graduated – had kissed me, yes, and I’d gone down on him, but he’d never done anything to me, never touched any parts of me below the waist. So this was a bit of a shock to me, but I had been forward first, and I had to admit to myself, I was enjoying what Stefan was doing, the way he was touching me, far too much to tell him to stop.
“This is…definitely…adding to the meal, I said, my voice sounding quite different than it usually did – throaty, rich, and full of hunger. Then, the door started to open again, and away went Stefan’s hand, and here came the same three as before, bringing in the next dish, new wine, and clearing the empty plates, only small droplets of the sauce still left on them. I gasped when the next “dish was placed before us, two rows of beakers in a metal holder, three to a row, each filled with what looked like wine or soup.
The waiter who had placed the plates before us cleared his throat. “Next, we have a trio of soups – eat from left to right, if you please. First is a corn and Dungeness crab chowder, next is a nettle, potato and prosciutto soup, and third is a turnip soup with Moroccan spices. Paired with these three we have a beaker of ˜82 Sauvignon blanc, to pair with the chowder, a beaker of two thousand and three Chardonnay, to pair with the nettle soup, and lastly, a beaker of ˜94 Sangiovese. We recommend that you follow the soup with the wine sitting behind it, and we find that the tastes meld much better if you do not drink any of it in one single swallow. Enjoy. The other two had already left the room, and the waiter gave a slight bow and then left us to enjoy our soups.
“Wow, this is…unique, Stefan said, the last word shortly followed by the return of his touch. This time, though, he went straight to the most sensitive spot on my body.