Cheese and Chocolate for Dinner!

Alright, so I’m a fail.  “I’ll post the next part tomorrow” turned into “I’ll get distracted with all the new sights and sounds, and post the next part 5 days later.”  Woops.  Oh well!

Anyways, on we trot.

The days following Christmas were a flurry of getting things done, and preparing for our next long trip, but there were two things we absolutely had to do before we left.  First off was Ian and my third year Anniversary.  Yay, go us!  When we first planned our trip overseas, we made sure to give ourselves a couple of specific travel windows.  We knew we wanted to be a day early to our first scheduled housesit, and we knew we didn’t want to go out for a huge meal the day before being stuck on an airplane for seven hours.  As we needed to be at our housesit December 31st, had our flight the 29th to the 30th, and our Anniversary is December 28th, we were forced to celebrate our Anniversary on the 27th.

Every year since we’ve been married, we have celebrated our Anniversary at The Melting Pot in Louisville, Colorado.  We love the food and the atmosphere, and it’s one of the few meals we like enough to splurge on each year.  At about $60+ per person for the 4-course meal, it really is a once-a-year type of extravagance.

Each individual course is delicious of course, but my favorite is probably the cheese fondue.  With veggies, fruits, and breads to dip into amazing melty cheese, what could be better?  We started with the Bacon & Tomato Alpine (a mix of gruyere, raclette, and fontina cheeses, along with beer, bacon, garlic, and tomato pesto) which we had never tried before.  Best. Decision. Ever.  The tanginess of the beer and cheeses mixed with the smoky, savory flavor of the bacon and garlic made for an amazing contrast to the bright freshness of the apples and veggies, and perfectly complemented the lightness of the breads.

Next up is always the salad course.  Though Ian always says he can do without the salad, it is probably for the best that the four-course meal forces some extra veggies onto you between the other courses, which are so overly carb and protein packed.  Ian, as he so often does, sticks with the Caesar salad everywhere we go, while I chose the California salad.  With candied pecans, crumbles of gorgonzola cheese, and a sweet and tangy raspberry walnut vinaigrette, the California adds just a hint of brightness and a bite of tang that the rest of the meal lacks.

Now, the third course is where you begin to feel stuffed.  The entrée course.  Though I fail to remember what exactly the cooking style we chose was (it was some kind of seasonal recipe) the entrées themselves are unforgettable.  Ian and I both ordered The Classic (Angus Beef sirloin, dry rub pork, shrimp, herb-crusted chicken breast, and teriyaki-marinated sirloin), and we each chose to include an additional entrée; Ian the cold-water lobster tail, and I the chicken and vegetable pot stickers.  As always, every bit of food we ordered was beyond incredible, and the sextet of sauces they provide for dipping bring each protein to a whole new level.  This course is the one which takes the most time, however.  With each piece on the plate taking between 1 minute (the shrimp) and upwards of five minutes (the chicken) to cook, a plate of 15 to 20 entrée pieces each, adds up, and we were seated at our table for more than an hour by the time we had finally cleared the last pieces off of our entrée plates.

While we waited, making room for our finally course, we ordered a couple of interesting drinks.  As we are not big drinkers, special occasions are about the only times we really splurge on sugary cocktails, but the drink menu simply had too many interesting recipes we wanted to try.  One of my favorites of the night was a creamy Peach Martini which included hints of cinnamon, and almost tasted as if it were the milk after eating apple jacks cereal.  So tasty!  Ian on the other hand, still full of holiday spirit, ordered the eggless holiday eggnog.  Never a bad choice, in my humble opinion.

Finally, as we eventually managed to feel like we weren’t going to explode (yet), our dessert course arrived.  The Flaming Turtle.  A flambéed wonder of milk chocolate, caramel, and candied pecans.  What could be more mouth-watering than that?  Although the dessert course always comes with a plate of fresh fruit, squishy marshmallows, and crunchy rice crispies, we chose to add on the “Sweet Additions” plate (including cream puffs, a slice of cheesecake, and a bowl of fresh berries) as well.  I can’t think of a better way to round out an amazing dinner, than by dipping everything in sight into melted chocolate.

Stuffed to bursting, we hauled ourselves up from the table, and managed to waddle back out into the cold night air, and return home.  Ideally, after such an extravagant meal, we would have curled up and immediately passed out into pleasant food comas.  Alas, we were under the pressure of a countdown to departure, and had to continue our packing and planning, as the next night was commandeered for one last family gathering.

On the night before our departure, my whole family gathered at my grandparents’ house, for one final holiday tradition.  In the past, we usually would gather on New Year’s Day and enjoy a brunch of Eggs Benedict.  As my grandfather was scheduled to work on New Year’s Day, and Ian and I were planning on being out of the country, we rescheduled our traditional New Year’s celebration to the 28th (Ian and my actual Anniversary).

As we sat around the table, eating our yearly brunch (at dinnertime this year) we rose our glasses, to toast in the New Year with the last of our Brooks Wine.  We toasted to the past, and the future, and to Brooks, who we asked to watch over us in the New Year.  We smiled, and we laughed.  Told stories, and shared our plans for the future; all while sitting over our nighttime brunch of Eggs Benedict and scones.  When the evening came to a close, Ian and I headed out (still needing to finish up our travel preparations) and hugged everyone goodbye for at least the next six months.

With concrete plans to visit at least three separate countries, and hesitant plans to try and make it to six others, we knew it could possibly be closer to a year until we saw our family and friends again.  As I write this, we are still unsure of what we will be doing in three months time, but Oh, the possibilities!  All we know for sure is that this is going to be one extraordinary year!

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