Sunday, June 5, 2011
Saturday's Grace Period: Arrival and Dinner at Orcas
And suddenly here we were, at the Orcas Ferry station. I trudged up the ferry dock and quickly passed my bike money to a woman in a grey and pink flowered shirt, who handed me my new bike, a rickety but charming looking red bike with a metal basket. A few seconds later, Mary-Ann pulls up with her SUV, and we shove the bike into the trunk and turn back on to the road to head to the inn. During the drive, Mary Ann tells me that the season is just getting under way, and that her two young kids are running around the property. Just that morning, her daughter took the SAT to qualify for a talented youth program at Johns Hopkins. She's 13 years old. Mary-Ann is that kind of fantastic looking middle-aged woman, whose face is marked with lines and sun, but looks so healthy and energetic, I have a hard time of placing her age--anywhere between 30 and 35 seems reasonable. But it's amusing how young she looks, given that Geddes, who's in his mid-40s, looks to me like he's almost 60. I will soon be told never to tell him this.
Once I unload my bags, Geddes sweeps me through the kitchen for a brief introduction to the staff--Annie, ruddy-faced and ready for the dining hour to begin, gives me a hug. I'm inundated with names, none of which stick--I catch an Amanda, a Matt, and a few others I don't quite register. It's a much tinier kitchen than I'd imagined...the chef tossing together a salad at the counter is right next to Ani as she whips a pastry cream into submission. It's sweaty, wild, and it looks like fun. I'm excited, but a little bit intimidated by what looks to be a close-knit group. Will they mind me in their midst?
Thankfully Geddes encourages me to take a load off and grab dinner at the bar, where Krista, the lovely Emma Stone-lookalike bartender, pours me a crisp cold glass of Pinot Grigio. I start looking over the menu, and immediately find myself daunted.
Beside me sits a regular who leans over, whispering "Get the black cod special. I've already had two." I can't tell from Krista's reaction if his familiarity is welcome or not, but over the next two hours, I see her joke with him as he puts away more and more food. (I count a salad, a place of what looks like pork loin, a dozen oysters, and at least three glasses of wine.) He's having a great time, and I promise him a bite of my appetizer, a creamy dish of house-made pappardelle with sea urchin and tender mussels. The sea urchin is in tiny chunks, but it's got the texture of homemade hummus, smooth and grainy at the same time, and I roll it around on my tongue to make each morsel last. I suddenly know how my kittens feel about their oceanfish appetizers.
As Krista sets down my dish, a red-faced woman appears in the barroom doorway, which leads out to the patio. Her lips are pressed together, as though she might scream, but her eyes are wide with excitement. Krista looks up, her eyes bright and curious. The woman holds up her left hand, which bears a sparkling ring, and mouths silently, "He proposed."
"When?" Krista mouths back, grinning.
"Just now," the woman mouths back, and then scurries over to the hallway where Krista gives her an enormous hug out of eyesight. I'm so happy for this woman, but I also can see that Krista's earned the right to give her that hug, to be that excited and joyous, and to get to share that moment with her. I whisper "congratulations" as she heads back out to the patio to rejoin her now-fiance. I think of Nick, at home and far away, and suddenly miss him desperately.
A young couple enters the bar, and they're immediately recognized as locals. They soon introduce themselves--Karen, a young Indian woman working at Maple Rock Farm, and her boyfriend Quinn, who grew up on the Island--and start wondering about what wine to order. Karen's hankering for the lightest red wine available, and I recommend the Zinfandel, which is sweet enough to complement my entree, a neat little slab of seared Mangalitsa pork belly on a bed of strawberries and rhubarb in a strawberry balsamic sauce.