So Robert Esch, my good friend and a parishioner at St. Paul's, sets the whole thing up. He and Candy, Cindi and I, drive over to St. Louis for a visit with Dr. Nagel and Betsy. (Dr. Nagel, incidentally, surprised me with a xerox copy of the Cassimiriana - the Saxon-Coburg Church Order revised by none other than Johann Gerhard. Unbelievable!) After we visited some in Dr. Nagel's office, we piled in our van and the six of us headed to Robert's "secret destination." Turns out to be a restaurant just north of the landing called Al's. Unbelievable place. Absolutely unbelievable. Sitting right on the edge of what was the warehouse district, with train tracks right to the west of the building, you walk through the doors and you are in another world. Well, maybe before you walk through the doors. The valet parking should have given a bit hint! How do you describe the ambiance? The waiters knew Robert by name and remembered what he did and where he was from. They seated us and when the waiter went through the appetizers, we knew we were in for an experience (not a menu in sight! The waiters did it all from memory). The appetizers sounded marvelous, but we declined them; Robert had talked us into foregoing appetizers, though, in order to save room for the dessert. More on that later. The cuts of meat we could order were presented to us, along with several fresh fish. We all ordered - and the Nagels ordered as a side a rare Belgian veggy that none of us could pronounce - salsify. It was a white root vegetable and the kitchen made up a few for all of us to try. Our table abounded with steak, rack of lamb, halibut, sole with shrimp and lobster, salmon and goodness knows what all. The twice baked potatoes were unlike any I've ever had before. I've been to good restaurants and I've been to nice restaurants (they're not the same!), but this one was an outstanding experience in every way: it was beyond nice and it was beyond good. Those words seem cheap to describe the experience.
And the banana foster for dessert! Words fail!!! But to give you a hint: it was only the fine atmosphere of the restaurant that kept me from picking up the dish and trying to lick out what my spoon was unable to extract. But I was a good boy. I refrained. Barely. Add to all of this, the joy of dinner with Besty and Norman, Candy and Robert, and my dear wife. It was truly an evening to remember. And God put a beautiful memory at the end of it all for us too - on the way home, the moon was huge and red.
So, thanks, Robert and Candy! We love you guys - and you really did give us all a night that we will remember all our days.