No Whining

“We moved on to a plate of cheese-filled mushrooms, which gave off a great aroma, and which tasted… wow, simply divine…” Shiri Tov met with her friend for their weekly whining session. However, the food at Amelie rest caf? in Tel Aviv left no room for such whining.

Ya`ara is one of those rare friends with whom I most enjoy laughing, getting angry, crying, and simply being silent. Whenever my heart was weighed down with sadness, I would cross the street and go up to Ya`ara’s for coffee. However, since she moved to the Florentin neighborhood, we have had to resort to scheduling our meetings several days in advance. We decided to have our weekly whining session - the weekly catharsis – at Amelie resto-bar, located at the end of the Nachlat Binyamin pedestrian-mall, the halfway meeting point between her place and mine.

During the daylight hours, the sun bathes the caf? with her light which penetrates the windows. In the evening, though, as the lights dim, the place takes on an air of soft romance and the bar looks like a European film set. Only the big screen TV, with its flickering figures chasing after a ball, threatened the European chic of the establishment. We took our seats, a melancholy look on our faces. However, before we could utter a single syllable of bitterness, the bartender gave us a winning look and asked: “something to drink, girls?” We nodded energetically, as if we were to nomads who had just crossed the dessert to find a cold drink of water. Instead of water, however, two glasses of Shiraz Columbia Crest were placed promptly on our table. Ya`ara had already managed to start a tirade on the recent law forbidding smoking in bars and caf?s, which makes her feel like staying home. But when she sipped the wine, a hint of a smile formed at the corner of her mouth. The wine was terrific, light, and very easy on the taste buds.

A smiling waitress approached us and offered us something to eat. Then it was my turn to smile. Selection from the rich menus kept us busy, and the patience demonstrated by our server was commendable. After some debate and deliberation, we decided to open with the antipasti platter, containing meaty yams, eggplants, and zucchinis. The taste of thyme on the vegetables was noticeable, and upgraded the dish significantly. We moved on to a plate of cheese-filled mushrooms, which gave off a great aroma, and which tasted… wow, simply divine. The mushrooms were plump and crispy, making the dish a great combination of flavors. It’s a good thing that Ya`ara forbade me to order another helping of this great dish, otherwise I would have had no room left for the main course.

I always find menus to be a challenge. As one who knows nothing of cooking, but who has a great love of eating, the thought of how the flavors will combine delays my decision-making. After giving the matter some thought, asking the waitress some hard questions, and getting my imagination (and consequently my taste-buds) going, I chose the meatballs in beer with root-vegetables, serve over a bed of mashed-potatoes. This turned out to be an excellent choice. The meatballs were tender and flavorful, the beer slightly noticeable in every bite, and the doldrums which accompanied me to the restaurant faded away. Ya`ara ordered chicken curry with dried fruits over a bed of couscous. Although, when I looked up from my dish in order to take a good peek at hers, all I really saw was one full mouth and a nearly-empty plate. In a lightning-quick motion, I sent my fork into her plate to retrieve some remaining bites. Here, too, the generous seasoning was felt and overtook the palate with a different flavor. The chicken was tender, the couscous was airy and delicious, and it appeared as though Ya`ara’s mood was also on the rise.

The game that was playing on the big screen came to an end, and so we were grateful to be able to now enjoy some good background music and to relax, full and content from the meal. After a number of songs, we were ready for the most critical part of the evening – the dessert. The dessert is what leaves you with the most significant impression of an evening out. This is because the taste still lingers when you get home until you brush your teeth