there are some nights when you just feel like pinching yourself and asking, "is this really happening?" (alternate utterances include, "i have the best job in the entire world.")
last night, for me, was one of those nights.
i was invited to an intimate, four-person dinner at beach bistro on anna maria island, a little slice of beach-town heaven about 35 minutes north of sarasota. it was a cold, clear night, and the starry sky, coupled with the twinkle-light-lined cottages and old-timey ice cream shops and burger joints that we passed on the way to the bistro -- not to mention the gulf of mexico, which traced our path the entire way -- lent an air of magic to the entire evening.
beach bistro, as the name suggests, lives right on the beach; you step out of the restaurant's back door and into the sand. it's a small restaurant in an unassuming location, with low ceilings and nautical, beach-themed decor that makes you feel like you're dining on a ship. the lighting -- which you can see in that second pic above -- is such that, even though you're surrounded by other tables, you still feel like you and your companions are enjoying a meal that's been prepared solely, and specially, for you. service is attentive and friendly and -- in a place where everything is so well-thought out, right down to the cheeky descriptions of menu items -- decidedly un-stuffy. and the first grace note sounds the second you're seated: it's in the ice water flavored with lemon and a sprig of rosemary. (and then in the champagne, the perfectly paired white and red wines, the butter-poached lobster with citrus grits, the sherry-scented tomato with bread, a little pesto and a little olive tapenade, the grouper over fork-tender fingerling potatoes, the bouillabaisse and the desserts that included chocolate terrine, a warm fruit crepe, praline-coated vanilla ice cream and bacon ice cream, also pictured above. sound like a lot? there were two more red-meat options that i didn't try. amazing.)
we left the restaurant feeling so full -- full of food and wine, of course, but also good conversation and laughter. it was an unforgettable night, one that was almost emotional thanks to the food and the company. i'd been to the bistro once before, years ago, and it was wonderful, but there was something different about this experience. saying that i can't wait to go back again is an understatement, but i also love the fact that a meal at beach bistro is truly a treat. it's something i'd want to have once a year, at most. the place is special; you want it to always feel that way.
so we drove home, down longboat key, our quartet quieter and more reflective than we were on the way up, and right as we pulled into the parking lot where we'd parked our cars so we could all drive up together, a shooting star streaked across the sky.
and on a monday night, at that.