A Night Out

Between my Grandmother passing away and a few very stressful weeks of work for both Dustin and I, we were in desperate need of a date night.  We are big-time foodies, and we decided to treat ourselves to fancy dinner at our new favorite restaurant Aqua 103, located in nearby Hagerstown, Maryland.

The restaurant is upscale, but not fussy.  We have eaten there 3 or 4 times, and the food has been spectacular every time.  We started the meal with a Martini-specifically a new, seasonal Autumn Apple Martini.  I don’t get super excited about cocktails, but I realized that it was one of the first times we had been out in 2 years when I wasn’t pregnant or nursing, so we decided to splurge.  I believe it was a mixture of Rum, Apple Cider, Vanilla Schnapps and a fall spice mix.  It was very spicy, and definitely seasonal.

We each decided to get an appetizer, and I went with the Calamari.  The breading was so, so light, and the marinara it was served with was delicious.  I know that calamari, specifically the tentacles, can look scary, but seriously-the tentacles are the best part!

Dustin has a serious love for tuna sashimi, and he loved Aqua 103’s version, which had a spicy rub and was served with a seaweed salad.

Each of our entrees came with a house salad, which we enjoyed next.

Now for the really exciting food!  Aqua 103’s menu has so many interesting entrees, and I was really tempted by the crab cakes, and a pasta dish with shrimp, scallops and crab meat in a garlic cream sauce, but I felt like trying something new, so I ordered a Maple-Leaf Duck Breast, which was served with Asiago Bacon Risotto with a Raspberry Coulis.  This was my first experience having duck, and it was INCREDIBLE.  And yes, it was served Medium Rare!  I was a little apprehensive about the medium rare poultry, but it had such a lovely texture, and the skin was delicious.  That risotto was incredible, and the tart raspberry coulis helped balance the rich duck and risotto.

Dustin went with the Filet Oscar, a special, which was a Filet Mignon steak covered in crab meat.  The filet was served with Asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.  Much like my dish, it was very rich, but incredibly delicious.  I don’t know that we had ever tasted REAL Hollandaise sauce and it was lovely.

At this point we were pretty full, but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share a dish of chocolate hazelnut gelato.  Like the rest of our meal, it was absolutely delicious.

I just had to share some pictures of our delightful meal, and I highly recommend Aqua 103 the next time you want to treat yourself in Hagerstown.

Here’s to a less stressful week!

Memories

Today my family said goodbye to my grandmother.  It has been a week of mixed emotions-my grandmother was a lovely woman who will be missed dearly, but I can also rejoice that she is in heaven now, and she is free from the burden her earthly body had become.  So many memories of my grandmother have come to mind over the last few days…

First of all, I have been reminded of my grandmother’s love for her family.  Grandma was the proud mother of 7 children, grandmother to 15, and great-grandmother to 13, not to mention our spouses.  As a child, I remember loving the idea of this large family-I always felt so badly for my friends that only had one or two cousins to play with at the holidays.  While their home was not large, my grandparents were happy to have the house full to the brim, and it was only after the first great-grand babies were born that we starting having our get-togethers somewhere else.

Grandma would sometimes baby-sit us on Saturdays.  She loved to feed my sister and I when she would baby-sit us, and I remember one specific time when she asked Trista and I what we wanted to eat for breakfast.  We replied that bacon would be good, and she proceeded to cook up a pound of bacon, which my sister and I scarfed down.  She offered to make us more, and I can’t remember now what our response was, but now that I know how much bacon can cost, I am touched that grandma was willing to make us happy, no matter how much it would cost her.  If she baby-sat us in the evening, we would usually watch the Grand Ol’ Opry, and snack on extra-dark potato chips.  If the Phillies or Penn State football would be on, I always thought it was so funny that my quiet, reserved Grandmother would shout at the television to offer support or criticism of her team.  Trista and I would always play the game Pay Day at her house, even though her game was missing many of the pieces.

My favorite holiday meals were the ones at her house.  When we were old enough all of the kids would eat in her and pappy’s bedroom, which was off the living room.  We would usually arrive slightly early on Thanksgiving to help grandma get everything ready, and it was often my job to mix together the stuffing that had cooked in the turkey with the stuffing she had prepared separately.  Oh could my grandma bake!  Every food network star will tell you that baking is a very precise science, but my grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe calls for “4-4 1/2 cups of flour”…was this based on the humidity?  All I know is that her cookies always came out perfectly, and mine do not!  Another of my favorites were her chocolate cupcakes (that she always baked in foil liners) which an icing that just looked like chocolate, but was chocolate peanut butter (yum!)  I don’t think I am as good a cook as my grandma was, but I have definitely inherited her love of feeding people!

Grandma had a baby girl, Marjorie, who died shortly after birth.  Before I had my miscarriage this was just a fact I knew about Grandma, but after losing a child, and then having my sweet Jude, it really moves to think about what pain Grandma must have felt during that time, but I never ever heard her talk about it.  When I suffered my miscarriage, Grandma was quick to offer sympathy, but she was full of hope, and I’ll never forget that she told me that I could at least enjoy trying for another =)  Wise words from a mother of 7!  As I think about her in heaven, I like to think that she now has the chance to get to know her baby girl as I hope to meet my baby in heaven when it is my turn to go home.  In fact, I don’t exactly know what heaven will be like, but since my grandmother worked in her church’s nursery for 50+ years, I am convinced that if heaven has a nursery, grandma will be there!

Grandma and her four youngest great-grand babies

As I think about her legacy, I think of all the things that I do, because she did these things, which sparked an interest in my mother, who sparked an interest in me.  I think one of the reasons I crochet is because my grandmas and my mom do…I want that skill to survive another generation.  My grandma had a huge garden and preserved much of her own food…mom and dad have always gardened, and now that we have moved I have great plans for our own garden.  Church and Sunday school attendance was so important to my grandmother-she valued this Christian fellowship, and I am so glad that our family persevered in finding our own church family.  My grandma was not a musician, but she loved hearing me play piano, and always gave me encouragement, especially when I played in church.

I feel greatly blessed to have had Grandma in my life for almost 30 years…I am sad that Jude will not know her better, but I know that he will still be blessed by her in the love he receives from his own grandma, and from the skills and recipes she has passed to her family members.

This hymn chorus has been on my mind all week:  When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory!

Shout the Victory, Grandma!!