This article appears in the February 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit Lou.com.
Getting the Homer Simpson of my house out for a romantic date is a bit like trying to persuade the dog to fork over a bit of his bone marrow to the cat. Here is how the dialogue went when I first told my sweetheart that 211 Clover Lane is and always will be my favorite restaurant:
“I’m not going there. It’s a ladies’ lunch place.”
“You asked where I wanted to go. It’s the only place for me.”
“Isn’t it a little on the geriatric side?”
“You mean quiet elegance? Not being tortured by heinous music blasting over the speakers?”
“Well, everything you make is better. And cheaper.”
See what I mean? Romantic to the core!
Part of me wants to reinforce the inaccuracy of the perception that 211 Clover Lane is old-fashioned. Part of me wants to keep the charming French-country rooms my own private respite from the mind- and palate-numbing trendiness that comes and goes elsewhere across the city.
But, as Elizabeth Bennett said to Mr. Darcy, “I cannot.”
The St. Matthews restaurant, for starters, is where “fresh local ingredients” came into their own in this town. No matter how many other talented chefs might compete in the salad showdown, none will outdo what Troy Schuster accomplishes with crisp baby vegetables. My love affair with his handling of beets is so intense, it’s a thing best kept private. Then there’s the duck, the trout, the gnocchi, the oysters, the perfect pastries.
At 211, no waiter will ever ask, “You still workin’ on that?” They won’t ask strictly because such rudeness has no place there, but also because chances are slim to none that a single morsel will be left on your plate. During a recent visit, even the man of my house was silenced by the seared foie gras with mango and blood orange reduction.
But the clincher for me is that 211 is the place to go for conversation. Romantic? Maybe not in the clichéd sense of the term. (In fact, the majority of established couples might prefer noisier spots, where they don’t have to talk to each other.) For a real conversation, though, one in which you can hear both yourself and the other person, it’s like landing after a bumpy, noisy, scary plane ride when you thought maybe you weren’t going to make it. You want to kneel down and kiss the floor.
Which is more than you can say for some husbands.
— Mary Welp