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Rex and Roxy’s Perfect Tenth Anniversary Dinner at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, New Jersey

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I’m sitting out on our porch in Bay Head, New Jersey, finishing up the weekend-long celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary, and reflecting on our perfect Friday evening at the Bernards Inn in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

London and Maddie were giggling about our plans all day, excitedly insisting that I must wear my “poufy black dress” with the feathers at the bottom.  All three girls wore fancy black dresses, and we headed out for our 7pm reservation, arriving at about 7:15pm.  We started the evening with a minor disappointment…Rex had asked for a table for four near the piano, overlooking the bar, but we could see that someone else’s wine had already been set up there. Later, after the other party arrived and the silver-haired ladies covered their ears and abandoned “our” table in favor of a quieter spot in the back, the Maître d’ came over and asked if we’d like to move, explaining that the gentleman reserves that table every Friday night, but that his guests wanted to sit elsewhere. At that point, the girls were settled into their coloring (brand new abstract art coloring books that Rex and I picked up at the Jewish Museum in New York City earlier in the week), so we stayed where we were.

We kicked off the celebration by toasting our ten years of marriage with glasses of Rose Champagne, then turned to the menu and wine list. We had peeked at the menu online, and felt like we wanted to try EVERYTHING!  Luckily, Executive Chef Coery Heyer was offering an amazing six course Autumn 2008 tasting menu, so we could get a taste of just about everything on the menu. We decided to have one tasting with wine pairings (second tier of wine, $185) and one tasting without wine ($85) and shared the six glasses of wine.

For our first course, we both chose the Coriander-Spiced Tuna Sashimi with white soy-marinated savoy cabbage, fresh wasabi, and pomegranate reduction, which Wine Director Terri Baldwin paired with Paul Laurent Champagne Brut, Epernay NV.  The sashimi was delicious and the champagne kept us in a festive mood.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that London and Maddie enjoyed some tasty french fries from the bar as their appetizer, and both girls shared a few fries with their mom.

For the second course, I chose the Sweet Potato Ravioli with Pecorino, toasted pumpkin seeds, and sage brown butter sauce, once assured that the chef would prepare it without the evil black truffles.  Maddie caught me lying to our waiter about being allergic to (rather than disgusted by) mushrooms, but I’ve found over time that feigning a deadly allergy is the only way to be absolutely certain the Satanic fungus would not appear in my food.  Rex chose the Day Boat Sea Scallops with celery root, green apple, frisee, fried celery leaves and black truffle emulsion (he’s not “allergic”).  Every bite of both dishes was scrumptious.  We shared the wine that Terri Baldwin had paired with my ravioli, a Ramey Cellars Chardonnay, Russian River Valley 2006, as we’ve been fond of Ramey Chardonnay for several years.

Rex and I diverged on our third course as well. Rex opted for the Rice Flake-Encrusted Halibut with almond puree, haricots verts, grapes, and piquillo pepper vinaigrette. I selected the New Zealand King Salmon with barley, Brussels sprout leaves, butternut squash, and bacon vinaigrette. Again, every bite was perfect, but the Spatburgunder Pinot Noir was “small” and didn’t stand up to the salmon.

For our fourth course, Rex and I both chose the Crispy-Slow Cooked Suckling Pig with MacIntosh apple puree, bacon wrapped peanut butter stuffed dates (my favorite!), and black cardamom jus, which was paired with a Lail Vineyards “Blueprint,” Napa Valley, CA 2004. I was feeling kinda stuffed, so I gobbled up the “cracklin” off the top and let Rex double up on pork. At this point, our servers also presented a dish of angel hair pasta with butter and cheese for Maddie, as well as London’s Twenty-Eight Day Dry-Aged Sirloin ($48), cooked medium and with the kohlrabi & black truffle gratin, haricots verts, roasted pearl onions, and horseradish-lemon butter on a separate plate.

The fifth course was a selection of artisanal cheese, accompanied by Graham’s 30 Year Tawny Port. And last, but never least, was the dessert tasting: almond mousse stuffed poached seckel pear, warm pumpkin tartlette topped with marshmallow (!!), and apple cider ice cream. The dessert wine was Dobogo Mylitta Irabella Tokaj Late Harvest, Hungary 2004.  London enjoyed an extra large serving of chocolate ice cream, while Maddie feasted on a huge apple dumpling ($11).

We took our customary photos in the “queen’s chair” in the reception area, and recovered Maddie’s missing charm bracelet. By the time the evening was over, it was three hours later…10:15pm! Feeling stuffed and satisfied, we took the long straight route home through Far Hills, NJ, and look forward to our next celebration at the Bernards Inn.

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