Sorry, it’s a long one! But that’s how it goes when I get excited, I talk way too much! Just ask my friend Jean!
Today I drove an hour to my friend Jean’s house. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to her house. She lives an hour away from me. We’ve been friends since High school. We don’t see each other enough, but that’s what happens when you grow up and become adults. life gets in the way. I can only think of one picture of the two of us together that was taken in High school. It was the day we graduated, we are in our caps and gowns with other friends and a big statue of old Abe Lincoln.
My new thing for today was to have Baked Alaska. As a kid my mother would take her parents, my grandparents, who didn’t drive, to southern Indiana I think probably every summer and sometimes a couple other times during the year. My Grandpa would always ride shot gun and my Grandma would sit in the back with me and my little brother. Grandma would keep my little brother occupied by saying, “there’s a red barn” or “there’s a red bird”. They would color too. It was a long drive, and I know I would nap along the way, but it was fun to listen to my Grandpa talking with my Mom and listen to my Grandma tell my little brother stories.
Sometimes my Mom would take her sister, who also didn’t drive and her five kids, my cousins to Indiana too. We went to Indiana because my Mom’s grandmother and various other family members lived in close range of each other. We always stayed at my “mamaw’s” house. A few summers my mom and aunt would take all us kids to Santa Claus Land, an amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana. They call that place Holiday World now and I haven’t been there since the name change. I haven’t been there since all those years ago when my mother took us.
I remember at least once, maybe twice having lunch there, in a sit down restaurant, where you ordered from a hand held menu, instead of the fast food you get at most amusement parks now. I don’t remember what I would order and eat, but what I do remember is my Mom and aunt ordering the Baked Alaska for their dessert. We kids couldn’t order it. I don’t remember why, but I would suppose it came down to cost and something cheaper was probably ordered for kids who wasted a lot of food from excitement, or maybe another reason. Like just maybe because it was set on fire. I don’t remember.
Its funny how a kid’s memory works. I told my friend Jean I had this memory of their Baked Alaska looking like a Christmas tree. I could have sworn that’s what it looked like, but tonight I found a vintage picture of the dessert posted on Instagram by someone at Holiday World. It was in a little round dessert dish with a big blob of burnt meringue on top of it. Huh, funny. It looked nothing like what I had stored all these years in my memory bank. https://www.instagram.com/p/BBQqXfzKNoG/
So very long story, since I believed I had never had it I put it on my list of new things to try. It’s not easy finding anyone that serves this “vintage” dessert. I know because I searched. My friend Jean, knowing I was looking for it found a place about 15 minutes from her home that served it, so we set a date for Jean to share in my one new thing for the day. It was a good excuse to spend time with a dear friend I don’t get to see often enough. Jean even called the place to make sure they did indeed serve it and we decided to have lunch with our dessert. It was an easy choice, because it meant more time with Jean.
The restaurant is a little unassuming on the outside place called Sabatino’s in Irving Park, on the inside it reminded me of an old time, elegant restaurant, that seemed a fitting place for my first Baked Alaska. This Italian place had arbors on the walls covered with fake grapes, the false fronts of wine barrels on the walls and little white lights. The tables had cloth table cloths and there were cloth napkins. Best of all there was a cool, old, slightly dinged, statue of a young man, one shoe on and one shoe off lifting a jug to his mouth, with wine apparent on his chin. He stood next to Jean on her side of the table which gave me a great view of him. We were the first to arrive, at 11am, but within a few seconds other people were coming in for lunch too, and when we left there were several people seated in another room and a handful at the lovely dark bar. A mother stood by the door with her tiny baby boy.
The baked Alaska was for two and Jean had her camera on her phone at the ready. She told me, “it should arrive in flames, so I’m ready to get a picture”. I looked at her with wide eyes and said, “REALLY?” I didn’t remember my Mom and my aunt’s being on fire when I was a kid. Maybe that’s why we couldn’t have it! When our waiter brought it out it had a flaming sparkler and I was giddy, smiling large and staring at it. That was pretty cool, especially with the lights turned down. Toot sweet, he was joined by a waitress with a bottle of something that she poured onto the dessert and the waiter lit it with the sparkler! OH man, I wanted to jump out of my seat and do a happy dance! It was beautiful! Flaming dessert! I resisted the urge to jump up. The waiter cut it in two and the flames went out and he gave each of us our half. At the age of 56 I finally could mark Baked Alaska off my Bucket list! But you know what was better than the Baked Alaska? Having this time to spend with my friend Jean, just the two of us, with no distractions other than the food and Baked Alaska in front of us. We shared memories of our mothers who are no longer with us and we talked about our kids. I talked way too much all the way back to her house. Jean shut me up long enough to point out a cemetery near her house. She got me all excited about coming back to visit to see the tombstone that looks like a scrabble board and the one that looks like a couch! Go do something new and share the experience with a dear friend.