Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 6:27 a.m.
You won't win Riki's heart with a tomato.
I'll admit that I'm another one of those singletons who fell victim to I-wonder-whatever-happened-to-my-ex-maybe-I-should-look-him/her-up-on-Facebook stupidity. Yes, my friends, it was a big, gargantuan mistake. But I'm happy to
report that at least I got a whopper of a learning experience, a few trips to Texas, and lots of good meals out of him (not the least of which was one of my most memorable dining experiences to date: dinner at Trina on Fort Lauderdale Beach).
After a few back-and-forth emails, I soon found out that Mr. Dallas' wife had recently cheated on him and they were filing for divorce. Soon the attorneys were hired and he was on a plane ride to FLL in an effort to right some wrongs with me. Oy! Where do I take "the one who got away" for our first dinner together in six years? I knew I may only have this one chance to impress him, and I recalled he was a bit of a picky eater.
As it turned out, I had just interviewed Trina's chefs a few days prior, including its current chef de cuisine, Farid Oualidi
, and I was really impressed with their efforts to incorporate influences from at least two to three Mediterranean countries in each dish while still employing very few ingredients. Plus, I found the restaurant tastefully decorated and romantic with floor-to-ceiling windows offering mesmerizing views of the Atlantic. Bingo.
Mr. Dallas and I arrived just in time for sunset. As the room's light dimmed, we made eyes at each other for an eternity and somehow managed to order between sighs. We would start the meal with sea scallop and ruby grapefruit ceviche, then move on to the grilled halibut and romesco special, and then try the cumin-rubbed lamb with cherry tomatoes, raisins, olives, and capers.
A few minutes of reminiscing soon turned to the inevitable "Why did we ever break up?" conversation. He told me he thought I was too independent and stubborn. I confessed that I remembered him as a selfish b-tard and, besides, I long ago decided I could never marry a man who shrieked at the sight of sushi. We laughed, we cried, we demolished the citrusy ceviche with the salty crunch (Did he just eat something resembling raw fish? I think I'm in love again!), and he promised that he would always keep an open mind when it came to future food exploration. I was elated.
Just then, a true twist of fate occurred: The server brought a huge, beautifully sliced heirloom tomato stacked high with soft white cheese, compliments of the chef. Mr. Dallas literally let out a hoot because he remembered there's only one thing that I refuse to eat -- a slice of raw tomato. Chop it up into salsa, cream it into soup, blend it into ketchup, and I'm good to go, but there's just something about a gooey, seedy slab of red fruit disguised as a vegetable that makes my bile pool. Now I was stuck. Do I push it away and leave him believing I'm the old Riki who left him alone in the moving truck, or do I buck up and pretend that I'm a changed woman? I fretted.
But then I plunged my fork down, speared a helping of half-cheese-half-tomato, lifted it to my mouth, chomped down, and swallowed with a smile. That bite was followed by at least five more. A new woman was born. And this gal will always be grateful to Trina's chefs for choosing the only palatable tomato on the planet.
As for the guy, well... Suffice it to say, some people never change.
Trina is located at 601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-567-8070, or click here.
Freelance writer Riki Altman eats everything that won't try and eat her first (with exceptions, of course) and dates younger men, older men, and older men who act like young men, along with locals, tourists, illegal aliens and just plain aliens. Love Bites is a compilation of what happens when her dining and dating ordeals collide. Sometimes, it just ain't pretty.