December 2, 2009 | 6:46am
Here I was, sitting with my beau at the new Todd English
resto, Wild Olives
(which, technically hadn't officially opened to the public), when I realized that I had dined in that very booth on a blind date with
another guy just a few months back. And in a flash, I realized just how quickly a gal's life -- and a restaurant - -can change for the better.
The Boca Raton location used to be called Opus 5, and I needed to go to write a review on the place. Desperate to find a guy to accompany me, I fired out a blanket, pretty pathetic e-mail to my buddies: "Hey there! Know any single men who are willing to hit Boca for a date with a really hot chick? (That would be moi.) I'm willing to pay for the meal, carte blanche. The guy need not be hot, interesting, nor looking for a
lifetime commitment, but he must have a fully functioning mouth
and stomach. Plus, he must promise not to recoil in horror if I stab
into his entrée with my silverware. If you know of any candidates,
please call me. Thanks!"
Not surprisingly, I
quickly found a taker. He told me over the phone that the novelty of
having a woman offer to pay for the date upfront was too appealing to
Mr. Blue Eyes must've been really psyched to begin the chowfest, because he showed up early and waited for my arrival at the bar. I couldn't understand how the hostess knew he was the guy I was meeting there until I looked around and realized everyone else in the restaurant was old enough to remember watching "Howdy Doody
" on a 10-inch Bakelite-encased GE Model 805
We immediately discovered that we were both journalists, had a few friends in common, and shared a passion for unearthing new restaurants. And soon we were fork-deep in each other's salads, a monstrous steak, and a hunk of sea bass. Our spoons also clanged while dissecting a slice of multi-layered Kit Kat chocolate cake with crunchy peanut butter and caramel-hazelnut sauce. Surprisingly, he paid for the meal and thanked me for offering.
Though dinner was delish, the restaurant was beautiful, and the company was charming, I couldn't see reviewing a place that appealed to the senior set for New Times, so I filed my notes away. Mr. Blue Eyes must've filed my phone number away too, because I never heard from him again. [That was, until a few weeks ago when he bumped into me and my steady at an event. He was alone. I later found out that he whimpered to the gal who fixed us up about my being off the market so soon. "You snooze, you lose," was her prompt response. Thanks for preaching the gospel, sister.]
It didn't dawn on me until my boyfriend and I walked into the new Wild Olives last week that it was the former Opus 5 location. The décor had been updated slightly (yet I hear there's an expansion in the works), and the vibe was entirely different -- younger, sassier. It sure was nice to be seated among contemporaries this time who were undoubtedly more about msn.com
and Kings of Leon
than freckle-faced marionettes.
Our meal was even more modern, consisting of a buttery, leafy Boston bibb salad with Maytag blue cheese crumbles, a grilled flatbread with rapini and roasted garlic, a puffy butternut tortelli with pecorino, swordfish atop asparagus risotto, and a sugar-cured ribeye. I mentioned that I had been here before and we chatted about our blind dates from long ago, the ones who showed up drunk, late, dressed inappropriately, and... well, just plain ugly. We laughed about those creatures from the past, but inside I felt disappointed that I sold myself short before, not requiring even my random fix-ups to be handsome, fascinating, nor commitment-prone.
With that, Mr. Persnickety carved a dent into English's signature ricotta cheesecake with his spoon, wiped it in cranberry glaze, and fed me with it. A smile passed my lips and the realization rose like the bubbles in our champagne: New beginnings can sure be delicious.
Wild Olives by Todd English is located at 5050 Town Center Circle in Boca Raton. Call 561-544-8000.
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.