If you've ever met a fellow blogger, especially one that lives nearby, then you know the scenario...
You've set the date (yesterday), set the time (7PM), and picked the restaurant (Casablanca) - a fairly new Moroccan place in town that some co-workers had recommended. You know you're taking a risk on a restaurant that neither of you have been to, and realize the extent of that risk when you read the reviews and all it talks about is how sensuous the food is and the sexy appeal of the dark, sultry dining room. This is a first *date* of sorts, after all. But, what the heck? Live life adventurously, right?
And you already know they love food as much as you do.
You've picked out your clothes - not too nice because you don't want to seem like you're trying, but just nice enough that you don't seem like a slob. You arrive a bit early, because you don't want to be late the first time you meet. You're not really sure what your dining companion looks like, because they don't have a picture on their blog, but then again, neither do you. But when you get to the mostly empty restaurant and they seat you front and center, you're sure you'll be able to tell when they walk in.
And you can.
You meet, exchange hello hugs (you've been conversing over email anyhow and feel like you sort of know them already), and take your seats at the (very) low tables. It's really quiet in the restaurant, so you find yourselves whispering at first. You're nervous and thinking, what if they don't like me? Even worse, what if they stop reading my blog after this - that would be awful!? You brought your own wine because it's common here in Hawaii to do so since many places do not have liquor licenses - and you're happy to hear they don't charge a corkage fee. As you open it, you silently hope the transit in the shipping containers didn't ruin it (but of course, like would happen on any first *date,* it did). You're slightly embarrassed at how bad the wine is, actually, but you both laugh it off and decide to enjoy extra helpings of the mint tea instead.
There are a few moments when you're not sure what to say, as in any first meeting with someone you hardly know, but you're relieved to find that the conversation flows smoothly for most of the night. Because you're slightly nervous (you really want them to like you!), you accidentally knock your bread from your plate onto the floor (oops). But the soup is delicious, and you can tell that you're both wondering how to recreate the flavors at home. You talk about how much each of you loves soup, but how hard it is to eat warm soup when it's hot out all the time. You discover that you both read some of the same blogs - and it's like discovering you have mutual friends.
Things get even more interesting when you realize that there is no silverware at this place, and that you have a leg of lamb sitting on the plate between you with only your fingers and hands to dig into it with (no wonder they called it "sensuous" food!). The lamb is tender (if messy) and the capers and tomato sauce surrounding the soft calamari rings has a unique depth of flavor to it. After a while, you even forget that you're eating with your hands - until you drop some of the tasty chicken and cinnamon pastry dish from your fingers onto some of the other plates you're sharing. You apologize bashfully for dropping the food that was destined for your mouth on the mutual plates, and you both start giggling when the waitress arrives and tosses (a somewhat hefty amount of) orange blossom water at the top of your head from a tea kettle before she brings dessert.
By that time, the conversation comes easily now. And as it veers to food and restaurants and blogging, and you see their eyes light up and that they understand how blogging gets under your skin and the community becomes a part of your life, you know that you've found a kindred spirit. Neither of you is impressed with the fairly greasy and sticky funnel cake dessert, so you have extra mint tea instead - the honeyed flavor bringing a gentle end to the meal. Finally, you leave the restaurant with more hugs, deciding to take a cooking class or two from the local community college together, and head opposite directions down the street to your cars. You hope quietly to yourself that she had as good of a time as you did.
As you walk towards your car, you turn and take one last look at the front of the restaurant - "Casablanca" is painted in bright yellow letters against an azure background. You smile, and can't help but think to yourself:
* * *
Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a fellow food blogger - Deb, from Kahakai Kitchen. After "stalking" her for the last month on her blog (once I found that there was another food blogger here in Hawaii whose site I thoroughly enjoyed reading every day, there was no going back), I finally convinced her to meet up with me (wink, wink). So I'm happy to report that she's even sweeter and funnier than I imagined she would be, and I love her easy-going personality, which is also apparent in all of the wonderful things she writes on her blog (not to mention the amazing-looking recipes). I'm really looking forward to taking the culinary classes and exploring some of the foodie adventures that Hawaii has to offer with her. It's great to have all sorts of friends to do different activities with, but knowing someone in the same town that is as big a food dork as you are? Priceless! Thanks for a great evening, Deb!
While the food at Casablanca was good (not stellar; except, perhaps, the soup), and the experience of eating with your fingers, washing your hands at the table and having orange-blossom water thrown at you is its own treat, we both agreed that the $34 price tag for the prix fixe meal was not necessarily worth it and that we would probably only go back in a large group.
19 Ho'ola'i Street