The plates whizzed by our table, the contents drawing our eyes away from our one-page menus as we admired the other party's lunch.
"It's the beef and truffle panini." I whispered, my voice heady with lust.
She nodded. "And what does he have?"
I paused and glanced down to consult the menu. "I think he has the meat ball panini."
She nodded again, her face aglow with anticipation for our impending meal. "It looks good."
I bobbed my head in agreement. "Yeah."
I reached for my water glass and tried to refocus my attention on what I was going to order. Part of me, a BIG part, wanted to get the beef and truffle panini like we did the last time my mom and I ate at the Old Vine Cafe in Costa Mesa. I was craving something hearty, something I could sink my teeth into, and something I knew would be good. Another part, the spontaneous part that I never let come out without the assistance of my more spontaneous friends, wanted to take a chance on something different -- specifically the chili verde quiche with brie, cheddar and mild green chilies baked in a flaky crust ($9.50).
"Are you ready?" Our waiter asked, his voice grating into our intent study of the breakfast and lunch menus like a rusty serrated knife.
My mom and I looked at each other in slight panic. We weren't ready for the moment of reckoning -- we hadn't even decided if we wanted lunch or breakfast! Savory or sweet! Hot or cold!
We needed another minute.
(We drank a lot of water.)
By the time the waiter returned, however, we had both finally decided to go with the aforementioned quiche. Because we always order in tandem, we both subbed mixed greens for the accompanying potatoes, and selected Old Vine's homemade English muffins with kiwi jam and pistachio nut butter for our other side.
Ordering decisions complete, my mom and I could finally start enjoying each other's company. Or at least pretend to since we were both so hungry that we found it hard to concentrate on normal conversation. She asked me about the movie I saw the previous night (I Love You, Man), and I thought "I hope the quiche is good. I don't know about the brie... I'm not a big fan of brie. And kiwi jam? That might be a little too weird. I mean, there must be a reason why kiwi jam isn't already manufactured by Smuckers or Knott's or Trader Joe's, right?"
I took a gulp of water. "Umm... it was good. Funny. Except for the puking scene." I responded.
She made a face.
Our food arrived moments later, and I dropped all pretense of polite dining behavior as I scrambled for my fork. I pierced through the crusty cheddar cheese topping and closed my eyes as the quiche's silky center stroked my tongue.
"It's so good when you get a chili." My mom observed, as she hungrily forked her way through her plate.
I nodded. It was. The creamy, mild brie juxtaposed against the delicately spiced chilis and heavy punch of cheddar cheese, transformed the quiche from a ho-hum lady's lunch selection to something truly special. It's the type of affair that makes me wonder why real men don't eat quiche. Do they not realize it's essentially a big slice of egg and cheese pie?
The homemade English muffins with kiwi jam and pistachio butter were equally compelling to our palates. Mister Thomas, Ms. Smuckers and Sir Jiff have nothing on this spread. This is a side that truly can stand on its own. My inner carbohog would be perfectly content to make a meal out of just the fluffy warm muffins and bizarrely addicting kiwi jam. (The pistachio butter I'll keep out of the mix until after the FDA lifts its salmonella warning.)
By the time we finished our lunch, all thoughts of beef and truffle paninis had hitch-hiked their way to Mexico. The Old Vine Cafe had become new for us, and I can't wait to go back to spend another 10 or 20 minutes deciding whether I should get the quiche or panini again, or the pumpkin French toast, or the omelet Espana or the tuna melt, or the Reuben, or the baby spinach salad...