I pretended not to care.
I'm an adult, I thought. I can go to the Taste of Beverly Hills' "Date Night" without a date.
It would be fine, I told myself. Splendid even. I could run willy-nilly from booth to booth without needing to file a report of my every fork maneuver and intake of Sauvignon Blanc to a significant (or insignificant) other.
There would be no, "Sweetie, I think I need to go get another plate of the homemade rigatoni with eggplant and tomato sauce from Terroni, because it's ridiculously al dente and ridiculously good and I'm ridiculously hungry, so hold my purse and don't talk to me while I'm eating, mkay?"
There would be no request for a Stella-slurping companion to "Hurry up and finish!" his appalling bloody Father's Office "burger" sandwich, so I could go watch Chef Ludo Lefebvre peel carrots during his live cooking demonstration instead.
And there would be no look of horror from a chivalrous gent when I'd lick the meat juice, residual bacon grease and jalapeno relish from 25 Degree's actual burger burger off my fingers with ecstatic sighs of carnivoric pleasure.
Oh no, there would be no need for any of that girly, giggly, "on my best behavior" nonsense on this "Date Night" at all.
Yet, as Saturday grew closer, I started getting a little nervous about getting all dolled up for myself and 40+ restaurant booths. On Thursday afternoon, I frantically began e-mailing and messaging my fellow "food nerds" to see who was going to the event and who would be willing to hear me report and/or not report on my every fork maneuver and intake of Sauvignon Blanc.
"Are you going to Taste of BH this weekend? I have no idea who's even going on Saturday night!" I e-mailed Nathan from the Chocolate of Meats.
A second later, I sent a similar message to Neil from Food Marathon. "You going to Taste of BH this weekend? Trying to figure out who I'll be running into on Sat night!"
Then I took my queries to Twitter -- hounding Sam Kim from LAist and Eli Sussman, co-author of the cookbook Freshman in the Kitchen, about their plans.
As much as I like my independence and the ability to run willy-nilly about Los Angeles in the same (stained) dress I've worn every weekend day this summer, I hate eating alone. It's fine when I'm hibernating in my apartment with a plate of curried cauliflower, quinoa and Anderson Cooper, but I'll never be the type of person who can truly enjoy a meal out without someone to make googly eyes at when something moves (or doesn't move) my mouth.
I want to be able to grab someone's hand in overly dramatic fashion and say, "Best. Gnocchi. EVER!" while I manhandle the beet ricotta gnocchi from Evan Kleiman's Angeli Caffe. I also want someone to tell me it's okay if I want to go back for another butterscotch budino from Pizzeria Mozza's display. And, incidentally, to laugh (or fake a laugh) when I say that, "I need to budino," or I'm budino-ing" even when they don't find my stupid jokes or me all that funny at all.
Good company makes food taste better -- especially food served at a social event like the Taste of Beverly Hills where half the fun is derived from engaging in communal acts of gluttony. It's the reason I decided to join some friends at the opening festivities on Thursday evening rather than making stir-fried veggies and brown rice at home, and it's the reason I made pains to ensure that I would be surrounded by additional food nerds and hungry types this past Saturday night, as well.
I didn't want to experience a single piece of toffee from Valerie Confections, scoop of Carmela's strawberry buttermilk ice cream nor spritely vegetarian spring roll from Gingergrass by myself. And surrounded by these "hungry types" -- the friends who made every bite I took this weekend sweeter, spicier and more pleasurable -- I realized that the best possible way to spend a "Date Night" or any night is with people who make life and the pursuit of food (in lieu of love) more flavorful.
Especially the people who laugh at my bad budino jokes. And smile with approval when I lick burger juices off my fingers.