On Collecting Menus

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First, someone leads you in. There’s a clean table for you with a tealight candle glowing in the center.

Drinks are ordered. An appetizer, or two if you’re hungry, comes next. Maybe the waiter snaps a photo of you two smiling at the table. You might take a photo of the main course or just the dessert. There’s instagram, of course.

But before any of that, there’s a menu. And I’m keeping it.

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We shared the spaghetti squash salad. Danny ordered the rutabaga polenta. I had roast chicken with kale and potatoes (listed on the separate cafe menu). For dessert, a kaffir lime sponge cake with greek yogurt, grapefruit confit, and cilantro. It was stellar.

Growing up, Danny collected kachina dolls and trading cards. For me, it was books by Christopher Pike, though it turns out high school was nothing like in his stories. Now I’m building a collection of restaurant menus. We have shelves stacked with cookbooks, yes, but the menus are their own thing.

I only wish I’d started sooner. I might’ve had a couple from all those dinners on our first big trip together to Oregon.

A picture from a special dinner or a really good brunch is, of course, a good way to maintain memories of good times, but a menu captures something a little different. You see very clear descriptions of what you ate that day. There are illustrations and deliberate choices of type. A menu offers a peek into the personality of a restaurant. A sense of place and time.

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On our last visit here, Danny, his mom, Lila, and I shared a few things. A maple-glazed bacon doughnut.  Coffee and lemonade. Mama’s chicken biscuits. Today’s omelet. Chilled watermelon (tossed with pepper and herbs). Smoked brisket sandwich. Chocolate chip pancakes, hold the peanut butter.

Menus even offer inspiration for cooking at home. I plan to browse this growing collection of menus like magazines and cookbooks for ideas.

But the menus feel more personal than a magazine. They stir memories of meals I’ve had with friends or family. Have you kept any menus?

The truth is we’re so pleased with some of these menus that we plan to hang up a few near our dining table. Some of them are beautiful and so carefully crafted, and I think they’ll make for great wall art that will make me happy whenever I see them.

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Beer and beer. Really good beer. Franz also served up delicious fries and sausages. This day off was so worth it.

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Some places give you postcards, too.

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We love this place. Last time for dinner, I remember ordering the smoked onion butternut squash bisque and chicken caponata. The menu changes weekly. Brunch here is so damn good, too.
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Two Juliet and Romeos. One Violet Hour Old Fashioned. A 5 Points and 6 Corners.

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A nanadict each for Danny’s mom, Kathy, and me. A garden omelet for Danny, and huevos rancheros for his dad, Rich. Several rounds of coffee. Boozy beignets for breakfast dessert.

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All kinds of great things. Boudin blanc was a clear favorite. So was the bone marrow. Oh yeah, suckling pig, too.

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Kyle’s after pork digestif for Danny. Fromage blanc cheesecake (omg) with burnt honey ice cream for all. Plus, ice cream sandwich cookies with candles for Danny and Rich.

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Best oysters of my life.

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