I really am a creature of habit. I went through a season in my life when I loved being daring and different and trying new things, and then I lived in a foreign country and survived a devastating earthquake and violent coups and a volcanic eruption and a military evacuation, followed much too closely by a serious typhoon and severe flooding, and I thought, “I think maybe I’m all finished with all this excitement and would like to live a quieter life.”
I got all that stuff out of my system early, in other words. I’m now one of those people that appreciates change and challenge in small doses, but really prefers the comfort of the familiar. There is something profoundly moving and comforting in being known – deeply and personally known – which is why whenever Nick and I have something to celebrate, we have a “usual” place to go. So when our 24th wedding anniversary rolled around this week, we took ourselves off to Ruth’s Chris Steak House for a meal at the bar.
26 years ago, when Nick and I were first dating, he took me out for a date the likes of which I had never experienced. Lawrence of Arabia was playing at the Uptown Theatre on Connecticut Avenue in Washington D.C. – a gorgeous old theatre with old-style velvet drapes and a huge swag of balcony suspended over large sweeps of curved seating and an enormous panoramic screen. He took me to see it for the very first time, seated in the middle of the first row of the balcony, and I was captivated, swept away by the story and the scenery and the music and Peter O’Toole – and the man who sat beside me and was as entranced by my response to all that beauty as he was by the movie.
From the film, he took me to the Ruth’s Chris Steak House on Connecticut Avenue – it has low ceilings and lots of wood and a deeply intimate feel, and it was perhaps the most grown-up and romantic place I’d ever been. He ordered for us, and I asked the waiter to recommend a wine – the name of which I don’t remember – and it was all perfect, perfect in a way that things which are meant to be are perfect. That evening shimmers in my memory in a way that few things do – I remember laughing, and the look in Nick’s eyes, and the way all the food tasted, and it’s one of those moments I hold close, which define the early years of our relationship.
So Ruth’s Chris is our place. Say what you will about syndicated food: Ruth’s Chris has the most consistently excellent food and service of any place we’ve ever eaten. We love trying new restaurants and have other places we like to go, but when there’s something to celebrate, or when we’re looking for familiar excellence, Ruth’s Chris is our place. Since moving to San Antonio, we’ve tried both locations and the one we gravitate to is the one near the Quarry. We eat at the bar, and Anthony and Jeremiah, the regular bartenders, never fail to recognize us when we come in, even if our visits are months apart. Our meal is always the same: a Crabtini for me and a shrimp cocktail for Nick, followed by salad.
I’d already eaten half of the ‘tini by the time I thought to snap a photo. Lump crab meat in a spicy remoulade. OMG. And as a recent convert to white wines, this Sauvignon Blanc from Whitfield Vineyards was amazing.
Then we split a perfectly cooked ribeye, which arrives sizzling in butter and charred around the edges. Just like God intended. And paired with a gorgeous Daou Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon. Yum.
We finish with creme brulee topped with fruit (there is something so outrageous and sultry about creme brulee and raspberries), paired with a fresh-ground cappuccino and a lovely, raisin-y 20 year old port – I always let the bartender pick it for me, and he never fails to make the right choice.
This is my favorite meal – it speaks of comfort and familiarity and the entire history of my life with the man I love. So when we celebrate, this is where we go. The bar is dark and has lots of wood and big comfortable stools. Nick and I sit side by side and laugh and chat with Anthony or Jeremiah, and there are multiple TV screens flickering but silent, a basketbal game or a soccer game in the background, and it’s our place. We are so comfortable there, and the food is predictably excellent and the bartenders recommend a new wine that pairs with the food, and we leave feeling…. “sumptuousified”, which is a word Nick made up.
We celebrated 24 years of marriage this week, and we celebrated it at Ruth’s Chris. Next year, for our 25th, we’ll celebrate there again, and it will be just as special. At the bar, with the bartenders who know us and food that is both excellent and familiar, and one another.