Friday, February 04, 2005

High Table

Once I got to eat at high table at Oxford. It remains one of the best experiences of my life, the perfect combination of pomp, wine, ceremony, good conversation, and irreverence. I was with a great friend, a beloved friend, who is also a tutor there and she was my guide. Sherry beforehand in the Senior Common Room (or something like that) then, a somewhat tipsy procession to high table where I sat on the Master’s right (as a guest) and the wine flowed and I saw for myself how much better the food was. Constant attention—more than even in a really, really fine restaurant—but mostly focused on topping off the wine glasses. The Great Hall at Exeter College is really fine, a Gothic wonder, and, sitting at the long table on the dais, perpendicular to the even longer students tables below, I felt embarrassed at my delight in being important, elevated. I felt like Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies.

After dinner, we repaired to the Fellows Dining Room for a second dessert—not a pudding but fruits and more drinks. I never got the hang of the rules here and will butcher them, but there were three or four passed platters—fresh fruits, dried fruits, biscuits, and perhaps, cheese, also, water and a couple kinds of wine. As this went around, you had to take if others took but could not take if no one yet had. I don’t remember the protocol for diving in or not. I remember wanting desperately to figure the game out, wanting to do right but also wanting, just because it was so elaborate and fascinating, to know the rules, to be able to have them in my head as part of the memory. I was too wine-fogged by then to remember and had to lean over to my friend, over and over, and ask (whispering much too loudly) whether I was meant to take something or not. I think I grabbed a dried apricot—I can’t resist them—when I wasn’t meant to and thus set off a new round of platter passing.

After that, then, a few folks repaired to the Senior Common Room where we’d begun for brandy and cigars. Most left quickly—even Oxonians cannot do this much decadence—but my friend and I smoked the smallest cigars they had just so that I could say I had.

Tonight (shortly), I have to go to a lecture at 4 (it’s faculty day), “After the lecture there will be a reception at 5:15…followed by a dinner at 6:15…after dinner we will return…for dessert, coffee, and cordials.” I must say, my hopes are high.

She loves ny has published a Valentines Day report on the resy page:

annisa -- 741 6699 -- 1 ring, 5:30 or 10:30
aoc bedford -- 414 4764 -- 1 ring, 8
aquagrill -- 274 0505 -- line busy; 1 ring, 5:30 or 10:30
babbo -- 777 0303 -- line busy
balthazar -- 965 1414 -- line busy; 3 rings, hold, fully booked
blue hill -- 539 1776 -- 1 ring, this is jill, hold, fully booked
bouley -- 964 2525 -- 1 ring, how may i help you?, 11
erminia -- 879 4284 -- line busy
il buco -- 533 1932 -- 2 rings, 11
kitchen club -- 274 0025 -- 1 ring, we only have 6 and 10
l'impero -- 599 5045 -- 1 ring, 6:15 or 10
mas -- 255 1790 -- 3 rings, fully booked
montrachet -- 219 2777 -- 1 ring, let's see, 8:30
nobu -- 219 0500 -- line busy
nobu next door –- 334 4445 –- 2 rings, 8:30
one ibl, two ibs -- 228 0822 -- 1 ring, fully booked
plate nyc -- 219 9212 -- 1 ring, 8
provence -- 475 7500 -- 2 rings, bon jour, 6 or 9:30
tocqueville -- 647 1515 -- 3 rings, completely booked
woo lae oak -- 925 8200 -- 1 ring 7:30 or 9

Ah, bonjour indeed! Delicious.

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