Since we first started dating about five years ago, I've been sending The Gryphon flowers at his office on Valentine's Day. This year, I thought I'd try something different and send him balloons, instead.
The place where I ordered them, though, wasn't offering delivery on Valentine's Day itself. The options were to have them sent on Tuesday, two days before Valentine's Day, or Friday, one day afterwards.
Remembering that the previous year, when we'd had snowy, treacherous weather, The Gryphon wasn't upset that his flowers arrived a day late, I ordered them for the 15th. Along with a message about how much I loved him, I said that the Bad Idea Bears had suggested I send it a day late so he'd be surprised.
Then, just because I didn't want him to be disappointed when nothing arrived on Valentine's Day, I told him that I wasn't sending him flowers this year. He said that was OK, and he brought me home a dozen roses on Valentine's Day.
It took a long time for the balloons to arrive on Friday, so long that I began to wonder if they were coming at all. When I called the customer assistance line, I was greeted by a message stating that they were receiving a high volume of calls and I should try back later.
The balloons arrived in the 4 p.m. hour with a bear attached, as I'd ordered it. He had a good chuckle at my message, too.
We couldn't celebrate the holiday on Valentine's Day itself, since I work weekday evenings. So The Gryphon made reservations for Saturday evening at Xochitl (pronounced so-cheet) in the Society Hill section of Philly. We got the idea from a listing in the Zagat's e-zine I received, which listed places to check out for Valentine's Day. They were offering a special Valentine's menu where every course involved chocolate. However, I wasn't sure if they be doing it through the weekend. Some of the restaurants recommended by Zagat's were, but we didn't check to make sure they were. Still, it would be something different.
So Saturday, we exchanged presents before going out. I gave The Gryphon a new Timex digital watch, which he's been needing since his old one died. He surprised me with some great products from Bath and Body Works, all designed to address my wintertime problem of dry, chapped hands. I told him it was really thoughtful of him. I've already started using them.
Since it was our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, we both got each other cards that said on the front "My Husband" and "My Wife." I thought that was funny.
Since we didn't want to worry about driving and parking, we took the El into Center City, arriving early enough to stop in at the Reading Terminal Market to check out Blue Mountain Vineyards Cellars. The Gryphon had been curious about them ever since spotting their corner of the Terminal Market.
After tasting a couple varieties, I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and he ordered a Riesling, and we exchanged a few sips while sitting at a table and chatting. I liked my selection, which I thought was a rounded sort of wine with cherry overtones. His Riesling, I thought, was a tart, front-of-the-mouth sort of wine with citrus flavors.
Since The Gryphon hadn't had lunch and we still had a while to go before our reservations, we browsed the stands at the Terminal Market. Finally, he selected a whole grain roll from one of the bakers.
Then we took our time walking down Walnut Street about 10-12 blocks to the restaurant, which is in one of those cobblestone roads that the carriages love to drive down with their fares.
We were literally the first people to arrive that evening. In fact, they were still having a staff meeting. At first, the hostess, who might be new, asked us if we could walk around for a few minutes, but then another employee overheard and said, "Oh, no! They can take their table and look at a menu."
Since it was two days after the holiday, we weren't terribly surprised that, when we asked our waitress about the Valentine's menu, she checked with the kitchen and told us they were no longer offering it. At least she was nice enough to ask for us.
They brought out warm rolls with both regular butter and chipotle butter. Of course, we both had to try the chipotle butter, which had a nice kick to it.
I ordered the Salmon con Mole Verde, which is a roasted salmon dish with green mole, roasted potatoes and cabbage, mushrooms and figs. The Gryphon ordered the Bistec Azteca, which is a skirt steak a la plancha, with corn, pablano peppers, roasted squash and frijoles charros. I thought it was the most tender, tastiest salmon I'd had since our wedding day. And considering that I was flying high on endorphins that day, so that anything is likely to glow in my memory, that's saying something. My only complaint was that I didn't get enough vegetables, as I'm in the habit of filling about half my plate with veggies. If I'd known, I would have ordered a salad.
We also tried a couple of the specialty cocktails. I ordered a Popis, which is chile-anfuso infused Sauza Blanco with passion fruit puree and fresh lime. It had a nice tang to it, plus a little bit of heat. The Gryphon ordered a much manlier drink, the Don Ramon, which was Sauza Conmemorativo, muddled orange and cranberries, vanilla syrup and a dash of bitters, served on the rocks. His, I felt, had a much stronger taste to it.
Since it was a special occasion, we also ordered dessert. I got the Churros y Chocolate, which are churros with Mexican chocolate (which is a dark, non-sweetened chocolate) and cajeta (which tastes like cinnamon) dipping sauces. The Gryphon ordered the Flan Mexicano, which were three vanities of flan (chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon), served in small mini-ramicans. We traded some bites, and again, I preferred my own. The combination of the crisp but chewy churros with the warm, creamy dipping sauces was perfect for how I was feeling.
We walked several blocks, then to the Ritz at the Bourse, where we stood in a long line to buy tickets to see Juno. Then, since we had time, we walked to the Cosi at the end of the block, where we both had Irish coffees.
A sweet story about our movie selection. When we were planning things out earlier in the week, The Gryphon told me he wanted to see Juno. I'd heard good things about it, and since the lead actress, Ellen Page, is nominated for an acting award and the film itself nominated for Best Picture, I was interested in seeing it. But The Gryphon, who knows I'm a big fan of director Paul Thomas Anderson, suggested, "Or we could see There Will Be Blood." I told him we should see Juno, since we were both interested and since it promised to be a better Valentine's Day movie.
I was right. Juno was an absolute delight. Great dialogue, believable characters, great editing. The movie tells the tale of Juno, played by Ellen Page, a 16-year-old who gets pregnant and makes an arrangement with a married couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) to adopt the baby.
A tomboy who enjoys punk rock, playing guitar and who dresses in jeans and funny message T's, Juno turns her wry gaze on all the new experiences. While she had to face some tough decisions and some difficult times, she ultimately finds her inner strength and learns to view those around her with compassion. It was funny and sweet, but not in a cloying sort of way, and we both enjoyed it very much.
A romantic comedy is a better movie for Valentine's Day than an historical epic.