Gentle knowledge: an anniversary dinner we’ll never forget at Le Jardinier.

Above: Tracie and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary on Saturday at the extraordinary Le Jardinier in Houston.

It had been two years since Tracie and I treated ourselves to a splurge dinner. The last time was on our 10th wedding anniversary in January 2020 — the calm before the storm.

On Saturday night, the superb food and wine team at the extraordinary Le Jardinier at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts led us through their Michelin-style dining experience with panache and elegance.

Above: amberjack crudo topped with caviar paired wonderfully with Chateau Montelena Chardonnay.

We were seated along the window that looks out over the Cullen Sculpture Garden. We arrived about an hour before sunset and the view was nothing short of spectacular (check out the works in the installation here).

But beyond the food, which we enjoyed immensely, the thing that impressed me the most about the experience was the “gentle knowledge” of the staff.

On too many fine dining occasions, you sit through overly long-winded descriptions and explanations of the food and wine you are about to consume. Sometimes it feels like the paratext — the text about the text — is more important than the text itself!

Above: the green circle chicken paired brilliantly with Ogier Condrieu — yes, it was SPLURGE dinner! And we loved every minute of it.

I loved our rapport with our server. He imparted just enough information to help us shape our decisions on what to order. But when we wanted to dive a little bit deeper, we discovered that his knowledge of the food was as profound as his wonderful table-side manner was delightful.

He never crammed his spiel down our throats. He waited for us to be ready to digest it, as it were. It was nothing short of fantastic. And we loved every minute.

Above: my friend and colleague Andres Blanco, one of Houston’s top sommeliers, blew us away with his presentation and service. Thank you, Andres! That was amazing.

Similarly, the wine service was focused, informed, and guest-friendly. Sommelier Andres Blanco, whom I know from the Houston wine scene and my work on the Houston Sommelier Competition, engaged without ever lecturing, interacted without ever losing sight of our interests.

He was at our table as soon as we sat down to take our sparkling order. And as we enjoyed the Champagne he recommended, he “walked” us through our dinner and wine preferences without ever nudging. He only ever offered as much knowledge as we wanted to drink. And just like our food server, he had the chops when we wanted to learn more.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect evening and worth every penny. What a great restaurant! I can’t recommend it enough. Thank you, Andres. You were amazing!

Above: Tracie and I met through our blogs in 2007. By 2008 I moved to Texas to be with her and we were married in 2010.

Poo poo poo… as the old folks used to say where I grew up.

As Tracie and I celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary today (our actual date), there are simply too many blessings to count.

Our girls Lila Jane and Georgia, now eight and 10, are both thriving in school and in music.

Tracie’s been enjoying her first year as a realtor. My work has recovered and is going well.

And when I look at her, I just keep falling in love — over and over again.

Happy anniversary, piccina. Who would have thunk that a couple of crazy kids, broke and working in the wine industry, would manage to build the family that we have. I love you, I love you, I love you more than ever. Happy anniversary sexy, brilliant, wonderful lady! These have been the best — the very best — years of my life and they only keep getting better.

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