Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dining for Peace!

The other day, Doug and I were planning our normal routine, which is that I get home around 7pm, and he has dinner made or in progress.  We eat at our kitchen table (very adult of us--no more eating in front of the TV) and then retire to the couch for an evening of TV and movies.

But on this particular day, I was reminded that a local domestic violence shelter, Peace at Home, was holding a "Dine Out for Peace" event.  The shelter is not only a great source for people who are victims of domestic violence, but it is also a training site for students in the program.  One of our faculty members supervises the cases, and the students spent about 20 hours a week working with the (primarily) women and children who go to the shelter.

The event involved  a collaboration with area restaurants, where a percentage of all proceeds on the Dine Out for Peace night would go to the shelter.  So, Doug and I scrapped our normal plan and headed out to eat...for Peace!

We ended up at Ellas Restaurant, the closest sit-down restaurant to my office.  In fact, Ellas was the first place I ever ate in Fayetteville, because it is the restaurant in the Inn at Carnall Hall.  When I first came to interview, I stayed at Carnall Hall, and it was my favorite hotel of my interview circuit.  It was originally built as a residence hall for women, and was repurposed into an academic building for a couple of decades.  In the late 90s it was slated for demolition, but someone decided to renovate it into a historic hotel and restaurant.  It's a fabulous place to stay; the rooms are nice and comfortable, and the bar on the first floor is the regular "happy hour" location for the Psychology Department.  It's right on campus, a less than five minute walk from our building, so it's incredibly convenient for job candidates, other visitors, and impromptu get-togethers.

Doug and I have been to Ellas for brunch a few times, and I've been there for lunch several times for department functions.  I hear they have an Indian buffet on Tuesdays for lunch, but I haven't made it over there for that one yet.  Neither of us had ever been there for dinner, so we thought this might be the night to try it.

Ellas gives me the same kind of vibe as The Walnut Room in downtown Chicago's State Street Macys.  Not in look, as the Walnut Room is grand, with tall ceilings, dark wood paneling, and huge windows that look out over the Loop, whereas Ellas is one room, cozily decorated in shades of gold, with big overstuffed chairs.  The Walnut Room is always full of tourists, and Ellas is typically full of academics and academic administrators in suits.  But both of them have nice tablecloths, classical music playing softly in the background, and impeccable service, and I feel like I'm in an oasis away from the bustle of the modern world.  Both are places to relax, to linger, to savor, and I do feel pretty peaceful in both of them.  [Side note:  I'm not starting a competition here, because both restaurants are superior in different ways, but the Walnut Room has one of the most amazing desserts I've ever had--a Frango Mint cheesecake, made from the famous Marshall Field's frango mints.  Seriously amazing.]

We enjoyed a leisurely dinner and some crisp white wine.  Doug had pork tenderloin served with whipped mashed potatos and asparagus, and I had a soy and ginger glazed salmon served over rice and "asian slaw" with broccolini on the side.  I also got to eat Doug's asparagus, because he finds it disgusting and I find it delicious, so win-win on that one.

A former colleague, who retired last spring, was at the next table, so I was able to catch up with him briefly and feel as though I actually know people in this town.  He recommended the bread pudding for dessert, so we tried the dried cherry and white chocolate bread pudding served with a berry frozen custard, and it was divine.

A nice break from the usual routine, for a nice cause.  And I officially recommend the Inn at Carnall Hall to anyone coming to Fayetteville for lodging, spirits, and food.

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