Goodbye Party

Why is it that I go out to drinks and dinner with my family and end up with three pictures?

My younger brother just got a reporting job with a newspaper in Orlando.  Prior to his departure, my family got together, as we have many times before, for a send-off dinner. My brother, unlike me, is a bit of a traveller. Don’t get me wrong–I love traveling. However, when it comes to settling down, I prefer to be in Philadelphia. My brother, on the other hand, has lived in a Cairo, London, Ohio, Salt Lake City and a small town in Jordan (it’s questionable which of the latter two was more of a culture shock.)

The night before he took off to join a land of Mickey Mice, old folks and (friendly) killer sharks, the family got together for one last hurrah. We began with drinks at Vietnam Cafe with plans to dine around the corner at Vientiane, a little Laotian BYOB on Baltimore Avenue.

When my husband, sister and I arrived, my brother, parents and brother’s friend, Artemis, had already ordered their drinks. I usually flip flop between the lemongrass and the French martinis at Vietnam (this is my favorite restaurant, by the way, and I am quite familiar with the menu) and I decided to go with the French martini. As my martini arrived to the table,

So did this monstrosity.

While the picture does not do it justice, my brother and Artemis had chosen to order the most outrageous drink on the menu–the flaming volcano (the most outrageously NAMED drink, on the other hand, is the suffering bastard…) Once again, I wish I had a better camera so that I could have better captured the capsule of “151” rum in the center that was brought to the table afire, hence the name “flaming volcano.” I will tell you, though, that this drink brought us barrels and barrels of laughter. Suffice it to say, there were rarely less than two people sipping from the punch bowl simultaneously.

The guest of honor enjoyed himself immensely.

After rallying a joint effort to finish this bottomless pit, we sauntered around the corner to Vientiane for dinner. I must say, it was a tease to enjoy a drink at my very favorite restaurant only to be torn away when it came time to eat. Vientiane is fine. It’s good, I suppose. But nothing, in my mind, holds a candle to Vietnam Restaurant.  I don’t have much to write as I forgot to take pictures, but we started with appetizers: chicken satay, crispy spring rolls and fried shrimp. The shrimp and spring rolls were good, if not a bit underwhelming. The satay, on the other hand, won me over. I especially enjoyed the silky mellowness of the peanut dipping sauce.

For entrees, my mother got the mussels appetizer, as she is wont to do (order an appetizer as an entree, that is.) They were a decent-sized dish, although I can’t report on the taste. My husband and sister ordered the Pad See-Eew, which are sauteed wide rice noodles with vegetables and soy sauce. The noodle dishes and curries all come with your choice of protein (beef, chicken, shrimp or tofu.) I believe they went with shrimp and received a less than generous serving. My father and brother ordered the shrimp pad thai, which my brother is addicted to (ah, I did it. I ended a sentence in a preposition.) Artemis and I ordered the curry–green for her and red for me.  I don’t eat Thai (or Laotian) food often and never cook it at home as my husband doesn’t love coconut milk flavors or red curries. I love red curry and was looking forward to my entree. It was good. The milky coconut was definitely present along with big chunks of vegetables (the peppers could have been cut into smaller pieces) and a generous amount of chewy beef. I ate about half and polished it off for breakfast the following morning.

The night got really interesting when Artemis (Disclaimer: she’s Greek and a female. She has nothing to do with the man named Artemis on the show or movie Wild, Wild West) broke out the bottle of tsipouro she brought back from her most recent visit to Greece. Tsipouro, if you haven’t taken the time to click the link I so painstakingly provided, is a distilled alcohol from Greece that tastes nothing like the more well-known, anise-flavored ouzo.  In fact, my dear friend, Wikipedia, tells me that tsipouro is a predecessor of ouzo. Another member of the family is raki, that I’ve been so lucky as to taste homemade by my Cretan friend’s father (true story: I kept trying to spell that “Cretian” and was wondering why it was coming up on spellcheck. You learn something new every day.) Jeez, add this to my affinity for limoncello (which, in case you were keeping track, also comes up as a misspelled word) and I’ve become quite the fan of Mediterranean aperitifs.

Where were we???

Oh right, Artemis brought out the tsipouro and the evening quickly took a turn for the crazy. It ended with the bottle being passed around the table for all to share. The waitress then told my mother than she remembered our family because my father is always, ahem, memorable. There was much storytelling and laughter and we sent my brother off with a bang. It’s funny what a good dose of tsipouro can do to a family function. Good luck in Orlando!

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