Snow and cold, hot Italian food, snow and cold, hot college basketball, cold and snow.
A happy Valentine’s Day it was for my dear wife Karen and I in Syracuse, N.Y.
We started with a drive through the snow to Carrabba’s Italian Grill in nearby Fayetteville. The 2 p.m. late lunch/early dinner plan was perfect as we were seated immediately.
Karen selected shrimp risotto with tomato basil soup side, while I went for the pick-three pizza topped by Italian fennel sausage, meatball and roasted red pepper with a cup of minestrone added.
First came warm bread and a plate of treated olive oil. Good enough.
The atmosphere was warm and friendly, the waitress had greeted us with a hearty “Happy Valentine’s Day,” and half the patrons of the quickly filling big dining room were wearing Syracuse University orange, as were Karen and I. We figured as we chatted that they either had plans to attend the big game vs. Duke at the Carrier Dome like we did or watch it somewhere afterward. Then we talked about how we liked this place the last time, too.
The soups arrived and were 50-50.
Karen won the round.
Her tomato basil popped with color, aroma and taste.
My minestrone looked like something they’d wash the plates in when we’d finish, wouldn’t offer a scent even after I stuck my nose right up to it, and had no taste at all. I needed the vegetables and was hungry to boot, though, so I shook in salt and pepper and ate the whole bland cup. Karen went two-thirds through hers, so I got the rest of the tomato basil, and it tasted as wonderful as it looked and smelled.
The entrees were hustled over hot, leaving me no time to stew over my lousy minestrone. Yay.
Karen quickly offered me a shrimp from her big and simmering bowl of good-looking risotto, smart wife that she is, and it was fantastic. Risotto being something I see often on cooking shows but order never, I made sure to scoop up a spoon of that solo, too. Rice. Fancy rice.
My solo-sized pizza was thin-crusted, a bit spare on ingredients, but tasty. I would not call it New York City pie-worthy. The crust was less crispy than I like it, and there was no orange olive oil to drip off the triangle slices when I picked them up. I much enjoyed the sausage, meatball and peppers, though, and the cheese and sauce were fine. Barely enough cheese.
I ate two-thirds of the pizza, four of six slices. Karen ate two-thirds of her shrimp risotto. The waitress brought us white styrofoam packers to take home the leftovers for today’s lunch.
I had an iced tea, and Karen had water. Without tip, the bill came to $35-and-change.
We got out of there in a little more than an hour, which left us plenty of time to drive home to the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood to let Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle out for a backyard stretch and business session before heading back out in the elements for the Syracuse-Duke men’s basketball game.
We found a great place to park, down the hill in a church lot for just 10 bucks. We stopped in the bar at the University Sheraton, which at capacity. The polite bouncer made us wait behind one other person until three people left.
The joint was buzzing as we each had a pregame beer.
Karen pointed out one guy’s hat. He OK’d the photo, saying it was his dad’s headwear. He didn’t recall where exactly the badly spelled but warm item was purchased.
Most everyone had on hats and gloves as we continued the cold, snowy march up the hill to the dome. Valentine’s Day, Duke coming to to play for a 6:15 p.m. start, isn’t life in ‘Cuse grand?
We were part of a big crowd up in section 305, 34,544 to be exact, a sold-out session that equaled last year’s attendance mark for biggest-ever-to-see-a-college-basketball-game also set vs. Duke.
It was an interesting experience. I’m writing about the whole dang thing for Wednesday’s community blog column at Syracuse Public Media site waer.org, with another piece and picture here, too.
Let’s just say that after a valiant fight and leading by three at halftime, Syracuse lost to Duke 80-72.
While I was taking notes with my new James Bond flashlight pen, the woman sitting next to me asked if I was a private investigator. Nope, I answered. Public.
Snow and cold or warm and toasty yesterday? Eat the bland soup or send it back? Wear a misspelled hat proudly or throw it back in the bin?