“Chris, you know I’m a hopeless romantic, don’t you?” I asked, posing the question in just the right tone to invite interest.
Chris looked up from his computer, intuitively recognizing a set-up when he heard one.
“I’m starting to understand that more and more, yes,” he answered warily.
“Well,” I said, fiddling with my keyboard, “this time of the year always fills me with nostalgia and family tradition—“
“I totally understand,” he supported.
“And I am a sucker for anything Traditional England. Soooooo, I know you wanted to review an ultra-modern restaurant this week, but can we shift gears and go to Five Crowns instead, and may I take my father?”
Without letting him answer, I took a breath and barreled on.
“I found out that they’re famous for their holiday dinner, and they have Christmas carolers singing at all the tables, and they have a special menu, and decorations up, and fireplaces throughout the restaurant, and it’s all Olde English and was built in 1135 A.D. and —“
“Whoa! Whoa! Stasha, slow down,” Chris signaled me to halt my barrage. “Are you telling me you’ve never dined at Five Crowns?”
“Well, I’ve had their food at Taste of Newport, but no, I’ve never formally dined there,” I admitted sheepishly.
Chris’s jaw dropped incredulously.
“We have to go!” he said emphatically. “We are rectifying that right now. So, you and your father better get ready for a trip back in time and for a taste of that nostalgic tradition you crave.”
And off we went to Corona del Mar. Upon entering, we found Five Crowns to be as festive as we imagined it would be. The carolers were singing and the décor was as Dickensian as I’d hoped.
“Duckling and Prime Rib and Goose, oh my!” I exclaimed, looking up from the menu. “I know what I’m having!”
Noting I’d closed my menu, our server arrived to take our orders.
“Dad, what would you like?”
“I’ll have the Duckling,” he stated. “And the Lobster Bisque.”
“I should’ve known? Chris, please go ahead,” I offered.
“Prime Rib and the shrimp cocktail,” Chris ordered.
All eyes turned to me.
“I was going to order—never mind. May I please have another minute?” I pleaded with the waitress.
At that moment, the sommelier arrived to open the bottle of Laetitia Grand Reserve Pinot Noir, which Chris had brought.
“Jim, I have to tell you this wine is very much like your daughter: very complex, hard to pin down, can’t quite figure it out, takes a while to open up, and before you know it, it’s gone.” Chris laughed.
“You forgot gets better with age,” I shot back, burying my nose in the menu again.
The sommelier chuckled along with us, his face lighting up with an animation all it’s own. We were taken with his spirit in an instant.
“Do you recommend the goose?” I asked him.
“Oh, yes. It’s one of our holiday best, and only featured during December,” he reassured me.
“Then that’s what I’ll have.”
Noticing the gold pin on his lapel, I leaned over to get a better look.
“Oh, it’s the Road Runner!”
“That is a handsome pin,” complimented my father.
“Thank you, it’s very special to me. It was a gift from Chuck Jones. He was a regular patron, and became like a father to me.”
“Really?” Chris encouraged him to continue.
“Yes. I was a tennis pro at the time, and I was so fast, my nickname was Road Runner. When they told me Chuck was the animator behind the character, I had to tell him. He drew a picture of the Road Runner with a tennis racket and gave it to me.
“When I became a runner and headed to the 1984 Olympics, Chuck drew a picture of me sprinting with the torch and Road Runner falling behind from exhaustion. He signed it, ‘To Tommy Martin, winner of the 13th Olympiad, only time the Road Runner has been beat.’
He grinned from ear to ear.
“We remained dear friends all his life, and now everyone calls me Tommy RR.”
“What a fantastic story,” my father said.
“Thank you for sharing,” Chris added, as Tommy excused himself. “Speaking of sharing…”
Our gazes shifted to the tray of appetizers. As we enjoyed our first course, the carolers came to our table and sang my father’s request of ”God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” It transported us.
“This says Christmas to me,” my father smiled.
Our entrées arrived and there was a lot of ooohing and ahhhing, and comments like “Can I have a bite?” and “You must try some of this,” and “This is delicious.” And it was so special.
The highlights were the Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé and the Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce, which we could barely finish.
“I am so glad we came here. I feel like I visited England and got my dose of Christmas past,” I confided happily.
“Ahhh, but there’s so much more in store,” Chris smiled. “You still have Christmas yet to come…”