Once I'd explained the concept--a temporary dinner, usually held outside a conventional restaurant facility--his mind sprang to hard chairs, crowded tables, and forced conversation with strangers. I was trying to cajole him into spending his birthday at just such a dinner, but my naturally gregarious, extrovert spouse was unusually resistant.
The venue for the proposed dinner was intriguing--the Ann Arbor Club above Main Street, a bit of old Ann Arbor neither of us had ever seen. The chef was Brad Greenhill, a fellow we had heard spoken of in glowing terms but whose food we had never tasted. The meal was pricey but potentially subsidized by the Observer. What more could it take to sway someone? Eventually I convinced him that duty called--my duty, that is, as a reviewer--and we booked two reservations, one vegetarian, one regular, along with the optional drinks package.
Unfortunately, the evening, a warm spring night in May, did not begin well. We had reserved space at the second seating, and, though we arrived promptly at 9:15, the first seating didn't exit as promptly; we weren't seated until nearly 10. Along with the other trappings of a conventional restaurant, this pop-up dinner lacked a host or maitre d' to soothe us with reassuring words, a cocktail, or the promise of a free dessert. But the lively, friendly group at our long communal table eventually prevailed over my husband's initial grumpiness. We ended up having a splendid, if unorthodox, birthday dinner.