Well, maybe when I moved here from New York City in 1974, leaving a rent stabilized apartment on Central Park South, a job with the George Lang Corporation and the best friends and life imaginable.
"Chicago!", I cried (literally). Before the commuter marriage and the notion that one need not follow the other to a new city, I packed up and headed west through Pennsylvania (known), Ohio (sort of known), Indiana (totally unknown!) and into Illinois (gasp).
OK, so affordable luxury high-rise living overlooking Lake Michigan was nice, but surely 'these people' had no clue about food! (NOTE: I was an 'eater' not a 'cooker' in those days.)
I asked around and was told that Le Perroquet was the best of the best. HA, I thought. It ain't no Le Pavillion.
But it was. And even better.
For our anniversary, Bill gave me the gift of lunch once a week at this magical place, tucked on the second floor of a small building off Michigan Avenue, accessible via an old elevator with elaborate wrought iron gates and panels. Oh, and lunch was outrageously expensive - $7.00!
I had no idea at the time that these lunches would have far-reaching effects on my life. And when I think about the standards of perfection, they were the legacy that restaurant left for the entire food and restaurant community in Chicago.
Not knowing a soul here, it gave me reason to get dressed up, take the bus along the lake and enter this salum sanctorum of elegance, perfect food and unimaginable service.
There was a ballet going on all around me, the restaurant staff in perfect synchronization. The hushed tones and the silent service all added to the mystique. If ever a server, clearing a table, stacked a plate or put down a piece of flatware so that it was heard, he
immediately turned toward Jovan Tryboyevic, the proprietor, who was already looking disapprovingly in his direction.
I took mental notes at each visit . . .notes I would recall when training staff at INA'S.
One perfect spring day, many years later, the door at INA'S opened and Jovan appeared. I have never been as moved and terrified as I was at that moment. He said he had come to pay his respects.
I fed him, tried not to hover, listened for any clanging plates, and generally trembled throughout his entire meal.
He called me over, pronounced breakfast the best he had ever had, and said I should be very proud of what I had accomplished.
That wasn't my proudest moment, however. My proudest moment was when he came back.
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