I have often told my college freshman students that—no matter what they thought or how much they planned—they didn’t know what life was going to bring and every experience has something to be learned. As I sat in the Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, NJ, a few nights ago, those words came to me as well.
I met Reinhilde a long time ago—both young, in publishing, and about to be married. We have stayed in touch over the years, talking husbands and books and trains and bears. Recently she told me she and Georg would be coming from Germany with Cäcilien-Chor Frankfurt (which began in 1818) to perform in the Voices Unite program with the Masterwork Chorus of Morristown, NJ, and she hoped I could come to one of the shows.
So a few days ago I drove east to meet Reinhilde and Georg for lunch (you knew there had to be food in here somewhere) and then attend their evening performance at the Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit. We met at a little restaurant, La Foccacia, that had become a favorite for them in their short time in New Jersey.
I had looked at the menu on-line and thought I’d be ordering the grilled shrimp salad—shrimp over baby greens, asparagus, avocado and apples (as Reinhilde said, “Is there such a thing as too much shrimp?”)—but when I saw the lunch specials I ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli instead, with a spinach, almond, and mandarin orange salad to start. Georg’s appetizer was a gorgeous plate of burrata (with asparagus, tomato and extra virgin olive oil).
My entrée was different from any I’ve had before. Ravioli done badly is heavy, chewy lumps of dough with watery, bland filling (we’ve all seen that). But at La Foccacia the pasta was so delicate that I could see the spinach and ricotta inside. The sauce was nearly transparent as well. There was nothing heavy or bland about this dish—it was savory and delicious.
And left room for dessert! I had the tiramisu but when I saw Georg’s lemon sorbet in its cute little lemon, I wished for that. Reinhilde had the tartufo (which I know better as a bombe) and generously shared the vanilla part with George (spousal privileges).
We had to part—they had other responsibilities, including a rehearsal—but that evening found me sitting in a pew in a very full church, listening to American and German voices unite to sing Mendelssohn, Brahms, Bruckner, and more. We didn’t have church music when I was growing up so it was all new to me. As I watched and listened to them sing, I thought we really do just never know where we’re going to go, what we’re going to experience. The choirs received a standing ovation, as they should have, at the end. It was a very impressive night. I’m so glad I went.