Yesterday was S’s and my first wedding anniversary. I’ve often read that the first year is the hardest but honestly, I’m not sure things could get any easier between us. This is not to say that it’s been all hearts and flowers: We’ve had difficulties, everything from the financial uncertainties that arise when two freelancers marry to the profound, prolonged disappointment of a miscarriage some months ago. But in every case, we’ve managed to face things together, rather than pull apart. When I open my eyes in the morning and see him next to me, I still smile. I still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have found him.
To celebrate the milestone, S suggested we return to Aurora, the restaurant in Williamsburg where we held our rehearsal dinner—it’s just up the street from Northside Bank, the site of our wedding, and it’s walking distance from our home. We both love the place, everything from the warm, rough brick walls and romantic lighting to the seasonal Italian food to the gentle prices. Amazingly, we hadn’t been back all year. I was the tiniest bit worried that things might have changed for the worse.
I needn’t have been. As soon as we walked in the door, a friendly young bartender with a faintly Italian accent greeted us and asked us to please wait for the hostess. Off to the side behind the bar, we hovered in the doorway to the garden—it was still light out, and warm, so sitting outside was the plan. One new development was unmissable: since last year, the owners had installed a giant vinyl-sheeting enclosure around most of the garden, thus enabling them to serve outside even on cooler nights. It was like a room-sized version of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, only with great food and gracious service. We could still see the darkening night sky and the flowers blooming along the outskirts, we just couldn’t feel it or smell them. The end result was surprisingly cozy.
After we were seated by a second Italian-accented young woman, a third one (who knew there were so many recent Italian immigrants in Williamsburg?) came over to take our order. When I couldn’t decide which wine to try (that’s right, I’m back drinking wine! Hives-free!), she admitted that she didn’t know that much about their whites by the glass, and proceeded to bring me tastes from that friendly bartender until I was happy. Once our food order had been placed, we received an amuse-bouche of roasted pear and fennel salad. I have absolutely no idea what was in it, aside from the two ingredients mentioned above, but it was wonderful, sweet and tart and delicately herbal. A basket with small squares of fresh vegetable-topped focaccia and a few slices of crusty olive bread was delivered at the same time. We demolished it and licked our fingers.
And then, almost too quickly, our salads came. I ordered the Carpaccio di Carciofi con Fave, a salad of thinly sliced baby artichokes, fresh fava beans, and shaved parmesan with pink peppercorn dressing. I expected it to be like one of my favorite salads, essentially the same thing but without the fava beans, in lemon juice and olive oil, but it was really quite different. Without the lemony tang it was mellower and more substantial, somehow, and the fava beans added a new texture. Fluffy sprigs of chervil peeked out from the tangle of artichoke. I ate every scrap. S went for the Insalata Mista con Fagioli e Pomodorini, a simple salad of mesclun, fresh herbs (more chervil), green beans, cherry tomatoes, and slivers of radish, tossed in a mustardy balsamic vinaigrette. It was a lovely combination of flavors—his bowl was emptied, too.
The main courses were equally impressive. S’s Maltagliati al Ragu—roughly cut sheets of fresh pasta with a subtly rich meat sauce—was hearty but not overly so: the serving was on the small side, in the Italian way. No gut-busting vats o’ pasta here, thank heavens. I had a hard time choosing between the whole roasted orata and the Merluzzo Curato con Fagioli—roasted cod with butter beans, asparagus, and fava beans in an asparagus truffle foam—but the waitress steered me towards the latter, and it was quite good. I’m not a big fan of the whole foam thing—what’s the point, really? My plate came out looking like the beach immediately after a wave recedes, monochromatic and fizzy, and it wasn’t particularly pretty. I stirred the foam around a bit with my fork, to get the bubbling to subside, and tasted it. Hmm, quite yummy. The fish was perfectly cooked, and the asparagus, thinly sliced on the bias, combined with the beans to make a warm salad of sorts. All in all, quite delicious, and nearly virtuous—though I suspect that foam had enough butter in it to quash all claims to being diet-friendly.
For dessert—of course we had dessert, it was our anniversary!—we shared the dark chocolate terrine, a thin slab of lightly chilled, sexy sweetness, served alongside a small tart shell filled with berry compote and a healthy dollop of thick almond cream. You don’t have to ask: Yes, we licked the plate clean.
By this time it was almost completely dark—between courses, our waitress had walked around the garden, placing small candles on each table, lending the already-romantic space a twinkly glow. Every seat was occupied, and the garden hummed with happiness. A good deal of that radiated from me and S, I’m sure, as we wandered out into the quiet night and into our second year of marriage.
Aurora is located at 70 Grand Street, at the corner of Wythe Avenue, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 718.388.5100.