When lunching with a French friend, a French restaurant is required. We chose Amour Wine Bistro.
There were already people seated when we arrived, so we took a back table near the bar. Tucked away in the back, we felt away from the sun and hustle and bustle of Cary Street.
Lunch got off to a fine start with a bottle of Mas de Cadenet Rouge, a lovely complex French Rose chosen by my friend. All I had to do was drink.
He informed me that few French drink white wine, preferring to go pink throughout the warm weather and red all winter long. I would fit in nicely based on that.
There was a picture-perfect watermelon sitting on the shelf between the dining room and the bar.
A bowl of big, beautiful Hanover tomatoes adorned the bar. The weekly soup is a chilled blueberry with a sour cream swirl; the berries come from the blueberry farm off Genito Road where I've picked berries myself.
Bread arrived with a dish of chopped Hanover tomatoes, roasted garlic and bacon.
It would have been fresh and lovely in vegetarian form, but, as we all know, bacon makes everything better.
Lunch was tartlette flambee, simple and satisfying, followed by a cheese and charcuterie plate.
The beautifully arranged tray had fresh blueberries and grapes, all kinds of dried fruits, mustards, cornichons and bread to complement the Morbier and Comte cheeses and the Olli prosciutto, Saucisson sec and rosette de Lyon.
Enjoying the soft meats, my friend told me about his father's daily habit of eating great hunks of the rich and creamy Morbiere, a cheese he said they always had on hand growing up.
In fact, he said, they'd always have a wheel or two of cheese in the house. Sadly, I grew up in a house where the biggest hunk of cheese would have been Velveeta.
It was really a perfect lunch, leisurely and satisfying with wine, bread, meat and cheese the stars.
It led to a discussion of the French tradition of vacationing for the entire month of August, a most civilized habit I could happily embrace despite a childhood tarnished by Velveeta.
Such a meal cried out for a final course, so we chose the chocolate, caramel and sea salt creme brulee, as it turned out, an outstanding choice.
The darkness of the chocolate set off by the large crystals of fleur de sel with a caramel sauce on top impressed us both.
To make a stellar experience even better, we enjoyed two dessert wines, the Rivesaltes Domaine Cazes Ambre, both the 2006 and 1996 vintages.
The 2006 added a lovely note to the creme brulee, but the 1996 took the dessert to a whole new level with its dark color, nutty taste and long toffee finish.
As if that weren't enough, my friend ordered an espresso. "Single or double shot?" he was asked rhetorically.
Please, he's French. Single shots are for small children and the sickly.
We enjoyed freshly made madeleines while he drank his caffeine and I finished my wine.
If the staff at Amour had offered me anything else to eat or drink at that point, I would have declined. Nirvana had been achieved.
The French certainly know how to enjoy a mid-day meal.