Friday, January 18, 2019

In the Mood for Sommersby

The mood necklace knows all.

If you weren't around in the '70s, you might not know about mood rings, which hit the scene with the same major cultural impact as puka shell necklaces. I never got into puka shells, but the allure of a ring that could display my emotions was right up my alley.

So when Pru gifted me with not only a mood ring but a mood necklace for Christmas, you can be sure both were packed for my stay in Islamorada. Getting ready to head south for dinner last night, I put my mood necklace on to complement my tropical flowered sundress.

Lazy Days, here we come.

Eschewing the balcony dining room for oceanfront and sand, we stopped at the hostess stand long enough for the three women there to react to Mr. Wright. I should be used to this by now, but it still fascinates me. The first woman blatantly stares at him, eventually saying, "Has anyone ever told you that you look like..." mentioning a certain actor whom he definitely resembles.

We're far enough into our relationship that I can jump into the fray at this point, armed with anecdotes he's reluctantly shared about being stopped at airports, outside public bathrooms and once, even forced to provide an autograph despite his protestations to the contrary for the fascinated party. The three women listen to me but never take their eyes off him.

Must be tough to be admired for someone you aren't.

Only once he mentions our beach reservation are we led to a table only a couple feet from the rock-lined water's edge, with an enormous, rusty anchor half-submerged in the water just in front of us and pelicans swooping and diving for their dinner. Off to the side is a small, covered pavilion where a singer/guitarist is setting up.

For all the seafood and fish we've eaten since our arrival, not a single oyster had crossed my lips. Mid-week, Mr. Wright had suggested that it would be a travesty for me not to try the local bivalves and compare them to my beloved Virginia Old Saltes. Alas, Hurricane Irma had decimated the Florida oyster beds last fall and they've been impossible to find. The two local raw bars had closed since last season because of the situation.

But here at Lazy Days, not only were local Apalachicola oysters on the menu, but they were priced as low as my Old Saltes are at Merroir. They were practically begging me to order them, which I did, enthusiastically, when our server came by with our Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc Brut to kick off the festivities.

Apparently just ordering was enough to get me worked up because Mr. Wright right away noticed my mood necklace changing. Formerly mostly a subdued brown color, he said it had suddenly shifted to a sliver of blue at the bottom, while the rest of the stone was now part gray, part silver, as he put it, "exactly the color of oysters."

For the record, the color change had happened in a matter of moments. "Just ordering them got you worked up enough for it to change," he observed. Needless to say, once the half dozen arrived - incidentally, easily the largest oysters I've ever slurped - the trace of blue disappeared completely, leaving only the pearlescent silver-gray.

My mood necklace was one for one as I devoured the oysters in record time.

Next came spicy conch fritters, followed by the best conch chowder we've had here yet. We used the last of the fritters to sop up the last of the chowder while the staff went around lighting the oceanfront tiki torches. Overhead, the moon, working its way toward full on Monday night, was heading high in the sky for a picture postcard view.

The visuals were accompanied by the guitarist doing songs by Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young and Van Morrison songs and doing them well enough to enhance the vibe without resorting to Buffet.

Interestingly, at the table next to us was the owner of the restaurant, down from New York with his blond and Botoxed companion and a couple of "business associates," all of them eating, drinking and talking loudly to the nebbish accountant-looking guy with them.

The blond commented about how in New York, it could be 30 degrees, but if the sun's out, people want to eat outside. Here, she complained, if it was in the 60s, people insisted on eating inside. She just didn't get it.

Tell me about it, honey. And what's with your lips?

Their focus was on the food with a little business talk mixed in, but we had to laugh when the accountant stood up, found himself entangled in his phone cord and had to wrangle himself loose from his chair while the others walked away while he fought with his cord.

Once a nebbish, always a nebbish, I guess.

It took an overly generous bowl of seafood scampi for two chock full of Florida lobster, mussels, clams, shrimp, scallops and mahi mahi in a mushroom, garlic butter and white wine sauce over linguine to turn my mood necklace an unabashed blue with accents of yellow, signaling my pleasure with so much bounty of the sea.

When the manager came over to ask if I wanted him to move a heater near me, I demurred, perfectly happy with the warm night air. He stayed to chat, which is how we learned about the cycle of visitors on Islamorada. Seems it's mostly families in December during the holidays, followed by Europeans come January and Americans come late Spring. That explained all the accents we'd be hearing since we got here.

We closed out the meal with chocolate mousse cake because a person can only have Key lime pie so many nights before reverting to form and sending my mood necklace into brilliant turquoise blue territory.

Mock 70s technology all you want, but that necklace was reading me like a roadmap. My pleasure at an oceanfront meal on a warm night with bivalves, bubbly and every kind of seafood imaginable seemed to be oozing out of every pore.

Autograph seekers, aside, the movie star lookalike company didn't hurt, either.