We love to go on dates. Just taking little slices of life to concentrate just on each other and have some shared experiences. Sometimes they’re pretty simple, dinner and drinks, and sometimes they’re a bit more elaborate. They usually involve food. Friday (and Saturday) we had a more elaborate date. The only really elaborate part of the date was that it took place out of town; other than a detail like that, we favor keeping things simple. We drove up to Avon, New York to go to the drive-in and stay the night. The drive up was gorgeous. It started out raining in Olean, and then about an hour into the drive (the full trip was about an hour and a half) it all cleared up. The final 10 minutes or so was stunning, on a ridge between Geneseo and Avon. The road follows a gentle ridge line between these two towns (because of the Geneseo River to the east and Conesus Lake to the west), and the views were not only far-ranging, they were of these bucolic horse farms. White fences, red barns, trees, meadows, smart farm houses – the whole bit. Lovely. So we got to town (they have a roundabout!) and found the Inn, and checked in.
The place we ended up staying, The Avon Inn, is unexpected, to say the least. The entire downstairs is bar/lounge/restaurant – including banquet facilities (they host weddings regularly, and on the day we checked out). The upstairs has 14 private bedrooms with private bathrooms. It’s like a bed and breakfast and a hotel sort of combined into one. Maybe that’s why they call it an inn. It has some questionable design details, but for the most part, it’s cozy and the architecture is definitely a sight. Anyway, the restaurant had all these rave reviews, so besides staying in this old mansion, that was part of our motivation. After we got into our room (and figured out how to turn on the TV — the remote only had an “off” button…no “on” button…weird?) and relaxed with a glass of wine, we changed for dinner and headed downstairs. We had peeked into the main room earlier, and hoped we weren’t in there – lots of big tables and a very large room (in retrospect, it was probably set up for the wedding the next day); fortunately we were seated in a smaller parlor off to the side. This room had perhaps 6 tables in it, and the largest table sat 4. We were near a floor to nearly-ceiling window (and the ceilings were, like, 16 feet up), which was nice, and the wallpaper was this William Morris-like print that was gorgeous in the space. And, for some reason, lots of Degas reproductions. And the food! Did I mention the food? Well it lived up to its reputation. I got the petite salmon (4 oz instead of 8 oz) with rice pilaf and a starter of artichokes French. The artichokes came first. They were ‘choke hearts pan fried in butter and lemon. It reminded me strongly of pan fried scallops – very similar texture even. They were a little on the heavy side, but melt-in-your mouth delicious. A nice balance of buttery/tangy/tart. The salmon was amazing. I haven’t had salmon in a long time. I used to eat it all the time, then I made a vow to try to eat other fish, too. Oh how I missed it. It was cooked to the perfect consistency – flaky yet succulent. And it had been seared on both sides, so it was very juicy. It was served with a sun-dried tomato sauce on top, which really paired well with the pudgy salmon taste. The rice pilaf was ok. Nothing special, but certainly not badly done.
Bob had something that looked a whole lot like Chicken Parmesan (but might have been called something else), and he got a LOT of it. I had some of his penne, which was smothered in a tomato sauce, and it was lovely. The sauce itself was very good – had a really good homemade texture that didn’t taste like something that had been cooking for hours or came from a can – very fresh and hearty. I didn’t try his chicken, but he sure seemed to enjoy it!
After dinner, we went to the Vintage Drive-In, which was the chief reason we came to Avon. This was the closest drive-in showing the movies we wanted to see (Inception and Twilight). We learned how to turn off my daytime running lights (parking brake), visited the large and pretty nice snack shack (lots of pinball, pool tables, and an eat-in area, relatively clean bathrooms with lots of soap), and toured around the grounds a little bit. It was getting dark, but the area was very nice. There are 4 screens (ours backed up to screen 3, but I believe 1 and 2 were separate screens), so the layout was a bit funky. But they had lots of nice grassy swards and some smaller trees scattered about. It was like a park, with a drive-in in the middle of it. They also host craft fairs and antique shows and stuff there, so the grounds are conducive to setting out lots of tents with plenty of parking. Other than one car that was parked across from us (at screen 3) that apparently didn’t figure out how to turn off their daytime running lights, and another one that kept honking its horn, we had a really lovely time. The movies were entertaining and it’s always an experience to watch at the drive-in, with the windows down and sunroof open, everyone softly starting their engines every 3o minutes or so and idling for a short while, crickets chirping, stars fading and brightening depending on what’s on screen. If you haven’t gone to the drive-in in awhile (or ever) I recommend it.
After the movie we headed back to the inn, which was only about a half-mile away. On our way to the drive-in, I asked Bob if it was far, and when he said it wasn’t, I asked if we should just walk. And he so adroitly pointed out that then we’d have nowhere to watch or hear the movie. Duh. Not all my ideas are genius. The next morning we packed up and checked out, and then sat on the front porch for about half an hour. I snoozed and Bob listened to his iPod (and saw a lot of wedding guests and one nervous mother). Then we headed to Stony Brook State Park. We hauled out a blanket and some pillows, picked a soft-looking spot and just sunned for a few hours (fortunately we were near trees, so we actually got more shade than sun). The park itself, which I’d love to go back and explore again, is clearly very family-oriented. There’s a large playground and a swimming area. And the place was packed! The best part, in my opinion is that there was someone manning the ranger cabin, to collect payment. With underfunding, the parks can’t have someone on-duty to man the park, so they don’t get any revenue when people come to the park, and it seemed for awhile that there were NEVER rangers at the parks. Lately, however, that has changed and there’s a lot more staff and, especially on a day like that, the parks see a lot of benefit. After a couple hours, we packed up the car and headed back home; another wonderful date spent together.