I am the luckiest person alive. I know. You don’t have to tell me.
by Max Miller
When I saw the Instagram post about a raffle to win a ticket to an AVI Valentine’s dinner, I entered with a sort of morbid, masochistic curiosity. What romance could AVI possibly offer? The dinner was scheduled to coincide with my long-distance girlfriend Daisha’s first time visiting Oberlin. What better way of welcoming her to our glorious town than to bring her on a nice date night to a dining hall?
So, I entered the raffle, and, with some obscure stroke of luck, I was tagged in AVI’s Instagram story as one of fifteen winners a few days later. It was a dream come true, so much so that I messaged AVI, “This is the best day of my life,” to which they responded with a Google form where I was instructed to choose which entree I fancied.
On Friday night, February 10, Daisha and I walked into Stevie unsure of how the night would go. I halfway expected fluorescent lighting, circular tables, and plastic weighted centerpieces with tin foil hearts, accompanied by the usual Stevie food.
What I did not expect was an entire section of the dining hall to be roped off in an attempt to create an environment for raffle-winners. We walked into the section, greeted by three attendees in fancy dress. They directed us to our assigned table in an adapted conference room, passing by various duos, some clearly couples, others friends. Blackout shades blocked the area so that attendees could forget that they were in Stevie.
The elaborate table sets were beautiful and clearly displayed with care, complete with small tea candles, a circular vase containing a bouquet of flowers, and red napkins folded in the shape of roses. Large windows framed the clouds perfectly as nighttime transformed the skies from auburn to deep blue. Soft jazz played from a speaker next to an appetizer-clad table in the front of the room. It felt a little like that one Phineas and Ferb episode where they build a cruise ship and dress Buford like Baby Cupid, suspending him from the ceiling in an attempt to create a romantic environment for Baljeet and his date. (Worth mentioning that the rope breaks and Buford falls on the table, smushing the meal carefully prepared by Ferb. Apologies to those that did not get this reference.)
The dinner started out with two appetizers: a Curry Chicken Satay Skewer with Yogurt Sauce and a Beet Poke Bowl, which was the true showstopper. It had a little spice to it, and according to Daisha, “the red shit on top is so good.” The only demerit of the dish was that the beets proved to be relatively hard to handle, resulting in my staining the white tablecloth not once but twice. A nice little strawberry salad was also provided, which was very cute!
Entrees further proved that this was not a typical Stevie dinner. We were served a “Dual Plate of Beef Filet with Lavender Demi, Butter Poached Garlic Shrimp, Seared Yukon Potatoes, and Sauteed Lemon Broccoli.” The filet was wonderful and the shrimp was exquisite. As a rookie food reviewer, I was unsure what to write about either, so my notes contained little bits of information such as, “genuinely shocked,” “yum,” and, “mouthfeel?” The broccoli was beautifully cooked and perfectly flavored, a stark contrast to the usual steamed Stevie variety. The potatoes were kinda whatever, but I am not picky. I wrote, “they taste like potatoes.” The entree was served with an edible flower, of which Daisha wrote, “the more you chew, the more intense the feeling of Nickelodeon slime infiltrating your entire mouth becomes.” We appreciated the gesture, regardless of taste.
The event was well-produced but a bit bizarre; the absurdity of having a nice candlelit dinner in Stevenson Hall was not lost on me. And yet, the atmosphere, though manufactured, felt strangely romantic. It is possible I am simply a sucker for candles, jazz, and Martinelli’s. But, the Stevie staff achieved the feat of creating a comfortable, soothing level of ambience that was complemented by an air of conversation that surrounded the room. Something about it felt strangely serene, almost contemplative.
Ultimately, the food didn’t really matter. Neither did the pristine tablecloth or the rose-shaped napkins. Really, what mattered was the individualized intimacy each duo had been lucky enough to find themselves existing within.
There is nothing like sitting across from someone you love, whether platonically or romantically, with jazz playing, illuminated only by candlelight. Sometimes, you stumble into a cozy pocket, whether due to curiosity or sheer stupidity. Enjoy it.