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For a Dinner Worthy of Someone Who is Both Fabulous and Forty: "aMano"

I know I am in the right restaurant when their blog is called “The Slice”. Automatically my mouth is watering for a big bite of their food.

This love affair all started with an invite to celebrate my cousin’s fortieth birthday. What you have to understand about this cousin is that she is the complete opposite of what we use to think forty was like. Growing up, I am about to turn thirty-five, forty sounded like the end of a dirty road. I know many women freak out about turning thirty but I wasn’t one of them. Neither was this cousin. However now that I am half way through my thirties I am beginning to feel like forty is an age that I could never possibly be. I will officially be a grownup despite having acted as one since I was six.

But it occurred to me that forty isn’t what it used to be. This cousin of mine is exceptionally amazing. She has a career she loves, spends her life with friends and family who are of the utmost important to her, travels the globe, and finally found and married her soul mate, a man I am proud to call my cousin now. Her beautiful stepchildren are my cousins that I love as though our blood is linked. She never settled for any part of a life that she didn’t deserve. She makes my dreams feel within reach. Her love and compassion are qualities I treasure.

So how does one celebrate such a woman? Apparently it is with a tour through Long Island’s wine country followed up with a big Italian dinner. I was in like Flynn.

We had a beautiful November day, which was a great start. We all gathered and got on a bus that would take us to two wineries, neither of which I recall the name of right now. But it’s not really about the wine, although I did manage to drink my fair share of it.

The wineries are pretty far out in Eastern Long Island and there isn’t much else around but farms and other wineries. Allegedly there are bulls or some similar animal you can see depending on the road you take. I saw one out of the corner of my eye but not in time to take a pic. Such a bummer.

After a day filled with day drinking, we were tired and starving!! I had forgotten how day drinking had that affect. Thankfully our dinner at aMano had been prearranged so we got right down to business. All of a sudden I felt myself perk up a bit.

It was a price fixe menu especially for our occasion so you had a choice of what to order for each of your courses. For my appetizer I went with the “slowly simmered meatballs” that were served with ricotta, tomato, and basil. Normally I am not a meatball fan but for some reason I had a hunch I would like these. The result is the reason I ALWAYS listen to my gut.

For starters they were the biggest meatballs I have ever seen in my life. These also happen to be one of the top three favorites ones of mine now. They were incredible. Moist, flavorful, and not over or undercooked! You literally could not ask for anything more. I couldn’t get the second one down but I was devastated by that.

Next up I had the “linguine with shrimp, crabmeat, garlic, chilies, lemon, and arugula.” Another showstopper. Que bella! This was an exquisite dish!! It was creamy but not so creamy it would be heavy. It had the perfect amount of fish and the quality was even better. I am picky so if I didn’t like this believe me I would have sent it back. Yet another thing I didn’t finish because I HAD to be able to taste my dessert.

Last but not least was dessert, a “pistachio ice cream sandwich served with an almond olive oil cake”. The best way to describe this is that it tasted like rainbow/ three layer cake cookies! The girl that ordered it first was my inspiration for ordering it and also the same person that came up with that description. The vibrant colors matched their flavors. By the time I was done with this it was all mixed and melted together looking like a mess, but surely a delicious mess.

The only mistake I made happened today, as I was looking at the menu. I realized I should have ordered a pizza and the steak with gorgonzola cheese to go. Since I did not see the regular menu the night I was there I had no idea what else I was missing. Plus I left so full I wasn’t sure I would be able to climb up the two steps to get back on the bus. Thankfully I had leggings on or I would have had a wardrobe malfunction.

I could REALLY go for any of this food right now or even tomorrow. As luck would have it I wasn’t eating my sad turkey breast sandwich for lunch while doing this research or I might have hurdled it across the room. By comparison to this list it sounds like dog food.

I believe that this day was destined to be amazing, like the person we were celebrating. I knew it for sure once I saw the rice balls we had brought for a snack at the first winery. I mean there isn’t much that can top that. I know those around us with their carrots and dips were jealous. I sure would have been.

We all had a great time spending the day together and showing our love for this fabulous forty-year-old woman.

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