A Sweet Treat: Salted Caramel Pretzel Shake

It was the first of our old friends' lunches in the new year, and we decided to go back to the Field at Toftrees. "Maybe we'll see that cute little boy again," my one friend said in advance, remembering the little spiky-haired child at the next table the last time, who played sippy-cup roulette, caused a bit of mayhem, and left the floor sticky as all get-out.

And didn't we all laugh when we walked in to the Field and there they were again: the young couple with the two little boys with the tousled hair. But they were not sitting close enough for us to interact with them beyond just an initial shared set of knowing grins. (My one friend offered to bring sippy cups along from her house if we needed to spill some, just to feel at home.)

I'd studied the online menu in advance, as I often do now in the age of the Internet. Isn't it great to be able to go online and see what your choices are before you even go into a restaurant? Of all the inventions of the modern world, Internet menus are one of the greatest!

Since I had one of their luscious big burgers last time, I decided to go for the steak sandwich this time: sirloin, caramelized onions, provolone, horseradish mayo, side of au jus, and rosemary ciabatta. The sandwich comes with a side of their house-made chips, which are a lot like potato chips.

I'd been stewing over whether to treat myself to a milkshake, a thing I almost never have, and when another friend went for the dessert menu, I decided to be a good sport and join in solidarity with her by ordering a salted caramel pretzel shake. (I know. Am I a good friend or what? Friends don't let friends eat dessert alone.)

The "hard" version has caramel vodka, Hershey's salted caramel truffle ice cream, crushed pretzels, and caramel drizzle; I had mine "classic," without the booze. Wow, was it SWEET!!! But also amazing, as you might have suspected!

All of what I had to eat and drink was excellent, and I made it a priority to finish my big milkshake. I took about half of my food along home, knowing that those house-made chips are better heated up later in a bit of oil and salt in the oven. So it was that my husband and I also enjoyed steak sandwich and chips and golden fries (leftover from his McDonald's lunch) later on this day. . . .

I remembered that the restrooms there had amazing black tile, and so I took my camera along and did a little photo shoot in the bathroom, praying nobody would walk in and see me and think I was up to something shady. Do you remember the famous red bathroom in the film The Shining? It was just as wonderful as that, but . . . shiny and black.

I told my husband about that bathroom and extolled its virtues and showed him the pictures when I got home, and he laughed about his wife falling in love with a fancy black restroom. But it is what it is. I love what I love. The bathroom was fab!

And as for us four friends, we took our time eating and laughing and catching up on things past, things present, things future. We spoke the names of the ones who were not with us. We pondered the incomprehensible. How could time pass so quickly? How could the ones we love best leave this world; how could they leave us behind?

Friendship isn't always about finding the answers, but about asking the questions and mulling them over together. We remembered the old days and how much fun we had back then, when we were young and innocent and determined to help save the world. Christmas is over, the days are growing longer already, and we are starting a new year - together again - as it should be!

I didn't show you the lovely black restroom because I'm already zipping through those extra photos like they're water. But I want my soundtrack song to be about it. So here are the Rolling Stones, with Paint it Black (1966, 2006). I've got two bonus versions: one by Ciara, and another featuring Wednesday Addams.

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