“My big, fat, belated, hedonistic birthday.”

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We had postponed my birthday dinner twice because both Sonja and I had been sick, but last night, nearly three weeks after I crossed the threshold into thirty-seven, Sonja and I finally got to go to dinner at our favorite restaurant to celebrate my birthday. V. Mertz is, in my opinion, the single best restaurant in the entire Midwest, certainly for the cuisine and for the ambiance, but in particular for the wine. It was the location of our first date and many other milestone celebrations over the years. We have “our table” which we sit at almost every time we go, and we’re always greeted by Matthew, the manager, who has become a friend over the years.

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The night began with the kids noshing on green beans and chicken after a doctor’s appointment. Zooey, my brave little girl, got three shots and had a stylish bandaid on each heel to matched her diaper, while Titus was determined to be in the top 97th percentile for height and got himself a handful of Paw Patrol stickers. Our friend Janna arrived to watch the kids and we took a Lyft down to the Old Market, suspecting that we’d be imbibing copious quantities of excellent wine.

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We arrived and were seated at our usual spot — I’ll spare my wonderful readers the George R. R. Martin-style droning on about every detail of our dinner, though the food certainly does warrant examination. The short version is that we had a truly wonderful night. We got to talk to Matthew, met a new (to us) young waiter named Dylan who was excellent, and had some really fun wines, including a well-aged Rochioli Sauvignon Blanc, vintage 2009, which had taken on some really fascinating, nutty characteristics, and made me rethink my stance on aged whites not made from Chardonnay. Matthew provided a Gundlach Bundschu Merlot, a winery Sonja and I have visited in the past, as well as a Chimney Rock Cab Sauv, which was extraordinary. We sat and sipped and talked and ate and had a three-hour long dinner, a conversation uninterrupted by kids or the distraction of needing to do dishes or put something in the washing machine. It was perfect, and a very thoughtful birthday present.

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I wanted to be sure to write this post today to express my gratitude to my beautiful wife for taking me to dinner, and for the million other amazing, considerate, generous, loving things she does each day. Thank you, Sonja. And if you’re ever in Omaha, I can’t suggest you eat at V. Mertz strongly enough. It’s a special place, and an asset to the community. Oh — and if you get in anytime soon, the charred octopus is amazing. Thank you to my wonderful, gorgeous Sonja for yet another great memory.

Cheers to the people who help us make great memories,

Mark

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