“Oh, Woe! Celebrating With A Full Liter!”

(July 31, 2018)

Next time,* fool!, ‘member!

you wanted a half-liter!

Drink your punishment!


*(Patrick Story is at fault: his co-conspirator Christina Hollerbach.  I came into The Willow Tree Cafe in downtown Sanford just ‘fore noon and wanted some help.  Patrick known for his helpful ways flung at me a welcome surprise: Ayinger Celebrator on tap!  I had always had to schlep around the corner to the German deli, part of The WillowTree co-dominium at Magnolia Square Market and now joined up with Hollerbach’s Outfitters to make a complete “connection” with The Cafe to get my “fix” of the dark, delicious doppleboc in bottles with the oh-so-charming plastic goat charm hanging from the beer bottle’s neck which I so crave – the beer, not the baubble.  I got my problem solved, and then my eyes got the better of me: I sat right down inside the central receiving station – without services of a “seater,” which mostly is my wont anyway…had a new book from the library I wanted to start and was in no noontime bugaboo hurry.  Diane saw me and laid a hand over one of my shoulders: “Is anyone helping you,” she inquired solicitously. I smiled: “No, dear.  I just walked in. No one knows I’m here, and it’s fine: all the others I imagine have things to do.  I don’t mind waiting.” No one seated you, she semi-scolded between the two grinning eyes and smile she bestowed.  “What would you like to drink?” Said I, “A liter of Celebrator and a side of water. And, yes, I know what I would like, but go ahead and see to your other guests and when you’ve got the time and the beer has settled a bit I’ll tell you.”  In a few minutes – I had almost finished the Author’s Notes after the acknowledgement and foreword, Diane came back with a monstrous heavy glass stein full of dark chocolate thunder.  “She had passed off the water unannounced en passant as it were. The split pea and ham soup I intoned and a side salad…which I knew was wrong…been replaced by an updated version with lightly dressed greens, some tomato slices, cucumber half-moons and carrot shreds with baguette slices and butter. Heaven.  Diane did not hover, but as she passed she made her presence unobtrusively felt, asking, finally, if I would like more bread and butter: the liter was half done and so were the soup and salad.  “How can I refuse the staff and the goddess of life – bread and butter – which serves as both starter and dessert and does stellar duty as a middle, too?” She rolled her head instead of her eyes, still all a-smile and whisked away.  Before long she was back with not two but three fresh warm slices of dessert. “And, Diane, Dear, would you be so kind as to find a Bee Sting cake for post-dessert foil for the rest of my beer?” Not only would she could she and she did.  Same amused and amusing an unobtrusive smile. Why am I so unsurprised to find out she and Doris – the favorite waitperson at WillowTree for my Sister-in-Law Jeanne and brother Storm – are good chums.  Totally unsurprising. And, the new menu for Willow is out.  In all those years…seems like more than 13 which I have found myself face-deep in a favored few dishes despite chef Patrick and Chef-Owner Theo Hollerbach’s ever gleeful attempts to broaden my palate, the price for the fabulous Eisbein(sp?) has risen to a whopping 3 or 4 dollars in all those years.  Hurry. Before the staff finds out the new prices!  Christina scolded me when I mentioned the shockingly low prices – considering how much it costs to put on a good feed these days – and the Empress of All Things Willow – and Beyond – had time to chat for a few moments before her next meeting of the day arrived.  Mama Linda Hollerbach not only gained a wonderful son in Matthew but a fully in-charge daughter in the process.  All I got was this wonderful soup and salad and bread and butter. And beer.)



“The ‘WillowTree’ At Noon”

(July 31, 2018)

muted, happy cross-table

talk edged in sideways between

welcome loud lunch smells*


  • (I came in to the main dining area, found a table-for-two and sat down, put my camera bag and umbrella in the opposite seat and opened my new library book. I had not been “seated,” taking my usual route from The Bar and Chef Patrick Story’s sudden declaration that I must try the “new” Celebrator dopple bock from Ayinger brewery on tap.  As I began to wander out: a notion arose…and this is the tale of the notion in haiku form above.  The place had just taken in its first full seating – almost full but I had not checked the other two rooms.  I listened for a moment the happy chattering from my perch in the back of the main room, near the wait-staff’s pass-through to the dining area.  After five or so steaming platters of smells wafting out through the restaurant began to permeate Willow Tree Cafe in downtown Sanford, Florida, the cross-table conversations became muted as more and more diners lifted their attention to what was soon to be before their own tables.  The aroma of honest food done well with happy drinks from water to tea to wine to beer – and perhaps a bit of German liquid cheer as starter – matured into a softer form for there was more than mere verbal communication going on: the language of soups and salads and both simple and complex additions turned conversation into a multi-disciplinary symphony.  By the time I had half-finished my liter of dark chocolate thunder and side of water with a well of split pea soup and ham and a picture-pretty salad of dressed greens with splashes of tomato, cucumber and carrot shreds – and forget not the warm and crusty baguette rounds with butter – I looked up and the room was beginning to empty.  Lunchtime for The Employed is such short shrift.  I still had half a liter and the prospect of a Bee Sting cake to contemplate.  My nearest neighbors – semi-newcomers from nearby Mount Dora, a charming tourist-friendly town about 30 miles to our West in the lakes of mid-Florida becoming known as The Villages – and I conversed over bites.  He was a sailor.  And when I asked: Great Lakes? he replied: No – New London.  Oh! A Sub-Mahrinner! And I asked why they pronounced it that way instead of submariner, we both shared a laugh.  Then I told of the time I left America aboard a Naval attack troop transport, USS Cambria, in the Spring of 1968 en route to The Mediterranean, and we had an American Sub, The Thresher, following the Soviet Union submarine following our amphibious squadron.  The Thresher never came back, and presumably found itself in deadly colliding  with the SovUnion Sub.  My next-table mate replied to the obvious amazement of his spouse: “We can’t know that for sure. I was aboard The Scorpion then.” That was the sub following the two subs following us as Soviet tanks rolled into The Balkans to put down the Prague Spring which was a reprise of the 1956 Hungarian revolt.  Somewhat later I noticed the couple were sharing a monumental Bee Sting dessert as well as I.  My server, Diane, told me they had asked – without my noticing – what was the dessert I was having. She told them of the creamy compilation of honey and almond slivers and custards and such which I take at every non-caloric opportunity and they smiled their way through their shared finish.  Nothing really surprising there.  People talk not just ‘cross their own table at WillowTree. And they share with their fellow passengers on this trip through Germany by way of a homey tables full of friends – even if only just-met.)