Cheese Eugene, Something to Savor Again and Again

Make your way around enough restaurants, and pretty soon the plates all blur into one another. Marinated roasted something with a coulis of something else and deep-fried another thing sprinkled on top. Add the obligatory couple of glasses of wine and the non-obligatory-but-who-are-we-kidding dessert cart. If I spend another couple of hundred on another date night, I'll scream.

So, instead, we hit up Restaurant Eugene's monthly cheese tasting, a pairing of five regional cheeses with a flight of five wines, a few sips per glass. This month's tasting focuses on the South of France—Gallic sophistication easily acquired, only $35 for each of us.

This is really my date night. My husband is tall, handsome and eminently loveable, but when I met him 10 years ago, his daily menu was turkey, brown rice and steamed broccoli. Evidently it's the lunch and dinner of champions. Cheese and wine are things he'll appreciate but frown on, since he's contemplating his next triathlon. Oh well, we can hike on our next date.

We sit in a small conversation pit at the back of the house, nestled between Eugene's largish, curtained private table and the tiny bar. Our table holds eight—there are four 20-something girls rocking some amazingly short skirts to my left and a retired couple to my right. The age divide becomes achingly apparent as the two married couples squint at the menu. Is it the lighting? Is it me? I turned 40 a couple of months ago and here I am, practically fanning myself with the menu as I try to read 8-point type by the light of the dim spotlights above. Et tu, Eugene?

All wounded feelings are pushed aside by the arrival of the cheese plate. Here's how easy it is: you just eat and drink from left to right. A few sips of wine for each small (but oh so rich) pat of cheese. A plate of accompaniments, mere nibbles of salted almonds, glacéed rhubarb and a drizzle of honey, arrives to take the edge off the cheese, and we dig in.

My husband grins at me over a forest of stemware. Despite his calorie counting—I know he's doing it—he's enjoying himself. I lovingly poke him in the leg with my toe. The woman next to me (the married one) is pleasantly acerbic, and we have common interests. Evidently gardening and mystery novels are what happens when you move out of the short-skirt decades. I leave that incriminating menu behind. (Notice how I haven't named the cheeses? Or that wine I loved, or the one that tasted like alcoholic water?) But I'm going back, again and again and again.

Cheese Eugene at Restaurant Eugene

2277 Peachtree Road

Atlanta, Ga.