On October 31st, 2015 in Queens, the Kansas City Royals and a red-hot Ben Zobrist overcame an early 2-0 deficit and, bolstered by a three-run eighth inning, snatched Game 4 of the World Series in dramatic fashion from the seemingly sure grasp of the vaunted New York Mets. Meanwhile, far across the country in San Francisco, an unassuming Charlie Brown — dutifully toting his trademark football — walked into a Halloween party, heaped Chex Mix onto his plate, and sat down for some uninspired conversation with his tech-bro friends.
Shortly thereafter, a nervous Charlie found himself seated — admittedly somewhat anachronically — next to a beautiful, confident flapper plucked straight from the Roaring Twenties, replete with the most authentic of props: an iPad through which the unfolding theatre of Game 4 held her rapt gaze. Shyly, Charlie inquired as to the nature of her fandom and learned that she was a lifelong Mets devotee. In a moment of uncharacteristic cleverness, Charlie feigned baseball illiteracy (“Why did he hit that ball backwards?”) and quickly found her to be a patient, surprisingly knowledgeable instructor. Charlie’s farce came to an abrupt end, however, when his long-time friend — that night a fanny pack-wearing, map-wielding European tourist — seated nearby announced in moderate disgust, “I can’t listen to this anymore; he played professional baseball.” Luckily, Charlie hadn’t pushed his luck too far, and the pretty flapper’s amusement led to conversation about yoga (she was an impressively avid yogi; he hadn’t touched his toes in years) and the East Coast (she was a loyal native of both New York City and New Jersey; he had spent three years of a past career driving to every corner of the Mid-Atlantic).
Three months later, Alexis, Andrew, and Flat Stanley found themselves atop a double-decker, open-top San Francisco tour bus, and a smattering of increasingly promising Stanley-facilitated dates ensued. Following the end of Stan’s brief but successful tenure as matchmaker, A&A’s relationship deepened as their travels expanded far beyond local tour buses to include San Juan Bautista, Chicago, the Twin Cities, New Jersey (thrice), Maine, London, Paris, Shropshire, Madrid, and Northern Ireland. He fell in love with her kindness, generosity, intelligence, confidence, loving spirit, grammatical precision, and out-of-bounds culinary proficiency; she, with his caring soul, youthful spirit, loving personality, baseball booty, and kindness from his core.
As 2017 dawned, Andrew’s eagerness to pop the question reached a fever pitch, so he began enlisting the help of several amazing, generous people: Alexis’s mom Irmgard, for ring-design reconnaissance; Alexis’s friend Ivy, for proposal brainstorming and planning; and Elianna and Rachel, the brilliant directors of the children’s cooking nonprofit Bay Leaf Kitchen (Alexis sits on Bay Leaf’s board and volunteers extensively with its programs), for, well, pretty much everything else. As the plan came together, the cast grew to include Alexis and Andrew’s mutual friend (and Andrew’s colleague) Rayla; the aforementioned lost tourist (“James” by day), also a skilled guitarist and vocalist and Andrew’s eventual best man; Andrew’s dear friend Sam, who, in a stroke of great timing, happened to be in town from Seattle; Rachel’s boyfriend Adam, an accomplished photographer and videographer; and, most importantly, a group of remarkable and inspiring junior chefs.
A Bay Leaf fundraiser was scheduled for Sunday, February 19th, so with characteristic logistical wizardry, Rachel shrewdly set the big date for Saturday the 18th and earlier that week asked Alexis to stop by the kitchen (Bay Leaf’s weekend classes are held at the San Francisco restaurant Fine & Rare, which is closed on weekends and generously donates its kitchen and seating area to the nonprofit) to help with some last-minute fundraiser preparation — and in fact, there was a ton of work left to do, so maybe Andrew could come help, too? An unsuspecting Alexis — never one to pass up an opportunity to connect with the amazing Bay Leaf kids — agreed, and Andrew even successfully managed to feign mildly begrudging agreement with said allocation of the couple’s Saturday evening. Of course, Andrew was quick to remind Alexis that he wasn’t available that afternoon because he “had to help James assemble furniture for his new apartment.” With that final alibi in place, the stage was set.
At 5:30 p.m., the couple made the 30-minute walk from their Pacific Heights apartment to Fine & Rare’s Golden Gate Avenue location, just east of Van Ness, as Andrew did his best to corral what felt like uncontrollable nerves. They eventually entered the empty restaurant — with only a brief but knowing welcome from Rachel, who unlocked the door — to find a candlelit table set for two. Little did Alexis know that hiding in the kitchen, anxiously awaiting Andrew’s signal, was a group of eager junior chefs ready to serve the newly engaged couple a spectacular and romantic five-course dinner.
But first, of course, Andrew had to get to the big question. After his six-minute speech to Alexis (rehearsed twice a day in the shower for the previous month), he pulled out a stack of cards, each prompting its author to complete the sentence “Andrew should ask Alexis to marry him because she…” In the stack were cards completed by many of Alexis’s family and friends, by several of Andrew’s friends and colleagues, and by each of the junior chefs present for the proposal — providing the perfect transition to the question itself. When luckiest-guy-alive Andrew got the “yes” he had spent months hoping for, the hidden crowd — junior chefs, Elianna, Rachel, Adam, Rayla, and Sam — finally emerged for a giant, teary-eyed group hug.
Then, dinner: one amazing junior-chef course after another, each proudly announced and professionally served by its young creators; Rayla, hilariously clad in full waitress garb, elegantly serving champagne and wine; and James, with a perfectly timed arrival midway through the meal, guitar in hand, serenading the happy couple with Springsteen and Van Morrison. It was a perfect evening, a collaboration of love and the collective effort of countless awesome, generous people — and the perfect beginning to a lifetime of happiness.
On to Maine!
[Written by Andrew Bennett]