Dining, Dating and Dashing

By Ryan Kim

Black Sheep was the place, Darlene my date. Another terrific night, made more interesting by my expanded interpretation of “dating at Middlebury”: Darlene is a townie.

I met Darlene at a business downtown, where she works. She’s the kind of girl who converts new customers into returning customers, the kind who’ll get you coming back to buy something as an excuse to chat at the register. (It sort of redefines the appeal of “shopping downtown”.)

Unlike with girls on campus, I couldn’t easily ask around about her. Without knowing her last name, I couldn’t look her up online.  I didn’t have any mutual friends to gauge her interest in me through sly inquiry.  So, I had to ask her out blindly.

To an extent, I felt like a rejection would be alright — theoretically, I could just not come back. Yet, part of me somehow felt there was so much more at stake.  Perhaps our lives here at the college are so intertwined, so knotted, that the failures we endure with each other are forgiven as quickly as our successes are forgotten: “Oh, that’s just Ryan. He asks everyone out.”

With Darlene, however, my approach would be one of the few things she knew about me. I dreaded the idea of my failure ringing through her social circles, the thought of being the local laughingstock.  Regardless, she agreed! The hardest part of walking away from an approach, no matter the outcome, is keeping my composure through the adrenaline. Walk slow; walk straight; don’t look back.

So off we went, on a cold March evening, to Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes.  Black Sheep is owned by the same gastronomic mogul who owns Park Squeeze, Bobcat, The Bearded Frog and The Lobby. All these restaurants offer excellent experiences, and I trust that you’re familiar with many other great options in the area. To me, Black Sheep is the best around.

Prices are fixed at $7 for appetizers and $20 for entrees, so you know what you’re in for. I’ve been a few times, and the food is outstanding. Darlene and I found no exception, from the duck rolls with apricot sauce, to the broiled haddock in coconut cream. The atmosphere is mood-lit and cozy, resembling the feeling of snuggling by a fire while a snowstorm fills the windows.

More than a few places in town offer easy distractions from your company, from big windows by the sidewalk to TV’s shining overhead. Black Sheep is the place to go when you want nothing but to hear your date tell you about the gearheads she grew up with, how she loves greenhouses and the summer, how obnoxious college students who cross College Street without looking are, about her friend “hippie Phil”, why spring’s the time to go muddin’ and that on principle she rides her horse without a helmet and never wears a seatbelt.

At Middlebury, it’s easy to get caught up in my own life and problems.  Darlene reminded me with her grace and electric humor, how casual dating isn’t just romantically exciting, but also a great relief from the day-to-day.  I wish “date with Darlene @ Black Sheep” was penciled into every week of the year, instead of just a one-time column affair. She’s bright and beautiful like the sun on a summer lake, and Black Sheep’s the best. What more could I possibly want to be happy? After dinner, when the car was still parked against the empty curb, I leaned over the armrest and kissed her.

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