The excellent Downtown restaurant Latitude 41 was the site of a recent lunch amongst some of my many family members. Call it a dress rehearsal for Xmas dinner. Anyway, the service was sorta on the slow side (but not annoyingly so), the food was terrific and, as for the company, well, you know what the great poet Phillip Larkin said about family, right?

We started off with cocktails, like this "Don't say I didn't warn you!"-named, two-tone-pretty, ridiculously easy to slug back (yet deceptively, even stunningly, potent) Fire and Ice. Believe me, you only need one of these (more on this later)

And what's not to love about this well-executed, old-school app of molten figs wrapped in bacon? That they were called Devils on Horseback, though, might've been tempting fate (are you starting to get a premonition yet?)

I like how Lat plays with the expectations of diners -- witness this plate of wings bathed in a sweet and spicy Korean chili sauce atop housemade kimchi.

This dish is a killer--literally. It's a boatload of delicious seafood in a wine-inflected tomato sauce; the housemade pasta (here comes the literal killer part) is called strozzapreti--i.e. priest strangler

Loved this daily special of "Beluga" (cause they resemble caviar) lentils, a wonderful and tangy little greens casserole and the star, Lake Erie pike with beautifully crispy, even bacon-y skin. Sure, the plate's on the dark side and doesn't pop visually, but the flavors and textures were really great!

This play on a S'more will have you requesting it by name over and over again--blistered marshmallow dome, Jeni's smoked chocolate ice cream (for that campfire aspect), ganache cake and graham cracker crust.

OK, after the early courses, one of my sisters (the only blacker sheep than me) hubristically ordered a second, clearly unnecessary, Fire and Ice. Well, the next thing you know, she was spitting fire and icing over the fun lunch as all of the sudden, a Festivus "airing of the grievances" episode broke out. So a few of her "saved-up-for the holidays" observations of familial mores/life choices started leaking out... Fortunately, before it got to the "feats of strength" portion of the afternoon, a peacemaker sister (I have 5 of them!) stepped up and restored order. Overall, it was just a minor dust-up, and really, except for a squirmy 10 minutes, we had a great time. Hey, it's the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Later that night, we put on the Ritz and joyously all went out on the town. Even Flora got into the act by wrapping herself in a vintage, tres mah-velous mink jacket!