IT isn't easy being a sports widow, like my wife.
Saturday afternoons between August and May I spend in the company of Jeff Stelling and friends on Sky Sports News, while my Saturday evenings belong to Gary Lineker and his Match of the Day buddies.
Ask me to nip to the shops in my lunch hour to get something for tea and it'll disappear into the deepest recesses of my subconscious; ask me what a particular underachieving third-tier football team were doing at this precise moment 15 years ago and I'll give you chapter, verse and attendance figures.
I should have put an extra clause in Erica's wedding vows: 'I promise to love, honour, obey and not bat an eyelid when you spend about two thirds of our summer holiday of 2005 checking your mobile phone to see if Ricky Ponting's out yet.'
And don't even get me started on World Cup summers, when words like 'metatarsal' become part of my everyday vocabulary and the quality of Portugal's midfield keeps me awake at night.
But she puts up with it somehow, so tonight's her night. That's right - even though USA and Italy are lining up in Kaiserslauten, we're heading for Tarporley.
The Rising Sun is a country pub with a big-city menu and small-town home-liness. Its two cosy dining rooms cram in about thirty diners apiece but its menu is huge and sprawling.
The décor is classic country pub - Toby jugs in the shape of sailors' heads, brass fawns and Wedgwood pottery. It's quite charming, particularly the unopened hand-written envelopes addressed to the family owners lying on the Welsh dresser. You really feel like you're in somebody's home, a million miles from the cold anonymity of city centre chain restaurants.
Word had spread about its vegetarian options, which is what attracted us. My wife isn't a vegetarian, she just doesn't like meat very much. Most restaurants' veggie options you can recite without even looking at the menu - curry, chilli and pasta with tomato sauce. The nearest dedicated vegetarian restaurant to Chester is - you can look this up - in Altrincham. But the Rising Sun offers a dozen or so vegetarian main courses of great variety.
Crucially, not all of them include mushrooms. My wife doesn't like mushrooms either, which makes eating out doubly difficult. Most restaurants seem to see mushrooms as something of a meat substitute, here, they're more likely to be found in the meat dishes. Which is a shame, as I can't stand them either.
But even us mushroom-hating carnivores are well catered for. There's casseroles, steaks, mixed grills and loads more, including a cosmopolitan range of foreign favourites. We pondered for a long time over the menu while the waiting staff buzzed around and Italy and the USA prepared to do battle.
Waiting the tables, like playing in the World Cup, seemed to be a real team effort - there was a very high staff to customer ratio and it showed. No sooner had our starters been cleared away - at about the same time as, many miles away, Alberto Gilardino headed Italy into the lead - our main courses arrived.
My starter was a selection of breaded prawns with garlic mayonnaise. They tasted great but there wasn't as much variety in the breaded flavours as the menu promised. Erica's French onion soup was delicious, with its island of cheesy bread a highlight. It was proper cheesy bread rather than bread with cheese on, which invariably turns into a stringy mess after a couple of minutes in the soup.
Back came the USA - Cristian Zaccardo contrived to bundle the ball into his own net - and out came the main courses. My Rossini was a slab of fillet steak on a large crouton, served with paté on top and perfect home-made chips on the side, at no extra cost.
Perfect home-made chips are hard to find, but an absolute joy when you do. Thick, crisp and golden, these weren't far from being the best I'd ever tasted.
The beef was tender and full of flavour and the red wine gravy packed as much of a punch as Daniele de Rossi (sent off for elbowing the USA's Brian McBride shortly after the equalising goal).
Erica's asparagus and cheese pancake was served with delicious, flaky-skinned new potatoes and butter. The asparagus seemed a touch overdone but that didn't spoil her enjoyment of a tasty and imaginative dish.
Both mains were served with a salad - not just the usual collection of a few lettuce leaves and a sad quarter of tomato, but intriguing mouthfuls of cottage cheese, rice salad and home-made coleslaw.
I guzzled my steak and felt rather over-full. It felt like the end of the game for my stomach, but it was only half-time in Kaiserslauten.
But in the interests of providing a comprehensive review, I soldiered on like ten-man Italy and ordered dessert. Not just any old dessert - a truly enormous and enjoyable knickerbocker glory.
Erica had a steamed chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, adapted from the menu to include wonderful home-made custard. She polished it off with the same inevitability as Eddie Pope was dismissed - leaving the USA to hang on with nine men.
The bill, including soft drinks, came to a shade over £40, very reasonable considering the standard of the food and the size of the menu. Usually, something has to give - quality, choice, service or price - but the Rising Sun ticks all the boxes.
If anything, the size of the portions was a little off-putting - or rather, it would have been to someone with more self-restraint. But if you come away from such a wonderful meal and that's all you can think of to criticise, they must be doing something right. In particular, the veggie options were a breath of fresh air - it's a rarity to find a place that offers such a quality selection to carnivores and herbivores alike.
So we headed home. But it was still Erica's night - I ran her a steamy bath with scented candles and rose petals.
After the highlights, of course.
Factfile > > >
Rising Sun, High Street, Tarporley, 01829 732423
Starters: Assorted prawns £4.70; Soup £2.50
Main courses: Rossini £14.25; Asparagus and cheese pancake £8.60
Desserts: Knickerbocker glory £3.95; Chocolate sponge £3.75
Drinks: Four soft drinks £4.60
Total (for two): £42.35 Best thing: Choice, quality and service - first-rate.
Worst thing: Gluttons beware, portions are huge.
Would suit: A small group, with at least one veggie looking for a quality meal in friendly surroundings.