I discovered Soif Wine Bar & Merchants at the end of one of Those Weeks. Kid One was too sick to go to school, but well enough to want to make things. Like marble-and-wire wizard rings and dried apple mandrake heads from a wizard how-to book Grandma got him for his last birthday. Kid Two was sick, too, but well enough to rub clay-dough into the rug and blame it on his brother. Errands and chores multiplied at dizzying speed; on top of the usual dry cleaning, shoes needed repair, and the broken washing machine wouldn’t be fixed for a week.
Every family needs a dependable, kid-friendly restaurant, one with enough of a variety of menu items to interest the adults and familiar enough for children. Ours was Riva House. Our family Riva House tradition goes back to when LL and I were dating, and we would stop in for spring rolls, clam chowder and a glass of wine at the bar to visit with a friend who worked there.
I had lunch at The Crepe Place with a friend who has been doing a great deal of her own cooking lately. She has been busy reinventing the “comfort food” of her childhood into dishes that are, well, healthier. We started with a pot of chai at one of the small tables against the wall in the back room, and she told me about her latest meal reincarnations. Hamburger Helper evolved into turkey sausage with brown rice and peas.
Change comes slowly, as I realized when I wandered into the gift shop at the Missouri History Museum after checking out the Little Black Dress exhibit. I came face with the demolished relics of my past … as souvenir t-shirts. Seriously. Talk about taking a walk with the Ghost of Christmas Past. My specter took me on a food episode.
Now that Kid One is living in San Jose, I have a good reason for heading “over the hill” more than once in a blue moon. One thing I’ve discovered is that San Jose has done a great job preserving historic signs. I posted this one from mStephen’s Meat Products a while back. Here’s one near Kid One’s flat – an old Colonel Sanders bucket marking a KFC and Taco Bell next to Zanotto’s Market near the Rose Garden. I love it for the food history preserved here.
History sometimes finds tiny, unexpected ways to repeat itself. During a brief business trip through London this past May, LL ate his first dinner and first breakfast at Côte Brasserie. In the spirit of exploring, he wandered out on a warm Thursday evening from his tiny soundproof room at the Marriott in Grovesnor Square toward Oxford Street and Marylebone to see what there was to see. As we were fresh from a family Mr. Selfridge binge, he was happily surprised to stumbled across the store itself and texted me photos. He called from St. Christopher’s Place to tell me about this great little restaurant he’d found.
When visiting a city for just 4 days, and not just a city, but a bustling global capital with an exploding gastronomic scene, a city that’s made up of an entire world of food, how do you ever begin to decide where to eat? Where to spend your limited time and dollars to maximum enjoyment? How to determine in advance if a meal has a chance of living up to its promise? Fortunately, epic is what we found at the Social Eating House.
On the recent occasion of my first-ever evening in London: I walked down a street named for the patron saint of travelers. Walked past Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, and Turkish restaurants, past sushi and tapas and burgers, before eating French and Italian food served by a Spanish woman named Melina. I thought I’d gotten around a bit for a girl raised in the heartland. Alaska and Hawaii, Canada and Mexico, France and Italy. I thought I understood “diversity.” But London! London is in a class of its own. London showed me what “multicultural” really looks like.
There are some things – images, tastes, sounds – that separate the forest and the trees, the dancer and the dance, the beautiful and the sublime. You stumble across them in the most unlikely moments, making every encounter with magnificence that much more magnificent.
Here is one of those things – the most “amusing” amuse bouche ever.
I’ve long thought that there was very little scientific and technological progress in the Middle Ages because – seeing as water quality was dicey at best – people sat around drinking beer and hard cider all day. Nothing like a steady diet of strong mead to fuel superstition and conflict, right? It’s not by chance the Age of Enlightenment coincided with the mainstream availability of coffee. An entire continent shook off a centuries-long muddled haze and embraced the caffeine-fueled investigation of rational thought.
Kid One recently started his First Real Job at a Palo Alto Tech Company, and this was the occasion of meeting him for lunch for the first time. I wanted to choose a place in advance; downtown Palo Alto is chock-full of restaurants and did not want to waste his hour walking around and deciding. Through the magic of Google Maps, I walked around online the night before. Resposado called out to me because we all like Mexican food and I can’t resist queso fundido. I figured it would be fine, maybe even pretty good. I wasn’t counting on it being fabulous.
One weekend LL and I spent the weekend in San Francisco to see Kiki and Herb at the A.C.T., but the show seemed sad and we were happy so we snuck out and walked down to the St. Francis where we went to sit at the bar at the Compass Rose but it was the new Michael Mina (which is the old Michael Mina now) and we were wowed by his tuna tartare.
It was one of those astonishing dishes, prepared table side – in our case, bar side – with gorgeous pink rich ahi and crisp sweet diced pears and salty pine nuts with the zing of garlic and the heat of jalapeño held together with quail eggs. It was a dish we had to recreate.