Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stress Relief

It was a Hair On Fire Monday. We had a letter from the IRS telling us we owed $7K in back taxes for 2012. My Beloved was on the phone on and off all day trying to figure out if that was true as well as trying to settle this year's tax return. The worker bees were upstairs reducing our "cool, vintage kitchen" to rubble in preparation for building a new kitchen. Cora was literally dogging our tracks, frightened by the noise and the upset to her peaceful routine. It was downright hot, too, something we rarely experience here in the foggy, cool San Francisco bay area. And we are sharing an office, which our love may or may not survive. 

We had plans to pick up Naomi and Sam at their apartment so we could see their adorable baby, Izzie, before going off to Chez Panisse for their farewell dinner. We were running late and I was already "bedewing" my light clothes after my shower. Finally had to call and ask our guests to meet us at the restaurant, missing our Izzie visit. Damn!

So, with all that bouncing around in our heads, you can imagine what a pleasure it was to be greeted by a maitre-d with a serious calm, be escorted upstairs to the bar where our guests bought us a glass of prosecco, and be seated in the beautiful Craftsman-style dining room. Peace descended as soon as we entered the door.

The Monday night menu is not as fancy as the rest of the week, but they still gave us the little printed menus to describe the delights to come, and the service is always the very best, friendly without being familiar, unobtrusive and prompt. 

First, bacalao fritters with pickled spring vegetables. I asked what bacalao is - salt cod - and, in this case, made with local Pacific cod. Perfectly crisp and golden on the outside, sweet and almost like brandade on the inside. The little pickles of early vegetables were lovely with the fritters, very mildly pickled and still retaining their beautiful colors - radishes still bright red, carrots holding on to their lively orange.

Then a plate of paella cooked over a wood fire so the rice retained just a hint of smokiness and each shellfish was perfectly cooked. The shrimp were as rich as the lobster pieces, the chorizo finely chopped so it was a salty surprise here and there in the rice, and the tiny clams each contained a sea-flavored morsel. In addition to fresh spring peas, there were also tender fava beans throughout the rice. Slender asparagus and green onions had been quickly charred to bring out their flavors and there was a pool of beautiful, buttery, bright yellow sauce just in case the rest wasn't enough to thrill you. Every bite had something delightful in it and it was a feast for the eyes as well as for the belly.

Dessert was three kinds of cold citrus preparations, candied kumquat ice cream, blood orange sherbet, and mandarin orange granita all served together. One spoonful of creamy, rich ice cream studded with little, chewy, sweet-tart surprises was followed by one of tart, tingly sherbet that kept my tongue alive throughout. The granita was hidden under the other two, the sweet, crunchy finish, singing with flavor.

We sat and talked, sipping lattes and after dinner drinks, catching up with our young friends and their splendid plans. One of the things I most love about Chez Panisse is the feeling of leisure it gives you. Even after the bill arrives, there is no sense of rushing you out the door. Because their seatings, only two in the evening, are well spaced, you have time for chatting and relaxing and appreciating the meal you just enjoyed.

After dinner, nicely full, we walked down the street in the warm night air (a wonderful anomaly in our neck of the woods), still with ideas to impart and memories to share. Hugs and promises to keep in touch and they were gone to relieve the babysitter.  My Beloved and I drove home with the windows open, deeply content.


3 Comments:

Blogger Namastenancy said...

What a lovely narrative of a restorative break after a stressful day. Now, this must go into your book. It's a keeper.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, thanks. That place is an oasis in our current desert. :-)

Friday, April 11, 2014  
Blogger Buzz Baylis said...

Fun to relive a great evening!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014  

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