Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hearing and seeing more because we've tasted more

Reading more essays from the greatest food (and just plain great) writer of all time, M.F.K. Fisher. In "A Stew or A Story", here are some choice quotes from favorite essays, including wonderful bits on California:

From "Shall It Be... Eating or Dining?" (1944):
After describing an ideal meal and courses, ending with coffee]..."I think the magic would have happened, and we'd sit for a long time with our elbows on the table, talking easily, hearing and seeing more than we had for some time because of the way we'd tasted more."

From the enlightening "
Love in a Dish" (1948):
In describing the three basic needs of life, food, love, shelter, and the poor quality and care of food]: "...having failed so completely to satisfy in harmony one of their three basic needs, it cannot be wondered that the other two, for love and shelter, are increasingly unfulfilled. There can be no warm, rich home life anywhere else if it does not exist at table, and in the same way there can be no enduring family happiness, no real marriage, if a man and woman cannot open themselves generously and without suspicion one to the other over a shared bowl of soup as well as a shared caress."

From "
If This Were My Place" (1950):
In describing her perfect restaurant, particularly a meal in San Francisco at a crusty, classic seafood place]..."If I were running this place... I'd leave it just as it is, cluttered and funny and right - right for now, that is: a bottle of cold light white wine, sizzling crab-legs meuniere, crisp bread on an ugly thick white plate, and beyond them the fog and the sound of harbor horns. But last week another place was right, a lunch of pure fantasy, of equally fantastic expense and 'restauraterie', in a beautifully appointed and beautifully managed and beautifully dishonest Beverly Hills hash house. And far back in my mind is that light high-voiced subtle room in New York, where the champagne and the finnan haddie were so completely right. If I were running this place, the mythical Perfect Restaurant, I'd try to be honest and fantastic and artful, so that I could serve forth what would be, at a given moment, the essential food, the nourishment most needed in a man's Design for Living."

From "
The Art of Eating, California Style" (1981):
"... all I really know from experience is that the California way is the best, gastronomically, except perhaps for small places in southern France. But I have talked about California style with other people who know a lot more than I do, and they all agree that the eating, the foods, the dishes and the styles of cooking are for some reason better here than anywhere else in the United States. Why? I repeat. They reply: it's the freshness, the easiness, the availability. Or is it the ethnic influences? Or perhaps the climate? ... I have tentatively concluded that all of those factors are involved

From "
Only in Spots Have We Tamed the California Coast" (1985):
"The California coast stretches, for some thirteen hundred miles, from the Oregon border to Mexico. I have spent many of the good moments of my life along it, from the time I was three years old unti8l now, and I would ask no better than to end my days with the smell and sound of its wild surf wrapped around me."

"Across the water to the south [from Marin], blazing and twinkling at night and serene in all the changing lights of day, is San Francisco. Its court jester has named it Baghdad-on-the-Bay. This evocative title will do until a better one happens, but the City is literally indescribable... I have yet to leave San Francisco willingly... My only comfort is that I am confident I'll return, in one way or another, even as a ghost... It is the focal point of the whole beautiful coastline... The City, as its lovers smugly call it, rises pearly on its many hills, and all roads, at least in California, seem to lead to it. People feel lighter there, in their myriad ways, and there are clip joints and penthouses of utmost squalor or elegance to satisfy them, as they breathe the wonderful washed air and walk with unaccustomed vigor along the tipping streets. It is a fine place to be, the glowing jewel of the California coastline, in the planet's crown of such mysterious happenings."

Currently watching : Brideshead Revisited [Theatrical Release] 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sonoma Redux

This Summer has meant a few excursions to Sonoma for Dan and I. Funny, since I hate Wine Country's scorching Summer weather, and prefer all other seasons (Fall!!) Yet somehow, it's been calling, and we've responded: exploring Sonoma Valley in particular (in the past, we often focused on Russian River and Healdsburg regions). I didn't think our near perfect June day trip could be topped. Yesterday, it was.

Starting in
Santa Rosa with a pleasant lunch at Kabab and Curry House (Mango Chicken Curry, the one real highlight), we meandered through a number of lovely wineries, tasting little, but wandering grounds throughout Kenwood and Glen Ellen. After lazy hours exploring the countryside (including a stop for our favorite Wine Country Chocolates), we ended up late afternoon on the square of idyllic downtown Sonoma.

We peeked in historic, gorgeous Ledson Hotel's open-air lobby: Harmony Lounge. Though the heat was oppressive, confronted by crisp air conditioning within. One misstep in this lush room was two flat screen TVs, though discreetly placed. Diana Krall (live in Paris) played on both, and though not a huge fan (I prefer her repertoire of standards sung by jazz greats), the lilting calm of the music was just right...

We ordered a refreshing cocktail and a glass of fabulous Schramsberg Brut Rose as we
sat by an unlit fireplace in big chairs, with dainty tables holding our drinks. We were startled as the grand piano next to us suddenly began playing along with Krall's piano, perfectly timed! The effect was one of live concert, reverberating through this opulent room of marble, velvet chairs, and chandeliers.

Dan read a novel, and I, my dear T.S. Eliot. It's been awhile since I've revisited old friend, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", so today I did. As always, his poetry envelops. Add sexy jazz, sultry heat clashing with crisp air, the tingle of fresh mint in my cocktail, and my senses were awake, my heart alive with love for Dan... for our life.

Eliot's atmospheric words added to the mesmerizing tapestry of gratefulness holding me. My favorite part of the poem is my favorite passage still, much as I adore the rest:

"And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea."

How can one part with such perfection? Only to move on to more... we made reservations for dinner at a gorgeous, stately 1800's home we stumbled upon on our last Sonoma visit, housing an elegant Southern restaurant, The General's Daughter. The meal was as good as we'd hoped, including the best Mint Julep (blissful fresh peach! with the mint and bourbon), a rich Cauliflower Risotto (with aged gouda and maple vinegar) and addictive Shrimp and Grits (with andouille sausage and leeks).

Satiated and satisfied, we took our wine out to the front (wrap-around) porch, which we had to ourselves, and sat down in rocking chairs. Just past sunset (8-9pm), this last hour was the most blissful of all. Dan smoked a special cigar and we talked, sat in silence, ruminated, reflected. I read some of Eliot's poetry aloud. We dreamed. We were alive.

The drive home embodied our day: the hills were outlined by remnants of Sunset's pink, melding with Night's dark blue... the gentle Wine Country breezes on a cooled down (though still warm) Summer's night... the soothing voice of Ella serenading us in the car... I caressed his neck, he held my hand as he drove... smiles of complete happiness... Together. Unified in beauty, living, tasting and seeing, love.

Indeed, there IS, and will be, time.

Currently listening to:
Fight With Tools
By: Flobots
Release date: 2008-05-20

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Favorite June Moments

1. Of course, that idyllic Sonoma excursion with my husband
2. "Gone with the Wind" Ball and sleepover (watched the whole movie over Sofia champagne-in-a-can and popcorn) with Amanda, Anna, Jus (and dashing Dan at the Ball) - we were celebrities for the day in our A.C.T. rented Civil War gowns
3. Crashing the "7x7 Best Of" party at Level III downtown with Dan
4. Brian & Liz' beautiful San Anselmo wedding
5. Movie night ("I Heart Huckabees") at our place with the gang and numerous dinners with Scott & Louise
6. Coffee in the alley at 4 Barrel with Amanda & Chels (separate times - I keep going back!)
7. Opera in the ballpark with Jus, Jason and Dan on a hot, sultry night
8. Dancing (square dancing, Hambo, English barn dancing), singing (barbershop quartet!) and enjoying music all day at the free SF Folk Fest with my Hus, followed by a romantic French bistro dinner at L'Ardoise
9. Watching the Solstice moon rise orange and full, shimmering over the Bay from atop Twin Peaks with Dan at midnight as the gentle, warm breeze caressed us... sat for one perfect hour on the edge of hill looking out over pristine, sparkling SF
10. Luke & Allison's perfect wedding in San Juan Capistrano... my sweet brother ... and the time with my fam (tender, unforgettable moments like Justine and I crying on each other's shoulders during a a long embrace at the reception... or Mom & I crying arm-in-arm as we listened to the violinist at Downtown Disney... or early morning coffee w/ Dad each day)
Currently reading: The Sound and the Fury-William Faulkner