We just got back from Carmel, California where all of our family helped us celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Outside of driving through 115°F heat in the Mojave Desert, it was a wonderful experience. As proof of that, I gained 5 pounds in one week, because it seems like we ate a lot. I’m not counting stops on the Mother Road or travel snacks, although undoubtedly both contributed greatly to my calorie count.
Our first “real restaurant” break was at Rich Table in San Francisco. Sarah stayed home with the boys, and Evan was expediting. That meant that even though we ordered a light meal, Evan sent us out a lot of extras. Honestly, I’m glad that he did, because the dishes were all outstanding. Sarah is back doing all of the desserts on the menu, so Evan made certain that we got to taste every one of them – along with his savory creations. We sat at the bar until our table was ready. The bartender is very creative, so he always has some new drinks to try. “Suns n’ Roses” with bourbon, dried stone fruit, vanilla and lemon is a riff on an old fashioned. The “Puddle Jump” contains rum and a rhubarb syrup. Since it is in season, rhubarb enjoys several prominent places throughout the men.
When we got to our table, we started out with sardine chips. They’ve been on the menu since Rich Table opened. Customers keep asking for them. They really are delicious: a white sardine woven into a big potato chip and served with a delicious horseradish sauce. A little amuse bouche that Evan sneaked in was a tiny panna cotta topped with a jewel-like cucumber and parsley gelée and a savory crumble. Delicious!
Of course, we had an order of the famous and popular Douglas fir levain with house-cultured butter. The bread comes out in thick, warm slices, and the tang of the cultured butter complements the Douglas fir scent and subtle taste of the bread. The sourdough starter originally came from our house and it is many years old.
The foie gras torchon with blueberries, and puffed sorghum sounded like a wild combination, but it was delicious when paired with slices of perfectly toasted brioche. Smoked white fish was tasty. Big chunks of Maine lobster were served with a house-made chitarra pasta, corn bisque, and plum was delicious. And who would believe that a fresh peach would taste as complex as the one we were served.
I had a beautifully cooked pork chop with cucumber, avocado, and crisp rice noodles. Susan enjoyed a grilled ribeye topped with salsa roja, corn, aioli, and lobster butter. We did not count calories or measure cholesterol levels.
We finished up with Sarah’s desserts: cherry ice with sorrel and almond milk ice cream; and dark chocolate pudding with summer berries and yogurt ice cream. After that, there were still honeycomb bites, chocolate nibbles, and wrapped candies to take home with us. (Susan took the candies home for the boys.)
After that bacchanal, we headed down to Carmel where we met all of our family. Everyone – adults and children – went to a popular Italian/French restaurant. A good time was had by all except for one of the little girls who developed a belly ache from eating too many goldfish crackers on the trip from Silicon Valley. René missed the meal because she was dealing with the goldfish overdose. Carol, Peter, Kevin, Sarah and Evan all seemed to have a good time.
The next evening turned out to be an event to remember. The adults and teenagers walked down the street from our hotel to a very nice restaurant, Aubergine. The men all wore ties – unheard of in California – and the women dressed up. First, we gathered at the fire pit on the patio of the hotel for a toast. Sarah had tracked down a bottle of red burgundy with a vintage the same as the year of our wedding. Evan struggled with the fifty-year-old cork, and then the wine was poured looking like Coca Cola. We were all surprised when it turned red after a little aeration. The wine was surprisingly good for being 50 years old, and it was certainly good enough for a toast. Carol and Peter contributed long-forgotten anecdotes from their childhood.
After a brief walk, we convened in the wine cellar of the restaurant for what turned out to be a lavish chef’s tasting menu. Highlights included Kumamoto oysters wrapped like little packages with string. When we lifted off the top shell with the string we were surprised to find a plump oyster topped with a tasty mignonette and caviar. Green strawberries with seaweed and strawberry snow was delicious, as was a grilled slice of avocado. Lobster with fish sauce and pink fish roe was stunning in presentation and taste. Locally harvested abalone in a tea sauce was fork-tender and delicious. Even roasted kohlrabi was a success. One of the highlights was perfectly cooked Wagyu beef. Then there were dessert(s) including Cameron’s favorite chocolate ganache tart with honeycomb ice cream. There were macarons, sablés, and chocolate cookies to make sure we made it back to the hotel without starving.
We’re home, now, working on dealing with our weight gain. Currently we are subsisting on salad, but we have some wonderful memories to treasure.