Our de-cluttering project extends to computers and computer files. In reading the drafts for the blog, I stumbled upon this post that I had written in 2012. I don’t remember why I didn’t publish it, but with a re-reading, I thought it deserved to see the light of day. The event was a very special occasion, and all of our children pulled out all of the stops to make it memorable.
(original date: August 12, 2012)
Recently we traveled to San Francisco, ostensibly to help Sarah and Evan with babysitting during their early days of getting their new restaurant, Rich Table, up and running. We did that because both of them were at the restaurant from 10 in the morning to 3 in the morning.
But there was another reason for our trip. Our children had planned a surprise weekend for Susan, with everyone coming from Los Angeles and Silicon Valley to share a family weekend, complete with three children, their spouses, and five grandchildren.
The occasion was the celebration of one of those special decadal birthdays. The highlight of the celebration was a dinner for all the adults and a preteen at Rich Table. Sarah and Evan went out of their way to send out one fantastic dish after another. I would not be speaking in hyperbole to say it was the very best meal – and the very best celebration – I have every enjoyed in my life.
No recipes this time. The dishes were all too complicated and refined for me to try to copy. However, I will do my best to describe my impressions of the food. I can’t even begin to say what my “favorite” was, as every dish stood on its own and was complete in itself.
After a toast with Iron Horse sparkling wine, we ordered drinks. They were all riffs on classic cocktails, but they were all distinctly different. The Barnwood was Bourbon with a dash of bitters and a slice of fresh peach. The Land’s End was gin flavored with a sprig of fresh Monterey cypress.
With the drinks we got corn fritters and sardine chips. Both of these are destined to be signature dishes, and they will probably soon be showing up on menus throughout the Bay Area.
The corn fritters came as a stack of perfect globes with the thinnest, crispest shell imaginable, dusted with powdered yeast. When I broke the crust, a liquid center filled with kernels of grilled corn spilled out to mix with the cilantro salsa verde.
The sardine chips were big potato chips with a slim sardine fillet woven through and the whole thing fried to a crunchy, crisp texture. I could have made a meal of these, and ordinarily I don’t even like sardines.
Italian peppers so sweet that they tasted almost like candy were grilled to perfection and then stuffed with slivers of succulent duck. We fought over who got the last of this dish.
Plancha bread was served as an anvil-shaped flat bread topped with burrata, summer squash and squash blossoms with a hint of shiso.
Who would believe that watermelon and squid would go together – along with black olives and crispy onions? My daughter, Carol, and her daughter, who don’t eat onions, were dueling each other for the last of the crispy onions that came on the top of this dish.
Beef tartare with cucumber yogurt was delicious, but I was more partial to the tagliatelle Bolognese with marrow and crispy leaves of kale.
The Pacific halibut with crisp pork belly and transparently thin Tokyo turnips was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat.
Throughout the meal we feasted on chunks of levain scented with wild fennel pollen and served with butter churned in-house after it had been cultured for several days. This was definitely not your ordinary restaurant bread.
I liked the spaghetti with yellow tail tuna and broccolini espellete. The sauce was so smooth and buttery that it coated your mouth with a taste you didn’t want to give up.
We had one dish that was not on the menu – rabbit cannelloni served with tiny, sweet tomatoes. Another dish that I could have easily had seconds and thirds.
Our dessert was also off the menu. Sarah had made a “birthday cake” of Hyde Park Café peach pudding. Susan and I had enjoyed the tasty dessert many times with Sarah when she was in Austin. Susan had managed to talk the cafe out of the recipe, and she had baked it for Sarah on special occasions. This was turn-about at its highest level. The cake capped the end of a warm and wonderful family celebration.
Grilled Italian peppers with duck
Hyde Park Cafe peach “birthday cake”