A clean, well-lit place

There’s much to report on the Garkyfront: so much that I’ll dive in and tell y’all what’s on my mind: I’m moving! Again! (I know, right — this gal’s not gathering any moss.) Come September, I’ll be relocating to the Mission, where I’ll revel in the abundance of taco stores and enjoy my new home’s natural light, bay windows, and hardwood floors. I don’t dislike the Sunset (in theory, anyhow), but it’s so freaking remote: my daily commute totals two to three hours, depending on the state of MUNI, and I budget at least an hour to get anywhere else. Tally that travel time, and you’ll realize that I’ve been spending much of my recent life on a train. That, coupled with my landlords’ tendency to wander into my living quarters, made me take action.

Friday morning, I put down a deposit and picked up my keys. I am so stoked to move in to my new place, but slightly less stoked about the prospect of boxing my books, trinkets, pairs of socks, &c. Ah, well: it’s a process that can be made more pleasant with music and PBR, right? (Aside: if any of you wants to help me pack, I’ll make you so much pizza and pour you so much prosecco. Or something equivalent.)

Picking up my keys was just the start of this past weekend. Friday night, I met Aurora for dinner at Cha Ya, where we enjoyed a serene, multi-course meal. As you know, my median dinner time has crept farther and farther past 6:00, edging into an arguably European time slot. Friday, it was back to square one: A. and I were the first diners to arrive. Our early arrival garnered us a prime table, uninterrupted service, and funny looks from passersby (who must have wondered what two twentysomethings were thinking, eating dinner at 5:00).

We began our meal with cocktails, natch — barley spirits mixed with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. (Note: How did we know the juice was fresh? We squeezed it ourselves. At the table.) Similar to vodka, this spirit was mostly tasteless; I was pleased to have fresh-squeezed juice (one of my favorite small luxuries). Aurora and I shared miso and the daintiest cucumber salad, garnished with toasted soy nuts and golden raisins and dressed in a mild vinaigrette. Next, we split a tofu custard topped with veggies: sugar snap peas, squash (undercooked, sadly), carrot coins cut to resemble blossoms. I’m sad to say that, texturally relevant though this dish was, it was bland. Cream-of-wheat bland. The veggies tasted like their natural selves; I dumped a bunch of soy sauce on my portion to spruce up the flavor, but this only made me feel as though I were eating cream of wheat with soy sauce.

The highlight of the meal was the fried eggplant stuffed with tofu and veg; ever-so-faintly sweet, the eggplant had the consistency of French toast* — a meltier, more-fried French toast — and assumed the mild ginger flavor of the sauce it bathed in. I’m partial to stuffed things — the uncovery process makes any meal more novel — and the entrée fit nicely with my Learning to Love Tofu Initiative.

After dinner, we jaunted to the Art Murmur, which was nifty and vibrant but maybe a little too scene for my evening: I’d promised myself a quiet night, but one tallboy, one vegan cupcake, and 1.5 dive bar Mai Tais later, I realized I’d made bad on my promise.

Saturday, I kicked it with Sabina, ladystyle: we spent some quality time on the couch watching only the finest Bravo had to offer. We quite possibly also watched one of the sequels to “Bring it On,” which was quite possibly featured on ABC Family. No comment there.

By Saturday evening, I wanted to swaddle myself in my comforter and sleep the deepest, most dreamless sleep, but I had other plans — I was meeting Alex to cook dinner. We spent a goodly amount of time paging through cookbooks, admiring rare chops and crusty loaves and Nigella’s sultry poses, and we decided, in the end, to visit Bi-Rite and get whatever struck our fancy.**

Aside: Oh, my god: as much as I love general grocery shopping, I love shopping at Bi-Rite the best. I’m drawn in by the jewel-bright berries, the stone fruits whittled into sample slices, the orderly rows of cupcakes and tarts. Such order! Such prosperity. As I stood considering the bins of olives, a salesdude wandered over and gave me samples of a few varieties; little did he know that I’d already decided to get a tub of Cerignolas.Roughly an hour later, we began to cook, but not in any old way. No, no: the preparation of this dinner was just as leisurely as the preceding grocery trip. Alex put on music; I broke the bundled Romaine hearts into leaves and washed them in lukewarm water. We paused to snack on olives, take a sip of whiskey, flip the record. A few minutes passed, then an hour; the vinaigrette was ready, the bread warmed in the oven, and the steaks hissed in their pan. I set the table with one green plate and one yellow. We were hungry, yes, but not so hungry to overlook the luxury of a languorously prepared meal.

If I had to choose (which I don’t, seeing as I’m the one recounting this experience, but I’ll choose, anyway), my favorite part of the meal was bread topped with manchego and membrillo. I’d never had quince paste, and I smitten with its texture (jam-aspic hybrid?), sweetness, and bloody hue; paired with the crumbly cheese, it was divine. All night, I thought about this combination, the satisfaction I took in its simplicity. Sunday, after a glorious brunch and my tour, I bought a wedge of twelve-month-aged manchego and a tub of membrillo and set to work making my newest favorite comfort food.

***

*Which I’ve been craving something fierce lately, god help me. I never used to like French toast, but look at me now! #seachange

**This isn’t entirely true: we did decide to make a variation of Jamie Oliver’s Insalata di Strata, but our protein/beverage/dessert choices were guided by impulse alone.

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