Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Wine & Roses

Happy post-Valentines, friends! Did you wake up today with a sugar + oxytocin hangover? Have you hit up your local Walgreen’s to score some deals on discount candy? Are you glad you won’t see Sweethearts for another 11 months? Other thots about yesterday’s holiday?

Ours was a lovely, lovely V-day. Rather than battling the Marinafied crowds, we opted to prepare a picnicky dinner (eaten on the bed, natch). Bi-Rite was so crowded that we had to wait in line, as one would wait outside a club. (“I’m wearing jeans,” Alex quipped. “Do you think they’ll let us in?”) Made conversation with the woman in front of us, who lives in the same building as Robert Patterson.* “He’s just opened that new restaurant, and I can’t wait to try it out,” she said — a bit wistfully, I thought, or maybe with the tone of someone obligated to attend a niece’s piano recital. She promised she’d go soon.We waged an epic battle at Bi-Rite, dodging rampaging hippies just there to get farro, goddamnit, and canoodly couples practically making out in front of the olive display. (GET A ROOM! Next time, that is.) Forty-five minutes later, we were prepping dinner. On the menu: assorted cheeses and charcuterie; dates, which Alex pitted and sliced into wedges; olives; radishes, cleaned, halved, and served in a teacup; arugula, tossed with toasted breadcrumbs and the tangiest vinaigrette, sharpened with shallots and capers and grainy mustard; bread: a sweet baguette and a soft, flat loaf crusted in sesame seeds; German sparkling wine; and Boston Creme Pie, with the lightest filling and the most decadent chocolate shell. Membrillo, too, which I cut into thin slices and smashed into the bread before laying down sheets of Manchego.We ate near the heater, our plates and bowls balanced on small tables, our legs tucked beneath us. Watched the Maine episode of “No Reservations,” which I kept interrupting to ask, “Is that how it really is? Is this an accurate representation?” We let our stomachs settle before cutting one slice of the pie — a sharing slice — and finishing off the champagne and then, very late, rolling into bed.

I wished I could stay up late enough to extend the night through the morning, through the next day, into an ever-expanding experience that would not dilute, even with prolongation. That’s not how time works. Instead, I’ll keep the night’s memory as a talisman: a filament, a worn stone, a bottle filmed with the remnants of what it contained.

***

*I think. She just said “The owner of the ramen place on 18th,” that ramen place being Ken Ken and Patterson being Ken Ken’s owner.

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The Weekend of Perfect Eating

“Weekend” is a generous description, since Saturday’s meals centered mostly on chips and Tecate, a nutritional oversight made possible by the gorgeous, sunny & 70 weather we had in the Bay Area (holla!). Sunday, then, promoted this weekend to a high level of gastronomic enjoyment.

Before hitting up Picture Machine for a V-day tat, Hook and I stopped at House of Bagels for a late breakfast. HoB has long been a location of interest to me: when I belonged to the Richmond District Y, I’d walk by House en route to the gym and peer with interest into the back room (whose door is usually left open). There, men blasted classic rock and boiled the bagels, moving deftly among the racks and industrial mixers. It’s hard to believe that I’d never been to House, but maybe not that hard: after all, when I’m on my way to the gym, a bagel stop is not part of the Order of Business.

House was better than even I expected. Their selection of bagels is phenomenal — they have hard-to-find types like Rye, Corn, Pumpernickel, and Chocolate — but they offer a full selection of pastries, sweets, and deli items, too. I may be too meek to try the Whitefish Salad, but the Rugelah, from the looks of it, might warrant a return trip. Also warranting a return trip: giant sugar cookies covered (end-to-end) in RAINBOW SPRINKLES. Glorious in their excess, these cookies are as big as my face. Nothing is more fun than Baked Goods as Big as One’s Face.

Perhaps the highlight of our House experience was the homemade cream cheese, which (sad to say) I’ve never before had. Unlike its store-bought competitor, House’s house-made cheese has a tanginess and a silky texture that makes Philadelphia cheese look downright primitive. (Note: Don’t worry: I’m not forswearing store-bought cream cheese! Not just yet, anyway.) The counter lads served Hook and me waaaaay more cheese than could reasonably be eaten [by anyone], and we were sad to scrape the bulk of it into our trays. House of Bagels, your tasty product and your dairy generosity are unmatched in this city: I salute you!

A few hours later, post-tattoo and after lounging for a reasonable time, H. and I required some lunch. And what better lunch than a sausage (or two) from Rosamunde? (Note: we’d tried, the previous evening, to get snausages at the Mission location, but no dice — the place was packed and we were too impatient to stand in line.)

At the risk of bringing upon myself a barrage of “That’s What She Said” jokes, I have to say that I love fresh sausage. Supermarket varieties, slimy in their shrink-wrap sheaths, not so much. But homemade Bratwurst or Andouille? All sorts of YES. True to form, I ordered a brat with grilled onions and sauerkraut, along with a side of German potato salad (a rare find, that). Later analysis of the day’s dining patterns confirms that yes, I was massively hungover (because when else would I order potato salad, really?), but I’m glad that I was, in a sense — otherwise, I might have gone my whole life without tasting this cold salad. Mustard-rich with hints of bacon, dotted with chopped scallions, the salad was just what I needed for instantaneous revival. The brats, too, we damn near perfect. Served two to a bun (wowza), they were grilled until almost-crisp; the white pepper in the meat was balanced by the sweetness of the onions, the bite of the caraway seeds in the kraut.

Best damn potato salad in the world -- or the Lower Haight.

Oh, man: I wish I had this meal right now, this meal reproduced in the exact likeness of its predecessor. I’m miles from Rosamunde and hours from dinner, so my wish will remain just that. Soon, we will return.

***

Hook and I chose to go out for our Valentine’s Day dinner on Sunday instead of Monday (Monday being day one of the Jeopardy tournament feat. Supercomputer Watson!); Zuni was our destination. I bike past Zuni a few times a week, and as I roll by, I always catch the scent of something beautiful. (Maybe it’s the aroma  of pounds of butter melting? But I can’t think of a prettier scent than that.) Sadly, I’d never eaten there — until now. Now, I’m even more excited about every upcoming holiday/anniversary/observance — that is, about any day on which a return trip might happen. Presidents’ Day approacheth…

Equally as airy inside as it appears from the street, Zuni approached capacity on Sunday night. Our waiter, striking the rare balance between “helpful” and “curt,” made sure Hook’s oysters were to his liking, that our table was brushed free of crumbs immediate after we finished eating. More importantly, he didn’t bat an eye when I started the meal with a Prosecco and Elderflower cocktail (which, by the way, nectar of the damn gods). God bless an impartial waiter.

My great dilemma, at a nice restaurant, is whether to order something comfortable (beef) or to branch out, trying a rarer protein. Sunday, I could have sampled squab or tried rabbit, but I ordered the filet, coated in peppercorns and served rare. In a sense, then, I did branch out: I’d never eaten rare beef! But now that I have, I’m on the bandwagon for good. Smoky and dark as a beet, the beef was so tender I barely had to chew.

Unlike me, Hook tends to branch out when we’re at a new restaurant; he ordered leg of rabbit. Served on a bed of roasted root vegetables, the legs looked disconcertingly like, um, legs. I could envision them on the animal proper, which visualization led me to question whether I should be eating meat at all — I was a vegetarian for a few years — but Hook convinced me to try a bite (tiny, tiny). The bite reminded me of pork — pork highly seasoned with rosemary and chicory. I didn’t ask for another taste.

Steak on "Real Valentine's Day." Note the abundance of peppercorns.

We left dessertless — nothing on the menu caught my fancy — and braced ourselves against the new air, chill and sulfurous. It was a perfect dinner, capping a perfect day. The next night, we’d rush home from work to prepare our Real Valentine’s Dinner. We’d overcook the endive and overspice the steak, but these details, so egregious on any other day, would get lost in our personal context.