Monday, April 19, 2010

I typically measure restaurant food on three axes of judgment:

1) Spiciness
2) Quantity
3) Chocolatiness

All three of those together usually aren't enjoyable, but otherwise it's a pretty good guide to making Mike's mouth happy. If I'm having a good meal, odds are that you'll hear me yelp, "Ow! Burny! Good!"

Hank, on the other hand, has a more sophisticated palette. So, in honor of her birthday, I took her out to a restaurant that didn't have jalapeno anything on the menu. In fact, here's a snippet of descriptive text from their website:

Our food is made with the best ingredients we can find in our area: cultivated plants grown from heirloom seeds; wild-harvested leaves, flowers, barks and roots; local fish, seaweeds and coastal grasses; pastured meat, poultry and eggs from small farmers. These are the flavors of place.

The process of finding ingredients and transforming them into cuisine are not separate events, but one continuous action, constantly informed by cultural expectations and new ideas. We brine, cure and smoke, as cooks have been doing for thousands of years, but we also embrace modern cooking methods, like sous vide. Our dishes are animated by flavors and textures both familiar and strange
Really? You're going to animate my dishes with bark? Huh.

So, we went this Saturday night, and it certainly was unusual. We had the 11-course tasting menu where each course was two or three bites of food and was paired with some sort of alcoholic beverage. Typically each course was described by the waiter as he laid down the plates. After he described the first course I beamed at him and exclaimed, "I know most of those words!"

He smiled proudly at me as though I had just wet myself on the way to a last place finish in the Special Olympics.

Some of the courses were impenetrable (salty kumquat shaved ice?), others were savory and hearty (mushroom porridge with veal au jus), at least one contained weeds that I can't kill fast enough in my backyard, and my reaction to the single slice of cheese delicately drizzled with some sort of sauce was the same reaction I get to modern art that consists solely of a solidly colored rectangle. "I think I could have made that."

While most of the courses weren't delicious, they were all interesting. I've never had spinach whipped into a foam, or chocolate cake that has been crystallized. And although you probably won't improve the taste of a carrot by roasting it in hay, you'll sure as hell make me think about my meal more than I normally do.

So, was it the most deliciousness I could have had for my money? No, but the interestingness per dollar wasn't bad.

As for the rest of Hank's birthday menu, it mostly consisted of her eating as many sweets as possible. In general Hank avoids refined sugar, but there are three occasions per year when she indulges: her birthday (yay for birthdays!), Christmas (Jesus loves sugar!), and our anniversary (drown your sorrows in candy, Hank!)

So although we may skip the hay roasting next year, you can be sure that Hank's next birthday will also feature numerous sugar crashes and a lingering stomach ache.


AMW said...

Spicy, chocolatey, and comes in large chunks:

Love the blog!

Mike said...

Hi AMW. Yes, I've had spicy chocolate, and I enjoy it, but I usually only enjoy one bite of it. Once the spiciness kicks in, I rarely want to follow that with another chocolately bite. So, spicy + chocolately is ok, but not + quantity.

Will said...

Hi Mike, I think you would forgive me for trying to find out which restaurant had the hay roasting but did you realize there are a lot of restaurants with that text on their site? I did a google search on the first few words "Our food is made with the best ingredients we can find in our area" and you'll be pleased that you rank above a couple restaurants that used that phrase.

I suspect all the restaurants that rank below your post copied it from the restaurant that ranked higher.

Mike said...

As soon as I posted an menu excerpt, I figured someone would google it. Apparently doing so two years later is not productive.

The restaurant in question, however, is a place in San Francisco called Coi (pronounced "quaw" for maximum pretentiousness).

Will said...

Wow, that is not how I thought the name should be pronounced so it's good to know. I only realized after I commented that this was from a long time ago. I can 'unstar' this post now : )