Black crowned night heron © Robert Sommers 2023

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Northern Exposure

I had a really great trip up to the Bay Area. I sold a small painting, did some homework on the big one, ate like a hog, drank like a fish, hiked, talked and had a generally splendid time.

Left my house at four in the morning and caught the 6:18. Picked up the car offsite. If you are renting in San Francisco, try Ace. Around $24.00 a day including smart cars. I had a Suzuki that was great. 80% cheaper than the competition.

The weather was warmer up there than San Diego, just glorious. BigDave met me at Christie's, my normal breakfast spot in Burlingame.

Stopped off at my friend Michael's afterwards in San Mateo, a home filled with the creme de la creme of arts and crafts furnishings and that has had a major magazine spread.

Hightailed it to Oakland for the serious work portion of the trip and afterwards stopped by Melissa and Gary's house. Melissa's son Taylor had just came back from a major American tour with his speed/death metal band and had seemed to have grown up a lot. I had previously ripped him on the blog and his record label had seen it but he took it pretty well. His brother Morgwyn was there with his wife, preparing for proper nuptials in Scotland. Morgan is a chef at the Wood Tavern.

Melissa took me to the Berkeley farmers market, where I had the greatest ever macaroon, dried elephant heart plums and more chocolate. Saw the most amazing selection of Sonoma dry farmed potatoes. She also gave me this twenty year old photo of Les and I at David and Amy's wedding. Yes, I guess you could call it a mullet.

Gary, an ex navy diver, and Melissa and I went to our brilliant cookbook author, teacher, poet, friend Denis and gracious wife Kathy's house for hors d'oeuvres and drinks and then onwards and upwards to the famous Bay Area restaurant Bay Wolf for dinner. Started at the same time as Chez Panisse, Bay Wolf was an instrumental player in the northern california culinary revolution.

I actually wasn't that hungry after all the snacking at phenomenal chef Melissa's home, where I had been munching on this outrageous chocolate. But like a trooper I rose to the occasion and had the requisite Duck liver flan with olives and cornichons. I followed that with a butter lettuce and poached lamb's tongue salad.

We drank a remarkable white wine with our first courses. Denis is a Beard Award winner and a wine judge at the California State Fair and knows his way around a corkscrew. I normally am not a big fan of white wines. Now I know the problem. I am too cheap, you have to order the expensive stuff!

Denis selected a 2000 Savennieres from the Loire Valley. This Chenin Blanc is grown across from Vouvre. He explained that these whites, like his favorite Sancerre, can age for ever and that he had bought a 50 year old bottle in Paris that was still remarkable when consumed.

This wine was round, fruity and not too sweet. No trace of the dreaded oak, the main problem I have with most California whites.

I continued on the a small entree of oxtail ravioli with savoy cabbage and herbed bread crumbs. Delicious and perfect. The others had duck, ragout of spring lamb with fava beans and fried artichokes and swordfish. I ordered a peppery old vine Scherrer zinfandel for our entrees.

We finished off the night with a tart rhubarb cobbler with buttermilk ice cream. Denis and his wife Kathy had a nice pear liqueur that was delicious. The food was top of the line although it was expensive. A mellower place than Chez Panisse, sort of reserved.

What is really great about nights like this were getting two stellar cooks together and just listening to them. No one upmanship, just enthusiasm,  shared experiences and lots of knowledge. I love Gary, Melissa's beau and a really funny and solid man. We could attack my friend from both sides, always fun.

The next day I went into the city to see Big Dave. We drove up to Marin and saw my friend Ron, who has another virtual museum of paintings and decor. Ron is originally from Cleveland and has an extraordinary padlock collection.

We then hiked up the Mt. Tam watershed to Phoenix Lake, towering redwoods, ferns and many shades of green.

I made it back to the airport in time. Lo and behold, we sat on the tarmac for two hours while they tried to figure out electronic problems in the cockpit. Very reassuring. Stopped at Mickey D's for a late night assignation with my friend big mac.

I do not wish to give the mistaken impression that my wanderings and life are a mere exercise in mindless gluttony, why nothing could be farther from the truth. I had several honest to god epiphanies mixed in with my dionysian grunts, although they seem to still be lurking just outside of my cognitive grasp. Or I must disguise them to protect the identities of the guilty or maybe timid.

In any case I did hear a couple of funny things the past couple days that I would have written down if I merely had a pen or suitable stylus and now must recount from faulty memory.

"She used to get up after we had sex and would smoke a cigarette, now she runs straight to facebook..."

"Being jewish is really popular these days, it's the new black..."

I also got headshrunk a bit by friend Denis, a very smart guy.  I was talking to him and mentioned that while I show no fear while writing, painting or speaking, I am afraid of the kitchen. I have no confidence cooking. He said that I was a perfectionist, and you couldn't be one in the kitchen. He remarked that I had a platonic view of life, idealizing the perfect and that he was an aristotelian, who preferred what is. We discussed an embarrassing episode that I recently witnessed and he also maintained that I was a calvinist to his catholic which I find equally spot on and funny. In many personal matters, I happen to be a total prude.

I will be driving back up to the bay next Tuesday for another show that sort of happened out of the blue, the San Francisco Art International that starts with a gala Thursday night. I am going to bringing some very interesting paintings up. 

I got linked up the other day with the national and very high powered blog Crooks and Liars. Probably got 1000 hits that day, a record. My Virginia gay rights piece. Rob Sommers, the new gay literary icon. The straight one. I appreciate the ink and wonder if any of it will stick? The blog has sort of taken on so much momentum with my regulars that I feel a bit guilty if I don't continually feed it, something that occasionally becomes a chore. I may try to back off and write only when smitten by a more emphatic bug which must be excised. Although many admittedly come only for the music.

Until whenever.



grumpy said...

buttermilk ice cream, padlock collection, the matching mullets, your white wine epiphany; so many cool nuggets in this post...

Dr. J said...

Well you are an interesting man, not surprisingly. Nice site you have developed! Having been to San Francisco many times as the smarter relatives of mine went there instead of like my dad, taking us all to the cold Midwest to grow. I like the soft beauty of northern Florida, but the west has always stimulated the artist in me and for that I am grateful.

Blue Heron said...

Dr. J - thanks for the comment. You have a very cool site yourself! Please check out this blog page by my friend and fitness trainer Roy Cohen - you might find it interesting. http://contemplativefitness.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/all-those-little-bullets-the-story-of-slow-death/

How did you wander into the Blast?