Last night we had another wonderful meal at Chez Panisse, a locale that continues to be one of the shining lights of the local and organic food movements.
Our first trip there was nearly two years ago. It was an unforgettable meal. It got me to reflecting.
(Mom at Chez Panisse, March 2012)
Food as an experience
There is a history of events in each of our lives made of moments that changed how we thought about dining, eating, cooking and food.
If I had to look at my eating highlights like a ticker tape, it would flash across the screen in an order something like this.
My mother makes a mean trifle. It is so terrifically layered and delectable that it was a standard birthday dessert request by both myself and my friends growing up. Eating that trifle was an experience, and we all knew it with every bite.
I first had the seasonal menu at Pachamamas in high school. Not only was it creative and tasty, I was amazed that they would change their menu with what was in season. Restaurants just didn't do that.
A trip abroad
My senior year of high school, I accompanied dad on a business trip to Madrid. The final evening we sat down to a mind blowing eleven course feast. I was introduced to extradorinary flavors like salted cod stuffed in red pepper, beef tartar, ricotta with melon and prosciutto, and smoked herring on pizettas. It was all divine.
My father has always said, "Wine is food." Not that it's a meal by itself, but that it is another powerful ingredient in a meal.
That night I learned it was true. Each course was perfectly paired with a glass that made the flavors in both stand out and sing. Every bite had been painfully orchestrated.
(I should note that on that same trip I had Burger King, and loved every bite.)
For our fourth dating anniversary, I asked Mr. McCormick to take me to a nice dinner. We were poor grad students at the time, so this was a big request.
We headed to Tellers, and had chorizo stuffed dates as a first course. We talk about those dates to this very day. I still haven't found a version that was executed as well.
We also bought our first nice bottle of wine that evening, a Cab from Duck Horn. (Technically, it was a half bottle because we couldn't afford the full.) We loved it so much, we went home to Google it. Then we saw the real prices. Then we closed the computer and went to bed.
Topeka Wine Club
My Dad started the Topeka Wine Club (sounds official but it's a big gathering of friends) approximately two decades ago. As Corkmaster, he organizes wines by theme for the group to taste each month. Themes like:
- Picnic wines
- Super Reds
- South of the equator
- Russian River Valley
- South Africa
Not only is this a tremendously fun way to try lots of wine and learn, but the food everyone brings to share is nothing short of gourmet.
Mr. McCormick and I were blessed to be part of this club during grad school and our first year of marriage. We learned as much about food as we did about wine.
There were two incredible dishes we'll never forget from our short time in Riverside.
- Lobster risotto with seared scallops at Ciao Bella
- Chile verde at Las Campanas
No further description needed. Just know we love and miss you both.
The Bay Area: A time of plenty
We knew we were coming to a mecca for all things culinary, but we didn't realize how much it would impact us. All of the places we love below have given us some great memories and edible moments (and we'll be back):
- Chez Panisse (Berkeley)
- Trattoria Corso (Berkeley)
- Comal (Berkeley)
- Town Hall (San Francisco)
- Nopa (San Francisco)
- Rutherford Grill (Napa)
- Wayfare Tavern (San Francisco)
- Salt House (San Francisco)
- Addendum (Yountville)
- Solbar (Calistoga)
- The Trappist (Oakland)
- Bar Tartine (San Francisco)
- Piperade (San Francisco)
- Pizzeria Delfina (San Francisco)
And there are still so many to go. Here's the top of our ever growing list of places to try:
- Swan Oyster Depot (San Francisco)
- A-16 (Rockridge/Oakland)
- French Laundry (Yountville)
- Ad Hoc (Yountville)
- flour + water (San Francisco)
- Maven (San Francisco)
- Bar Agricole (San Francisco)
- Tacolicious (San Francisco)
- State Bird Provisions (San Francisco)
What's around the corner?
It's fun to reflect on great meals past, and how they have impacted us. It's also exciting to think about what meal might be coming up that will turn into a memory or experience.
Here's to a year of new food inspiration - be it from websites, restaurants, chefs, friends, family or other places.