Friday, March 27, 2009
Recap: The Best Freaking Meal Anyone Has Ever Had Anywhere and Don’t Argue With Me
Some meals, I whip through as quick as I can, just jamming the sustenance where it fits best so that I can keep on keeping on with as little time lost as possible.
Some meals I don’t realize I’ve even eaten, since I was all wrapped up in (occasionally) conversation or (sadly, more frequently) some damn television show or other.
Some meals I linger over because I’m not enjoying the food for some reason. I just don’t want to keep eating, though I know I’ve got to. It feels interminable, though I suppose it’s usually over within half an hour.
Some meals I linger over because I spent a long time cooking them and I want to appreciate them. But more often, I spend too long cooking and then shovel the grub with both hands till the plate is clean and it’s taken me just a few minutes to consume the labors of several hours.
But I have never - NEVER - eaten as I did last night at Michael Mina/San Francisco. My old friend Marc was in town for a conference and asked me to recommend an outrageously awesome restaurant. I included MM in a short list of suggestions. It’s in the hotel where he’s staying, so it seemed like a decent option. And I’d heard that it was as good a restaurant as San Francisco is capable of producing, which is saying quite a bit.
But I don’t think any of us (Dave joined us since we’d all been friends through college together) expected, nor have ever experienced, the kind of meal we wound up having in that serenely under-decorated dining chamber. But let’s start at the beginning.
We started the evening with beers at the Tunnel Top - a Dashiel Hammet locale updated for TenderNob hipsters, adjacen to the provocative Green Door Relaxation Salon and just one staircase and four short blocks to our ultimate destination: the old St Francis on the square. Marc checked in while I checked out the historical exhibits in the lobby, like photos from Fatty Arbuckle’s arrest for murder back in the ‘20s. Marc wound up getting a double-upgrade on his room - a spacious suite nine stories above Union Square in the building’s original 1904 towers, right at the corner so the view stretched out 270 degrees across downtown and SoMa. Then we rode back downstairs to the lobby and MM, where we each got the six-course meat-eater’s seasonal tasting menu, with wine pairings. And since “it’s not a lily if it ain’t gilded,” we also ordered one six-course seasonal veggie tasting menu for the table just in case we were missing anything - a choice that seemed obvious once we’d made it, but apparently had no precedent in the restaurant’s history. We were also also brought an extra appetizer with aperitif, and an extra dessert. We ate for three hours. It’s nearly a full day later and I’m still staggering under the sheer gastronomic intensity. To wit:
Hog Island oysters with bloody mary granita; paired with Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs Sonoma sparkler.
English pea soup (black winter truffles, parmesan cheme fraiche, brioche croutons; paired with a Prager Riesling “Hollerin” Smaragd, Wachau, Austria 2001) (Dave got an amazing foie gras terrine with Medjool dates, marcona almonds and sherry gelee, served with an awesome Spanish Lustau Moscatel Las Cruces Sherry). Veggie supplement: Winter citrus salad with shaved fennel, sylvetta, and citrus coulis.
Grilled Monterey Bay Calamari (cara cara orange, nicoise olive, fennel bulb; paired with Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ 2007). Veggie supplement: really excellent seasonal squash trio of pumpkin soup, tempura squash salad, grilled “sandwich.” (We picked up a glass of the wine pairing on this one too, an exceptional dry Royal Tokaji Wine Company Furmint, Hungary 2005)
Steelhead Trout (bay leeks, morel mushrooms, lobster emulsion; paired with Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Saint-Aubin “en remily” 1er Cru (white) Burgundy, France 2007). Veggie supplement: Roaster heirloom beets with braised endive, mache, black truffle vinaigrette.
Hobbs Shore Pork Belly (with pumpernickel panade, red wine braised cabbage, caraway jus; paired with Sainte Eugenie Corbieres la reserve, Languedoc, France 2005). Veggie supplement: Carnaroli risotto with suncholes, castelmagno cheese, black winter truffles. And can I tell you? THAT PORK BELLY. Damn. Sure, the risotto was also fine, but I’ve never eaten anything like that pork belly. I can’t even start to tell you what it was like; words are patently inadequate and actually make it sound kind of distasteful. It wasn’t distasteful. It was life-changing, is what it was. When the server brought it, she said “all bets are off.” I only begin to understand what she meant, but I see she was on the right track.
Japanese Kobe Beef (with sacramento delta asparagus, potato fourchette, sauce bearnaise; paired with Volver (Tempranillo), La Mancha, Spain 2005). Veggie supplement: “Scotch” hen egg with forest mushrooms and heirloom radishes in consomme. Both majorly rocked.
Poached Rhubarb (with tellicherry peppercorn ice cream, meyer lemon confit, and basil; paired with Kracher Cuvee BA, Illmitz, Austria 2006. Supplemental dessert: Root beer float with root beer sorbet and sasparilla ice cream, garnished with chocolate straws. As it turns out, these are actually two of my favorite desserts, and both were exceptional.
Espresso smores with lychee jellies - off-menu and superb.
After supper we rode the tower elevator up the outside of the hotel’s 1970’s addition, 32 stories up into the night sky, just for the view and the breathtaking rush when the carriage burst out over the original hotel roofline and the complimentary rush when it slammed back down into the interior again. Then, finally, I staggered out to my bus stop - 9 stories directly beneath Marc’s room. My ride came quickly but was crowded. On the way home the bus stopped at Fillmore Street, where the Bob Weir show was just letting out; hordes of howling deadheads roamed the street, slapping out beats on the side of the bus and staring vacantly at their complimentary posters. I bet they thought they’d had a nice evening. I won’t argue with them, but I know mine was a fair piece better than “nice.” I got home at midnight and feel as if I have yet to wake up. I don’t know if I’m ever going to taste food the same way again. I might someday have a meal that rivals this one, but I will NEVER top it. Hope you get to try one someday soon for yourself. It does make a fellow look at things differently.
This has been another presentation of “Bet You Wish You Were Me.” Have a good weekend. IF YOU DARE. I’ll be hosting a birthday party for 25 munchkins and their P.U.s. Ergo, I dare not. Enough!