Thursday, January 26, 2006

Information Gladly Given But Safety Requires Avoiding Unnecessary Conversation*

It's been a beautiful week in San Francisco, and Shifra and Stephen's wedding was just swell. Shifra looked absolutely gorgeous (all brides should wear tiaras!) and they liked their little lemon cake, which got frosted with lemon-cream cheese icing and decorated with June Taylor's lovely candied Meyer lemon peel. Note that putting a lot of lemon juice into cream cheese icing, while making it tasty, also makes it really goopy, which means the nice icing bags and star-squiggle tip were moot as decorating aids.

Otherwise, I was eating, working, and couch-surfing from Oakland to Bernal, laying my flannelled self down on Aerobeds and fold-out couches all over the city. A new find: Bar Tartine, on Valencia near 17th, across from the old Slanted Door space. An elegant white marble bar, sprays of quince blossoms and peach-colored long-stemmed tulips the exact color and texture of my 1930s silk tap pants, and pink pomegranate bellinis, not to mention butternut squash soup with chestnuts and apples, and a lush porcini salad with frisee, beluga lentils, and a poached egg. Dessert was three egg-shaped ovals of sorbet--kiwi, orange-anise, and pineapple, scattered with a crunch of pomegranate seeds and pink grapefruit segments--and two sticky little wedges of a sublime panforte, deep and wintery with spices, cocoa, and almonds.

Dinner at Delfina was marvellous, as always, although the pizza at the pizzeria next door was just good, not fabulous (although I was very happy to have the leftovers to eat cold on the plane the next day). But the antipasti--spicy cauliflower, wild nettle soup, house-stretched mozzarella, house-cured tuna with cannellini beans--on which the staff was chowing as the kitchen shut down last night looked quite delicious.

But what was truly delicious, if I say so myself, were the persimmon/blue cheese/proscuitto bites made to accompany a bottle of champagne poured with the Red Meat Ranger and Papa Sueno. These were in imitation of the sublime fig/goat cheese/proscuitto mouthfuls fed one by one to K. last summer. Since figs were nowhere to be found, I subbed wedges of peeled Fuyu persimmon, dabbing them with creamy-funky St. Agur bleu and wrapping them in proscuitto di Parma. Heated them for a few minutes at 400 degrees F until the proscuitto was slightly crisped, highlighting its bacony flavor against the slippery-sweet warm fruit and melting cheese. While the bites were heating, I boiled down about half a cup or so of balsamic vinegar (mixed with some pomegranate molasses, should you have such a thing on hand, and believe me, you should) until it was thickened and slightly syrupy. (It will continue to thicken as it cools, so don't go too far or you'll get balsamic taffy that will stick to your teeth.) The bites went onto a warmed plate, generously drizzled with syrup.

We ended up swabbing everything we could through the drips of balsamic syrup on the plate, from slices of baguette to our fingertips. We didn't lick the plate but I think that might have happened had we not been on good champagne behavior. Alongside there were rosemary grissini from A.G. Ferrari, tiny blood oranges, a little tub of Redwood Farms fresh chevre, more blue cheese and proscuitto, and a flat slice of white lemon Stilton, described by the wags at Rainbow Grocery as "Nothing like regular Stilton. Tastes like cheesecake, rhymes with Paris Hilton." And it did, if you were thinking of the dry-ish, Italian-ricotta kind of cheesecake, studded with tiny flecks of candied lemon peel. A good time, especially with a glass of champagne tinted sunset-pink with a squeeze of blood orange juice.

*This phrase is posted at the front of all Muni buses and trains, to give the drivers a legitimate excuse not to listen to the legions of crazy people who ride the bus all day. I am shocked! shocked! that it has not become a bumper sticker or t-shirt already.


Debra said...

Love love love your blog. Just found you from a link from Bakerina who I found when I was reading about Laurie Colwin who was one of my favorites.
Just wanted to let you know

Shifra said...

Thank you so much for the amazing look-ma-no-anything wedding cake (we lay in bed eating the whole damn thing the day after the wedding) and for your sweet comment. You realize the only reason I wore a tiara is because I got the idea from your great book.