Have you ever had things happen in your life where you just want to shout it from the rooftops? Where you get thrilled, excited, and downright giddy, yet you don't tell many people because you think they won't understand?
Sometimes I feel that way about food. I'm constantly mulling over my next meal, the next restaurant I want to visit, the next thing I want to cook. I get polite smiles and nods from people not into food, but they are clearly thinking, "Why do you waste so much time and energy thinking about something as basic as food?"
Well, I do, and that's just me. No apologies. Food is my life. Most who read my blog are about as crazy as I am, so it's about time I shared a few wonderful experiences that happened to me months ago.
You never know who will walk in the door at work. Lots of top Boston chefs come in to browse, purchase books, hang out, or just visit. Even though I am still a little new to the restaurant scene here, I've met some great people and realized that Boston is slowly waking up its food scene. Chefs here are fairly down-to-earth, and I enjoy talking to them.
The only time when I was reduced to schoolgirl flutters was when Chef Lynch walked in with Chef John Besh to give him a tour of her businesses here in the South End. Yes, he was on the Next American Iron Chef, and I thought he was robbed. Nothing against Michael Symon, but Besh deserved to win. In any case, in comes an entourage with him in the middle. Southern boy charm, all smiles, super nice, and all I could squeak out was, "I ate at your restaurant a few years ago and loved it!" to which he replied, "Well, I hope you come again."
I clearly remember eating alone at Restaurant August in 2003. It was my last meal in New Orleans, and I was nervous about going to such a nice restaurant alone, but I forged ahead and did it. Scallops over risotto- the first time I had eaten perfect risotto. The restaurant was vibrant and classic, retaining Southern charm but somehow feeling up-to-date, unlike the other classic New Orleans institutions which had timelessness but also a sense of quiet detachment. I fell in love and instantly loved Chef Besh and his food, but then again, I'm a sucker for anyone French-influenced. Very few other chefs have done the same for me, and I felt that I "discovered" him before he became a celebrity chef.
After he left Stir, I managed an excited phone call to H, who is probably one of the few people who understood my excitement. Even the chef at work didn't really know who he was, so I needed an outlet to squeak to.
A week later, we held a class hosted by the owner and sake sommelier Nancy Cushman at O Ya . The buzz at O Ya has been tremendous, especially with Frank Bruni's recent endorsement. Our class was held before his review, and I had the privilege of participating and assisting Nancy. She brought her charming sushi chef with her, and we transformed the space into a sake tasting room. This was before all the national buzz about O Ya, so even some of our guests hadn't really heard of the restaurant yet. While it was on the top of my must-try list, I had been saving it a for a special night out due to the high prices.
Nancy was sweet, informative, and down-to-earth, demystifying sake and its history and customs. Her sushi chef made amazing combinations with watermelon pearls and Kumamoto oysters, foie gras nigiri, hamachi with a spicy sauce I don't remember but distinctly remember inhaling. Each bite was carefully and beautifully created and further pushed my resolve to someday save up to visit the restaurant.
At the end of the evening, Nancy gifted myself and the Stir chef with a bottle of sake wrapped beautifully in purple cloth. It sits in the cabinet to this day, teasing the chef and I until we find the right time to break it open to savor and celebrate.
So this post has been a long time coming, partly because I didn't want to seem like I was bragging. It's really just excitement that I hope I'm conveying, along with a sense of feeling extremely fortunate that I get to work in such a dynamic place and get to interact with such outstanding people.