When's the last time I woke up in San Francisco? My childhood home; this morning city light is deep in my soul. I'm on the 21st floor of the St. Francis hotel in a deeply luxurious bed, looking out over the roof tops, listening to the cars far below... another couple of hours and back to real life.
Last night, finally, my long awaited Red Room Housewarming Contest Grand Prize Winning dinner at Michael Mina! And it was fabulous. Good conversation, meeting new people, talking writing and politics.... our waiter was a writer who quoted philosophers much to the amusement (and slight disdain) of some of the guests.
And the food. And the wine! And here are some really fuzzy, incomplete pictures of our totally amazing seasonal menu -- 6+ courses paired with wines. Lots and lots of wine.
Below, a few notes:
2:00 -- arrive at Macy's in search of a new lipstick. End up getting my brows shaped, my makeup done, and I purchase concealer and powder. No lipstick -- they don't have any of the colors I like in stock. Oh yeah, I go upstairs and they're having a super sale on leather jackets. I'm owed one for my birthday, so I buy one of those, too!
3:25 -- arrive in my room on the 21st floor of the tower -- take the glass elevators up -- used to do that as a kid -- up and down up and down. Never been in a room here before -- it's nice. The only downers tonight -- I'm alone (Bill's in Madagascar) and I have killer cramps. I know ibuprofen doesn't mix well with wine but hey, my liver is pretty pure, and I'm NOT missing the wine pairing part of the tasting menu.
3:53 -- cramps starting to recede -- just remembered I haven't eaten today. DAMN. I will NOT be raiding that minibar!
4:25 -- my date, the fabulous Katie Burke, calls while looking for parking. I get dressed!!! I'm in a black dress with silver belt and earrings, red heels, red shawl. Hey, it's the Red Room dinner.
4:45 -- Katie arrives and she looks amazing! Her dress is a dark green/black and I want it. I also crave her shoes.
5:00 -- We descend the tower elevator and meet Ivory Madison, Abe Mertens, then Jennifer Gibbons and her lovely cousin Ceresa. We sit in the bar and wait for drinks which never arrive -- a very good thing as it turns out, considering the casks of wine that are about to follow.
5:30 -- Phil Bronstein and his wife Chris meet us and we head across the lobby to the subtle and elegant restaurant, Michael Mina. Terry McMillan, the other celebrity guest, is running late. We order drinks. I'm all about the champagne. I mean, this is my celebration! I'm the winner!
At some point -- Terry McMillan arrives after traffic hassles, and we order. Actually, we have a menu created for us, so we have only a few choices -- the scallops or the foie gras? The lamb or the kobe beef? The cheese or the poached pear? I pick the foie gras, the lamb, and the cheese.
We're are a round table. I'm sitting between Phil Bronstein and Ivory Madison, Terry is next to Phil, and next to Phil there's Abe, and then Jennifer. Next to Ivory, Chris Bronstein, then my date, Katie Burke, far far away and Jennifer's cousin Ceresa.
The food and wine begin. Here's dinner, which we eat amidst much chatter, sometimes heated:
Amuse Bouche -- this isn't written down so it's from memory -- caviar piled on top of something and something and blini and egg -- served with fancy ass champagne and WOW!!!
Foie Gras Terrine
Sumac financier, pometranate gelée, toasted pine nuts.
Kiralyudvar Tokaji Cuvee Ilona, Hungary 2001
This might be my favorite thing of the evening. I know, I know foie gras = very bad karma. But I will miss it once it's outlawed. And I've had Tokaji in Hungary -- but this, this.... mmmmm.
Crispy Skin Branzino
Chorizo, cockles, saffron nage
Ladoucette Pouilly Fume, Loire Valley, France 2005
Oh, my. Well this might be my favorite thing. The saffron sauce is poured gently over the cubes of chorizo and the cockle bits....
Terry McMillan has the most amazing face, always in motion, and she's full of stories. We hear about her spaghetti sauce. And her son, the brilliant musician currently working at a sporting goods store with a Stanford degree.
Lot's of nanowrimo talk going on. And lots of celebratory politics. Abe tells about his Red Diaper background, similar to mine (though he's much younger). I start feeling old. Must be the wine.
Liberty Valley Duck Breast
Butternut squash, cavolo nero, sauce périgourdine
Whetstone Pinot Noir Jon Boat, Sonoma Coast 2006
I pause here to mention how the waiters seductively murmur the name of each wine in my ear as they pour.... and that there is no way in hell I can drink all of it.
But I eat all my food. Ivory is more restrained -- I admire how she only eats half of each thing. Not me.
The sweetbreads. Which I think is my favorite item:
Medallion of Crispy Sweetbreads
Cauliflower, Sultanas, Caper Brown Emulsion
With a Domaine Grand Veneur Les Origines Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France 2005
Okay, I love this wine. And the flavor and smooth creamy texture of the sweetbreads under a very crispy crust? Oh my. Right about now, I'm a little drunk, so Phil Bronstein and I start Twittering the meal. Rather, I Twitter, and he laughs at me. When I look at my Tweets later, I realize they are utterly incoherent. No wonder he laughs.
Elysian Field Farm Lamb
Chanterelle Mushrooms, Globe Artichokes, Red Wine Vinaigrette
Alain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone, France 2006
By now, I have to admit, I'm actually a little bit full. So I don't eat all my lamb. But it's delicious.
Pecorino Foja de Noce -- sorry no pics!
Candied Walnut, Thyme, Star Anise
Vougeraie Gevrey Chambertin 'La Justice', Burgundy, France 2002
Now, I don't usually eat cheese. BUT I LOVE IT! It's not my favorite thing on the menu, but man, it's is incredibly tasty, and the perfect ending.
But as we all know, these fancy dinners always bring you one more little nibble. So, chocolate bon bons. And tea. Four and a half hours later, we're done, it's almost ten p.m. -- and we hug and exchange emails, and I stagger up to bed.
And now I'm glad I'm alone here (though I'm still missing Bill, way off in Madagascar with a horrible stomach ailment as I wine and dine my life away) -- cramps back, a little drunk, fitful sleep in a fabulous bed.
I wake early feeling happy and pampered and after a little Twittering and email, order room service. Bagels and Lox in bed. The sky is gray blue and streaky, the bed comfortable, and I have just a few more minutes before I have to get up, get packed, and get back to real life.
THANK YOU Ivory and Abe! THANK YOU REDROOM!! THANK YOU to all the many many many hundreds of people who helped me win! I had a lovely, lovely time.