Kids, No Chaser

Quince and the Fighting Life

Friday, August 17, 2007 posted by Henri


So once a year we try and make it out to someplace nice. Usually around the anniversary/wife’s birthday. One year we went to Gary Danko, one year we went to Jardiniere and oh yeah the year the first one was born all we could do was drag our tired asses half heartedly to Cheesecake Factory. For Lunch.

Well we’ve learned to manage chaos a lot better and this parenting thing does in fact get a bit easier each time around and even though BabyJ was born this year we were still able to make it out someplace nice and this year it was Quince in Pacific Heights. (Continued...)

You know the thing about getting out once in a while is the small glimpse you get at your life before kids. And it’s really strange. All you can think about is all the freakin time you had. Hours and hours and hours of it. You could bathe in it. Light your cigars with it. Throw piles and piles of time willy nilly hither and yonder. What the hell did we do with all the time? I can’t even remember what the after work routine was like. Oh yeah, we’d eat out and come home really late and then read Chowhound to figure out where we’d eat the next day while bitching how short the day was. Repeat. And that’s the rub. You never know how easy something is until you do something harder. So like an old Italian suit that you haven’t worn in years, once a year we get to revisit our previous food centered lifestyle. It’s a little tight now and doesn’t quite fit right anymore but damn it sure is beautiful.

So the search begins. Manresa and FL immediately get ruled out due to the length of time for their tasting menu. 5+ hours. For anyone who has faced the task of getting a reservation at the French Laundry (the whole OpenTable at the stroke of midnight thing), one of our friends has come upon a wonderful alternative.

How to get reservations at French Laundry:

1) Gather some friends.
2) Reserve an entire room.
3) Booya

You need like 12+ people? I forget. She was looking into having her wedding reception there and found out about the smaller rooms. Now I’ve been to some fine weddings. But, to have your reception at the French Laundry, that really takes the cake err petite patissiewhatever.

Oh sorry, I slip into thinking about the French Laundry a lot. Ahhh so to be honest, this year’s chance to get out crept up on me really fast and I was short on time to make reservations. I had heard great things about Quince and was very interested in trying what many people consider some of the best pasta here in San Francisco. Now listen, first of all I’m not going to pick any fights about which restaurant has the best of anything anywhere. I’m not a food critic; I don’t have the palate or checkbook to frequent a place enough times to give it a qualified review. I am, if I had to pick only one thing, a semi-professional smart-ass. I don’t do paid posts. Stuff I write about here sounds really positive because, hell I write about stuff I like. It’s a blog. Oh and don’t get me started on the integrity of…

Wait, NO. I’m actually going to have to stop myself here because I am not going to metablog about blogs. That is just…silly. I know I am an idiot. Blogging makes it so. If you blog without having accepted this…you are beyond hope. Let’s not forget the Golden Rule of Los Angeles: No one gives a shit what you think. It’s a good rule and all bloggers swim against this stream. Crap, I’m metablogging.

So I was foolish enough to make the call with no time left and was astounded to find that they could work us into a pretty late reservation on a weeknight. Perfect. So sweet cousin Lins swings by to graciously watch our brood and she snaps our awesome prom picture (I’m on the left). And away we go.

It’s nice driving into the city. The Golden Gate Bridge is for sissies. It’s red. It’s short. It’s expensive. The Bay Bridge…this massive ugly hulking beautiful beast…now this is a fine bridge. In Los Angeles I came up with these Magic Lanes trying to direct people how to get to or away from me. Get on the 405, lane #3, and stay there. Do not change lanes, it will automatically make all the transfers you need until you reach the off ramp to your house. It was cool. No one followed my magic lanes because everyone loves to switch lanes. Driving east on the 10 near the 110, in my Magic Lane leading to my parents house, I would stare at the skyline of Downtown Los Angeles, and it was always a moving sight. Turn down the radio. Smile. Breathe deeply. The best view you get of San Francisco is driving in on the Bay Bridge after Treasure Island. Not bad. Not bad at all. And when I was a younger man, coming back from the city riding over the bridge completely smashed, the lights at 4:am in the lower section would always spin syncopated to whatever left over muted electronic music we had in the car. Put a smile on anyone’s face really.

Ahhh but this night we’re older and married and have children and dinner reservations. So we pull up to the restaurant and walk in to… a tiny tiny place. Wow this place is small. 14 tables. With these Venetian chandeliers, I’m going nuts over these chandeliers. It has been called a tiny jewel box of a restaurant, and with its reputation of serving the slightly ahem mature crowd, I think of a beautiful box of stale chocolates. I’m cruel. It was actually a young crowd this night.

They sat us in the front beside the window and I smiled at my wife in that Venetian light with tiny bulbs illuminating the boxwoods outside and the quiet street life of Pacific Heights slipping past her shoulder and it was beautiful. And I was about as happy as I get.

The service rotates throughout the night. Some of the staff are truly exceptional, especially the wonderful woman with the Lovey Howel accent. The right fine fellow who helped us in the beginning of the night was great as well. The communication between the staff was amazing as we would make a small comment to one person and have the conversation continue with the next server who stopped by. We overhear the couple next to us comment favorably on the coffee only to have the next server stop by with the address and phone number of the roaster for them to take home. A few members of the staff were a bit more stiff using formality to make up for experience it seemed. Overall, the service was extremely personal and wickedly professional. Great combo when you can find it.

We had the tasting menu with the accompanying wine pairing. The lighting was a bit dark for any photographs and I am sad to say we decided against taking any. Sometimes the memories are better that way. So here’s what we ate:

Variazione Di Fiore Di Zucca (everything squash blossom)

Fresh Run Farm squash blossom
burrata cheese, cherry tomato, & oregano
2006 Vermentino di Sardegna, Giovani Cherchi, Sardinia, Italy

Sand Dabs
baked in a Country Line Farm squash blossom with corn and basil
2005 Jurancon Sec, Clos de la Vierge, Earl Barrere, Southwest France

Nettle maltagliati
poached sea scallops, summer squash & their blossoms
2006 Tavel Rose, Prieure de Montezargues, Provence, France

Chanterelle mushroom cappellacci
salsa di parmigiano reggiano e fiore di zucca
2005 Pinot Noir, J. Christopher, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Devil's Gulch Farm rabbit loin
wrapped in truffled farm egg omelette with squash blossoms and black eyed peas
2004 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Juliette Avril, Rhone Valley, France

Citrus pudding cake
mulberry gelato
NV Trockenbeerensauslese Cuvee, Kracger, Burgenland, Austria

Everything was delicious but I can understand those that specifically stick with pasta courses. They really stood out. It seems that you can arrange a pasta tasting in for a group of 6 or more with advance notice to the restaurant. The restaurant also offers a chef's table. The squash blossom theme was great and the first course of the night really stood out. The blossoms were so crispy and perfectly seasoned as the burrata cheese shouted break-yourself-fool before hijacking your mouth in warm deliciousness. And this tiny tomato, this little cherry tomato could not have been from this world. It must have fallen from god's bellybutton. It was really really good. I must find out where they source these damn tomatos.

Although I cannot argue with those that would say there are finer tasting menus elsewhere in the city, as far as pasta goes, this place was truly sublime. The wine pairing was solid but subtle which was fine by me. So Quince gets crossed off the Italian-restaurants-we-should-have-been-to-already list, joining the rowdy A16. Delfina and Incanto still left to go.

This little restaurant is really special. The overall experience with the beautiful setting, quiet neighborhood, marvelous pasta, and some truly stand out individuals in the large staff, added up to a great and memorable night.

Bukowski once said it's the small things that drive a man to the madhouse. The shoelace that breaks with no time left. And life with kids is a minefield of small disasters. Embedded in this chaos of course are all the ridiculously wonderful moments to balance it all out, but to have a evening with your wife in a beautiful city at a wonderful restaurant, this was different. It refuels a man. It refuels a Father. And driving back over the bridge, returning to the parenting life, I feel a bit like Henry Chinaski, before a fight, fueled by a ham sandwich and three whisky and waters.

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Blogger Sam and Lori said...

cindy looks HOT in that prom pic (you're not looking so bad either, henri). glad you guys got a romantic night out!

10:20 PM

Blogger Henri said...

That better have been the Lori in the Sam&Lori. Don't make me fly down there.

10:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shamu, the fighting life seems to be doing you good--you both are lookin good in your cute prom pic. But I was expecting you to be carrying serious poundage and you're only slightly over your drinking weight...
I'm curious, which hat did you bring to dinner?
I'm still laughing about the type fighting from work....
...and I will refrain from commenting on the sexiness of your wife.

6:45 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

not to worry, it was just me who wrote that comment. sam was too busy drooling over that tasting menu to notice anything else!

7:48 PM


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