Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Why oysters?

Sorry I missed the Monday deadline I set for myself. I don't think that posting once a week is going to work. I'm going to step it up a little bit.

Perhaps I was still recovering from the insanely good meal I'd had on Saturday night. Big Pappa Happa was in town so I am able to write about something besides pizza and French fries. Saturday we dined (yes, dined) at An American Place. If you've never heard of it, please read this review by my friend Rose to get the backstory. But, in short: it's a hell of a restaurant.

While the other folks at our table had more reasonable meals, Pappa Happa and I did one of our favorite things ... Appetizer grazing. Our first course: A dozen West Coast oysters. Our server tried to tell me the different varieties, but I waved her away. I'll be honest ... I can't even tell you what oysters taste like. It's the act of eating them that is pleasurable. A squeeze of lemon, a dash of red, tipping the briny shell to lose some juice. The rough lip against your own, the morsel not just giving way to gravity but running to embrace it, straight down your throat.

There's a metaphor in there, but I think I lost it.

"Don't fill up on bread," people always say. Well, you know what? Fill the fuck up on bread if you want, especially if it's as good as the fresh-baked French at An American Place: Crusty and rugged as the surface of Mars on the outside, airy as the stratosphere on the inside. Throw a little butter on that, and you're talking about food with few equals.

But there was more food: a duck breast and foie gras pirogue that was delicious, but as good as a slice of foie gras on toast with a sauterne on the side. Foie gras is superb, a truly sinful food: Pure buttery, lardy, fatty flavor distilled. It is also a food that I can only defend eating through extreme hedonism.

There was also an elk carpaccio, so raw red it made rare steak look pink ... It was the pure deep red of life. The slices were paper thin and tasted game but clear, like they'd been run through a filter. Despite the wonderful presentation (which I never notice), it was a primitive dish.

Tell me, honestly ... How many things on earth are better than a meal like that?

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