Sunday, January 13

[An application essay, of sorts]

Last Friday, amidst torrential rains and gale-force winds, I rolled into the Santa Barbara Amtrak station, concluding an eight-hour bus ride from the Bay Area. It was the sort of evening when one most wants a warm meal and perhaps a warming beverage, ideal company for watching the rain hammer against windowpanes for hours on end. I had the rain and the windowpanes but was left cold, tired, and hungry; the friend I was visiting planned on picking me up until her Californian car protested the unprecedented monsoon by decommissioning the windshield wipers. Thus, for the last leg of my journey I took a taxi from the station to 1522 ½ B. Street, where a world of culinary delights awaited me.

Feeling guilty for the automotive complications, R. prepared a feast of baked wild salmon: the outside of the fish, barely crisped under the broiler, was lightly saturated in a sauce of ginger, teriyaki, and sesame oil, with the inside retaining a moist, tender suppleness. The green beans were steamed to crisp-tender perfection, and liberally sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds that added crunch and flavor while complementing the Asian notes dominant in the salmon. As she was preparing the meal R. opened a bottle of Andrew Murray’s “Esperance” (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre), a bold red balanced by berry and currant flavors; well-integrated oak; and a pleasant, subtle spice. The wine was quaffable but satiating, every sip satisfying enough to be the last but enticing further exploration. Furthermore, there was enough depth to hold up to the piquant marinade without overpowering the more delicate consistencies of the food. Traditionally, a full-bodied, slightly oaky white may have rounded out the meal with more precision, but given the inclement conditions and festive nature of the evening, a wintry red was in fact an ideal selection.

As the meal was winding down R. presented, with great and well-warranted flourish, a box of Godiva chocolates, a generous holiday gift that had remarkably been sequestered away for my visit. Now I’ve had good chocolate, and I’ve even had excellent chocolate, but I have never even dreamed of chocolate of this quality. Ranging from the exotic and enticing “Tasmanian Honey” to the relatively mundane yet beguiling “Bananas Foster,” every bite was exciting and compelling, from the moment my teeth sunk into the dense, smooth paste until the last morsel slowly melted down my throat. The flavors literally evolved on my tongue, unfolding a microcosm of tastes and recognitions. There was a “Peanut Butter and Jelly” that encapsulated, in one sweet bite, the pedestrian, familiar, but timeless joy of, well, a well-made peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. The “Apple Pie” relayed all the archetypal qualities of a Granny Smith apple pie: tart, zesty, and succulent -- a tribute to every apple pie anyone’s grandmother ever made.

To complement the sweets we warmed up R.'s new Nespresso machine and poured two decaf espressos and two shots of Knob Creek bourbon whiskey. To my palate, coffee and whiskey are two of the most fickle beverages. You can have really excellent coffee that brings a meal to a gratifying close, or really terrible coffee that leaves your mouth, and your memory of the meal, bitter and unsatisfied. Similarly, quality whiskey is invigorating yet calming, providing instant warmth and, dare I say, happiness, whereas inferior whiskey tastes cheap, sharp, tawdry, like supermarket pastries or dollar-store chocolate. With its rich amber color and smooth, toasty flavor, Knob Creek, part of Jim Beam's line of small-batch bourbon, was undoubtedly a worthy companion to our Godiva and Nespresso delicacies. At the end of the night our stomachs, eyes, and palates were unanimously satiated, the mark of a truly excellent meal.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

That sounds delicious. Especially the wine--sounds like something I'd enjoy!


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