Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I spent my 50th birthday in San Francisco. My best friend since sixth grade lives in nearby Mountain View, and she's crossing the half-century line a couple weeks after me. It was good to spend the day with someone who has known me for so long. We went to the Marin Headlands, an area just north of the Golden Gate, the strait which is better known by the bridge spanning it. I'm not sure why this beautiful area escaped development, but it probably has to do with the number of military fortifications and weapons sites located there at one time. We parked at Rodeo Beach, and then walked along the edge of the surf. It was perfect weather, at least for San Francisco: mostly clear on low ground, with fog skimming the hills. After our walk on the beach, we drove higher into the hills. Every turn seemed to unfold a new breath-taking view across the bay. Finally, there was San Francisco, framed by the bridge, glowing gold in the last rays of the setting sun.

That evening, we dined at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The venerable establishment lived up to expectations. I had California white sea bass sauteed with eggplant, and finished with a pear tart and chilled Moscato d'Asti. Two men who worked in the food or restaurant business sat next to us. I caught bits of their conversation: "I'm trying to work with this organic California-grown wheat, and use it for pizza dough. But, the gluten is all wrong..." and "He's a rebel...you know, the James Dean of gastronomie," and my favorite, "What you want is a big, fat, French guy running your kitchen."

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