Ladies Who Lunch, a Cautionary Tale

Sometimes it comes to pass that Leon is simply not invited to lunch. Instead, he roams the house, speaking in dark tones of the decidedly minor pleasures to be wrought from the marriage of the peanut butter with the jelly. Suffice it to say that when this happens he is not pleased.

I hate to displease Leon—and not just because, when I ditch him, he tends to moodily take former lovers out to eat and then enjoy a long, suspiciously deep nap upon returning home. But sometimes a girl just has to put on a pretty flowered dress, topple onto way-high shoes, freshen her lipstick and meet another high-heeled lipsticked girl in a pretty flowered dress for a plate of fried Spanish potatoes iced down with a couple of lovely yummy cocktails on a hot spring afternoon.

!Caliente! The outdoor bar at Bravas is alluring no matter the time of year, but spring is super.

!Caliente! The outdoor bar at Bravas is alluring no matter the time of year, but spring is super.

Wearing yellow heels, the Chestnut Queen tottered into Bravas‘ Healdsburg backyard  resplendent in an apple green dress with a light white and orange wrap. The server complimented her, I complimented her, she and the server remarked that my outfit complemented her, and then they both complimented me. Things were off to a smashing start.

And smashing they stayed, because this is Bravas Bar de Tapas, the newest Stark property, housed in the former Ravenous bungalow. The backyard has been spruced up, the interior has gone stone-cold Spanish Modern, and the outdoor bar is devoted to hot jámon and cold alcohol. In a word: Splendid.

Perhaps it’s just me, but if you say “potatoes” and I say “patatas,” I’ve suddenly cut thousands of calories from a plate of the tuber fried, enlivened with fresh tomato sauce, and sluiced in homemade aioli ($6). So I like to say it often. The Chestnut Queen sagely agreed. She also agreed to crispy chicken skin thighs ($10), roasted octopus ($16), and a refreshing escarole salad ($8). Cocktails must be served! CQ had the punny Seville-ian (tequila, sherry, citrus, agave; $11) and I the Dingo (vodka, aperol, sherry; $11). OK, we each had two.

When our first glasses arrived, CQ regaled with her Tom Waits Story and her Little Known Bridges Boy Story. I was enthralled. I had potatoes and patatas and since CQ paid the aioli little mind, I had an awful lot of that. One crispy-skinned thigh, poof! Half of an evil, oily, delicious link of octopus leg, black with roasting—poof! Salad, of course. Patatas, god yes.

Ahctopus: Grilled, sluiced in lemons and oil, served with hot citrus and dark olives. Yes, please.

Ahctopus: Grilled, sluiced in hot lemons and sweet oil, served with dark olives. Yes, please.

Another round, dear server! Lipstick reapplied, I pat dry the slight lisp of bovine perspiration on my upper lip. I parry, offering the Chestnut Queen my Phoenix From the Ashes Story for dissection as well as another chapter of my I Love Leon Story, a perennial fave. We fall to it.

Dessert? Discussed and rejected in favor of another long round of active satisfaction in the outdoor setting, that shady tree, this last alluring bit of nut and cheese and a single green leaf on the salad plate.

Abruptly, I’m done. CQ is nowhere near to exhausting her charm and I didn’t ask way enough questions during the Tom Waits Story, but I’m ready to leave this arcadia for another one.

Once home, I shake Leon awake, anxious to tell him how much I missed him during lunch.

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A Farmhouse Like No Other

So it came to pass that Leon was one year older and festivities were duly arranged. Considering the gravity of the man’s ghastly age, it was decided that a full week must be engaged for the  follies, beginning most auspiciously with a Monday evening three-course fixed menu meal at Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn. This local’s tradition continues through the end of this month.

outside

On the evening we arrived, the prix-fixe featured a fresh piece of halibut, a gorgeous green salad, and a sweet for just $49. Perhaps this Michelin-starred restaurant meant no harm, intended no evil, when our hostess generously slipped us the night’s four-course fixed menu along with the Monday evening special. But alas. Continue reading

April in Stinson

The beach became the star last week when Leon’s grandson Eric came to visit. Eric is nine and lives close to the sere inland border of Idaho’s grain deserts. In other words: the lad had never been to the ocean.

We set about fixing that exception with a short overnight trip to Stinson Beach that was ostensibly about taking the boy to the buoys but was really about eating deeply and well.

eric

We set out through the town of Tomales and along the bay. First stop, Nick’s Cove, the Pat Kuleto-designed property that transformed an old fish shack into a souped-up facsimile of an old fish shack. With its magnificent perch right on Tomales Bay and its stuffed heads and fishing paraphernalia adorning the walls, Nick’s is a charmer. And a perfect spot, we decided, for a nine-year-old to try his first oysters. Continue reading

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