Saturday, March 19, 2016

Reason To Celebrate

Monday, March 14, 2014
The big weekend started slow, in fact, at first it didn't start.  The car service that I reserved to pick us up at 7:45 A.M. Friday to take us to Newark Airport, claimed at 7:55 to have never heard of me.  Fortunately, the Palazzo di Gotthelf sits athwart several major trade routes and we were able to get a taxicab to the airport, still arriving about one hour early for the posted boarding time.  However, as we were preparing to scurry on board, the airline announced that the foul weather in Northern California was substantially delaying in-bound flights, first 1 1/2 hours and then 2 3/4. So, our scheduled 6:30 P.M. P.S.T. dinner reservation with family and friends, based on a 2 P.M.arrival, became unachievable as we landed shortly after 4:30 P.M., had to pick up a rental car and drive from San Francisco's airport up to the Berkeley hills in a fairly constant downpour.   Fortunately, we reached someone already on the ground who was able to change our reservation, notify our fellow diners and, thereby, restore our frame of mind to a semblance of calm, cool and collected.  

This was not an ordinary vacation trip.  America's Loveliest Nephrologist was getting married at the Claremont Club & Spa, an elegant hotel and resort spread over the hillside not far from Cal-Berkeley, with almost all the guests coming from far afield.  Since a certain wife of mine was also functioning as mother of the bride, my egg-shell-walking exercises were being put to a full test, and, if I say so myself, the cracks that I produced were nearly microscopic.

The nasty weather not only delayed our flight, it caused a relocation of the planned wedding ceremony itself from the large open terrace of the Lawrence Hall of Science, which has an unobstructed view of the Bay and downtown San Francisco on the other side.  However, the bride and groom acted decisively earlier in the week, when the weather forecast bode ill (proving entirely accurate), and moved us indoors to the Claremont, where the reception was to be held in any case.  As disruptive as this was, the need to move people, places and things on short notice, tempers remained in check and crockery remained unhurled, at least as much as I could tell.

All else went superbly; I walked down the aisle and remained upright throughout the ceremony.  The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome.  My roommate was thrilled and delighted.  The two families, somewhat disparate in background, blended almost seamlessly.  Could you ask for anything more?

Most of the guests left the area today, but my still-young bride and I chose to detox for a couple of days.  One familiar couple also stayed over, so we four assumed conventional tourists roles and headed to Fisherman's Wharf for dinner at Scoma's, 1965 Al Scoma Way, set apart physically and qualitatively from the other fish restaurants in the area.  I've been going to Scoma's for 40 years, but I was still surprised that, on a Monday night, it was packed.  Accordingly, the food was first rate and the prices somewhat high.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016
It seems that all the wedding guests have now returned home or proceeded to their next stop, but we were undaunted and headed into downtown San Francisco.  First stop, Gump's, 135 Post Street, a luxury retailer, founded in 1861, which may be approached as a museum.  It has beautiful jewelry, women's clothing, decorative items, and home furnishings.  If the rest of capitalism had such good taste, I might reconsider my politics.  Madame purchased a stunning black and gold jacket that you should invite us just to see.

For lunch, we went to E&O Kitchen & Bar, 314 Sutter Street, a large pan-Asian restaurant, not to be confused with anything in Chinatown.  It is deservedly popular and well-reputed.  I had lamb naan ($9), a little light on the lamb, and Tamarind & Hoisin Spare Ribs ($15), four ribs barely holding onto thick chunks of delicious meat.  My date had shiitake mushroom dumplings, which she pronounced excellent.  I did not reach across the table in order to save room for dinner with the recent bride and groom.

We four dined at A16 Rockridge, 5356 College Avenue, Oakland, named for a stretch of the autostrada in Southern Italy.  It is a large restaurant, featuring 40 wines by the glass (this is Northern California, after all), crowded, popular, giving over most of its menu to pizza, cooked in a wood-burning oven. Exactly one pasta dish and one version of gnocchi were offered.  I added prosciutto and anchovies to a conventional margherita pizza as a tribute to the world's cardiologists and salt miners.  The food was very good, but service was ragged, even below California casual.  Management comped our drinks and desserts as a result.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016
With the time difference, our flight home occupied the whole afternoon and evening.  Car service, prompted by a call before we got on the plane, was on time and efficient.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016
Learning of a vital element in the background of Merrick B. Garland, our next US Supreme Court justice, I was reminded of Calvin Trillin's response to the question at a book signing: Are you Jewish?  He replied, "Calvin Trillin is a very Jewish name in Kansas City."

Friday, March 18, 2016
I recall unpacking and opening the accumulated mail yesterday.  I don't think that I accomplished anything else.

Europe is preoccupied with a refugee crisis and the US focussed upon DT, allowing Israel a blessed few moments outside the scrutiny of zealous friends and foes.  I consider myself an assertive Zionist, who yet is often disappointed by recent Israeli policies.  My point of view resembles that found in the documentary movie "The Gatekeepers," interviews with six retired leaders of Israel's spy agencies, who, in spite of the nature of their work, are more dovish than the current regime.  Today's obituary of Meir Dagan, another retired director of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, quoted him tellingly: “How did it happen that the country, stronger by far than all the countries in the region, is incapable of carrying out a strategic move that will improve our situation?  The answer is simple: We have a leader who is fighting one campaign only, the campaign for his political survival.”

I also find myself dissenting from Open Table's latest list of best local Chinese restaurants.  While Open Table is a very handy web site for locating and booking restaurants, its reviews are somewhat unreliable, often a little too positive and forgiving.  

None cited are in Chinatown or Flushing; several are of the sort patronized by people otherwise distinguished by the cost of their part-time Manhattan residences.  

I expect to be back on the food trail next week when my biorhythms are restored to normal.  

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