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Saturday, July 08, 2006

No Place Like Home

I just returned from a trip to Wilmington, Delaware, where I spent two days preparing for and attending a major hearing in one of my cases.   Although we were obvously quite consumed with work during our brief stay, we did manage to squeeze in a working dinner one night at the restaurant in our hotel.   The Hotel DuPont offers surprisingly luxurious accommodations, and its marquee restaurant -- The Green Room -- has a decor and ambience to match.   The closest analog in the Bay Area would probably be the The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, only The Green Room is decidedly more opulent.   Needless to say, I was excited to see if the food would live up to the surroundings.

As I scanned the selection of appetizers, my eyes came to rest on the Seared Foie Gras -- said to be served with a slice of cinnamon brioche, a pepper rum reduction, vanilla meringue, and banana "noodles."   My initial reaction was that this sounded like a lot of components for one dish, but I somehow persuaded myself that no chef in a restaurant of this apparent caliber would throw together a melange of ingredients without regard to how they work together.   I was mistaken.   Although there may have been a few ingredients on the plate that played off of each other well enough, the overall dish was simply a mess.   The Seared Yellowfin Tuna that I ordered for my entree fared only marginally better, the overcooked medallions of fish having virtually none of the promised seasoning while also screaming out for salt.   A colleague who ordered the chef's "special" vegetarian creation was treated to a small mound of risotto in the middle of a large plate, surrounded by an odd mix of avocado slices, pearl onions and dull raspberries.   When presented with dessert menus, our entire table decided to pass.

Anybody who lives in the Bay Area and appreciates great food knows how lucky we are.   Not only do we have access to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fresh produce and artisanal products, but our vibrant restaurant scene offers an incredible selection of remarkably wonderful cuisine.   Nevertheless, a visit to other parts of the country often provides a fresh perpective on the true extent of our good fortune.   What would it be like to have no access to world-class establishments like The French Laundry, The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Manresa and Masa's, old favorites like Aziza, Thep Phanom, Sushi Ran, and Evvia, or newer contenders like Ame, COCO500, COI, and Bong Su?   What if the highest-rated restaurant in town had no idea how to put together a satisfying dish, let alone an enjoyable meal?

After dinner at The Green Room, I worked for several more hours before finally heading back to my room.   As I sat there flipping through a "Best of Delaware" magazine that I found on my coffee table, I discovered that one of the places listed among the state's best restaurants was Applebee's.   That's right, in Delaware, Applebee's apparently scores quite well against its competitors when it comes to offering the freshest produce, the most interesting menu, and the best service.   I put down the magazine, turned off the light, and got into bed.   Lying there staring at the ceiling, the disappointment of my dinner still fresh in my mind, I thought about how grateful I am that I live in San Francisco and how anxious I was to get back home.


Anonymous Francis Egan said...

Just tumbled across your wonderful Gourmet BLOG and have bookmarked it of course. I rarely dine out as I prefer goumandise of my own making. In addition, the budget does not allow such delights. So I will get my fill of the good life via your website. And as for Deleware, our first state, the less said about the food, the better. We are fortunate to be living here in the bay area with so much good quality food to coose from. All the Best, Francis in
South Beach.

July 11, 2006 2:50 AM  
Blogger NS said...

Francis: Thanks for stopping by, and thanks very much for your kind words. I'm sure that Delaware has many wonderful attributes to recommend it, but I fear that a vibrant fine dining scene is not among them. In any event, it's great to be back home!

July 12, 2006 1:02 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I couldn't agree more. Whenever I am away from the Bay Area, I think about all the wasted opportunities for a good meal. I just shudder at the thought of upstate New York (which, most unfortunately, I will be returning to in less than a month)!

I want to add that I enjoy reading your blog very much. You cover a great selection of restaurants; and that tasting menu you prepared--I am in awe.

July 12, 2006 10:23 PM  
Blogger NS said...

Jennifer: Wow, I can't believe that your summer stay in the Bay Area is less than a month away from ending! Here's hoping that you have many more great dining experiences between now and then.

Thanks also for the very kind words. It's always gratifying to hear feedback about the site, particularly when it comes from food connoisseurs like you!

July 13, 2006 8:38 AM  

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