last night, a group of us went to bar tartine....to have bar tartine food.
this was a bit of a unique experience for me as when i typically have been inside this space, it is because hapa was doing a popup. it was during one of the hapa pop ups that vinny enabled victor and i to have a peek at the very impressive bar tartine pantry. i remember when taking a look at all of the house-created dried spices and such...my nerd self was rather enthralled with the amount of potential possibilities that could be explored with that pantry as a foundation and was also impressed by the amount of work that went into creating it.
sometimes when i am visiting someone's house, i see the books on the shelves, determine that the library isn't there as part of the interior design, and think "now this...this is someone that reads."....when i examined the containers on the shelves of that back room pantry, i thought ...."now this....this is someone that cooks."
while i am fortunate to know quite a few cooks that cook because they love cooking, food, and making people feel happily nourished....i'm also finding that i run across people whose main motivations for participating in restaurants is not cooking, food, or making people happy.
it is always lovely to be able to see something like that pantry and be able to appreciate the amount of sheer effort that went into creating it.
the first time i had nick balla's food was actually at sfmoma. he plated a dish at one of the meatpaper events on the sfmoma rooftop. it was around the time when he just taken over the kitchen at bar tartine. i still remember it and i bet if you dig through this blog and my pics on flickr...you'll find that it was one of the dishes i enjoyed quite a bit. the sfmoma rooftop isn't exactly the most ideal space for someone to make a hot dish...but he managed it somehow. it was a hearty braised porky stew with dried cherries, sauerkraut, and mushrooms.... coupled with some of tartine's famous bread. it was the smell of the grilled bread that brought me to his section that evening. i remember smiling as i was eavesdropping on a couple of people ahead of me in line....when they were quizzing him about who he was. it is always fascinating to me how a chef will respond when folks have no idea of their background. i remember him being well-humored about it. when i exchanged my ticket for a plate, i remember asking him if this was representative of what he planned for bar tartine. he indicated that it was the general direction.
to be clear, while i know vinny (i can't help but smile any and every time i think of vinny....he's one of those renaissance men that is also keenly aware of what is happening around him...i'm smiling right now)....i don't know anyone that cooks at bar tartine. vinny recommended that for my first visit to bar tartine to try balla's food....that i should come with people in order to try a range of dishes at once. it was very serendipitous that a group of us had met up to have dinner. also, i should point out that there were a couple of cooks in the group. the reason why i point this out is that it has been my experience that when there are cooks in the group....there is a tendency towards ordering almost everything (or close to it) on a menu....unless there are multiple noshing stops planned for the evening.
well, we ordered a hella lot of food.
now, about twenty four hours later....there are still some flavors that i'm still thinking about. my top faves were the chicken liver dumplings with the broth and egg (which should surprise no one that eats with me regularly....and was delighted when it was sent out to the table), the fried potato bread, the steak tartare with bread, and the kefir/ice cream(?) with the espresso...aka their take on an affogato. if i were to go back by myself, it is likely i'd order the fried potato bread and the chicken liver dumplings (if it is still on the menu)...as that is usually the maximum amount of food i eat at dinner. i found myself rubbing my belly quite a bit toward the end of the evening last night....almost silently apologizing to my stomach for the amount of food i was eating. i think the folks at the table found this to be very amusing. my initial impressions that day i had at sfmoma remain the same.....tasty, hearty, and comforting. the food being paradoxically familiar and not familiar at the same time...in a very good way.