Today I turned 33. The end of my “early 30s” and the start of my transition to my “mid 30s.” For the past few weeks I’ve been telling myself it’s “mid 30s” but it doesn’t really matter what I call it; everything is gloomy knowing there are people at my office who were born in the 90s. Ugh! Talk about getting the wind knocked out of you. I’m officially that “older co-worker.” The guy I used to feel sorry for and talk about while smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka tonics on the patio of some trashy dance club in the Castro where the floors are sticky from 21-year olds who can’t hold their liquor. And on top of that, my knee is starting to click when I walk. Just the other day I stepped down from the curb, and I think I strained the arch of my foot. These are things that never used to happen to me. I used take pride in the ability to touch my toes with ease. You know what I do now? I go to the gym (with less frequency than before) and pull out a mat, and sit with one leg extended and the other tucked in. And instead of touching my toes, I scroll through my work emails on my phone, or check my Facebook feed, just to panic a few minutes later at the fact that I don’t know what all those blinking icons at the top of my Galaxy 5S mean.
Sure I’ve gotten smarter about a lot of things in my old age. I’m definitely wiser about this whole “gym thing,” proven by the fact that I’ve developed more convincing ways to rationalize avoiding it. But I’m slowing down nonetheless. I guess you could say I’ve become a lazy bear, who’d rather relax with a jar of honey than be bouncing around like Tigger.
I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking “oh please, you’re only 33, you’ve got nothing to complain about.” And you’re right! I can only imagine the debilitating anxiety I’ll have when I’m your age. But as someone who’s been where I am, can’t you sympathize with the fact that we’re no longer in our 20s? And I don’t mean “early 20s” either. I wouldn’t relive those years if you paid me. I’m talking about “late 20s.” When I had some direction, was beginning to plant some roots, and just starting to take control of my life. For me, those were the golden years.
In just half a decade, things have changed drastically. With the purchase of a home came the responsibility of a mortgage. A responsibility to my self and my credit score, as well as a responsibility to Jonathan who has to live here too. With that came HOA Board meetings on weeknights—the perfect excuse to skip the gym. The more I grow professionally, the more business travel I have to fit in, and the more tired my brain is when I get home at the end of the day. I guess we exercise our brains more as we get older and the ability or interest in exercising our bodies starts to fade? Obviously that’s not the case for everyone, and in some ways, by sharing these thoughts with you—on the two-year anniversary of EatsPorkJew being launched—I’m admitting there’s a problem. And the road to recovery is an uphill climb from here.
Big thanks to everyone who has visited, supported and praised what we’re doing with this food blog. And a big personal “thanks” to my circle of friends and family who have supported me for the last 33 years. Here’s to the next 33!
The Lazy Bear Dining Experience
For my birthday and the two-year anniversary of EatsPorkJew, Jonathan surprised me with reservations for the new and popular Lazy Bear Restaurant experience. If you haven’t heard about Lazy Bear you will soon. It’s a communal dining experience á la the style of a “dinner party,” only this one comes with a unique, gourmet, perfectly San-Francisco-tech-scene preset 11-course meal. They bill it as modern American fine dining and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. The presentation of the plates, the technique, and the combination of flavors puts it on par with some of the best new restaurants in the US and abroad. Considering the casual atmosphere and the fact that over the course of the evening you end up trying a lot of different small plates packed with huge flavors; I’d liken it to Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s State Bird Provisions. Only the personality of Lazy Bear’s creator, Chef David Barzelay is little more hipster, a little more dark, and a little more underground.
Lazy Bear, an anagram for David’s last name (thanks to his wife Jeanette), was originally a pop-up dinner party experience. You went to a website, joined the mailing list, and when you got an email announcing the next meal, the first people who purchased tickets would get a seat. After a few minutes, the dinners were sold out, Bay Area foodies were S.O.L. Thanks to the amazing food and the buzz created from a social media blitzkrieg, the underground dining experience became so popular that Lazy Bear opened a brick-and-mortar shop in the old Hi Lo BBQ space on 19th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. With one of the largest meat smokers on the west coast in the basement, they kept the wall of black charred boards, and decorated the space with natural woods, slate stone, and fresh flowers.
They offer two seatings per night: at 6 PM and 8 PM. While the first group is finishing up their meal the guests for the 8 PM seating are escorted by hosts upstairs to a hipster library of sorts with stools, couches, and chairs for mingling.
The upstairs room overlooks the tables and kitchen below, so we had a chance to see what was in store as we ordered craft cocktails and wine while the rest of our 40-person group trickled in from their Ubers and Lyfts.
I’d go as far as to say the David Barzelay is more than just a chef, but a visionary. His dishes are whimsical, offbeat, and full of purpose. But the dining experience he’s created, the evolution of what started in his and his wife’s apartment just five years ago, is one that I think we’ll see pop-up in cities around the world. Why not?
I could go on and on about the Lazy Bear dining experience, but I myself am now 33 years old, it’s past my bedtime, and I too….have become a Lazy Bear.
Here’s what we had:
Walnut Manhattan of whisky, Nardini Amaro, house nocino, and bitters.
Pink pearl martini of tequila, pink apple syrup, Dolin vermouth, and orange bitters.
While we enjoyed our cocktails, wine and beer (which were all á la carte) the complimentary beverage was being served with some of the first courses of the night. The house punch was a Lemon Verbena Shandy and it was amazing! Easy to drink, refreshing and layered; it was comprised of house made grenadine, gin, fresh lemon juice, and some Fort Point kölsch beer (kölsch being a balance of American bittering hops and German malts making a light ale).
Staff came worked their way around the upstairs lounge with trays of snacks, and explained each dish with precision while making themselves available to answer questions about technique, or some of the more obscure components of each dish.
Whipped scrambled eggs in a tall shot glass, with bacon, maple syrup, and a house made hot sauce. The trick here was getting a little bit of the syrup at the bottom and the hot sauce in each bite for the dichotic epicurean explosion in your mouth.
Next was the shigoku oyster served on a hollow glass pillow with a Granny Smith gelee, drizzle of dill oil, and dashi.
The duck liver mousse was served on mini pieces of brioche toast with the crusts removed, and accompanied by half a concord grape, walnut and a flower.
Next was a surprise on the menu, and something the team was testing out. That’s the duck confit hushpuppies. These fried doughy balls of corn meal and duck confit were served over a spread of egg white whipped mayo and some yolk.
The last of the bite-size snacks upstairs was this creamy and perfectly smooth blue cheese custard topped with shaved carrots and pieces of ham.
Once the tables were ready for us downstairs, we were brought down in groups and assigned out seats.
The first of the larger courses was the bread course. This was a housemade Dutch Crunch pain epi served with house-made butter. The butter was made from a culture David has been developing for quite some time, so it was the consistency of a butter, but the pungent flavor of a cheese rennet. The bread was piping hot and fresh from the oven. Soft, steamy and salty on top. I would have devoured all three pieces, but they were spoken for.
The progression began with an ocean trout dish. On the plate with smoked trout rolled up into pinwheels was some roe, spheres of Arkansas Black Apple, toasted rye crumbs, and raw cauliflower shavings. The sweetness of the apple balanced the saltiness of the trout. The rye added texture with its crunch, and the cauliflower added beauty in addition to a subtle earthy sweetness. This was one of our favorite dishes of the night.
Staying with the sea, the next dish was called “Sunflower Parts” and was a perfectly seared sea scallop with persimmon, brown butter, roasted sunchokes and a sunchoke puree. If personified, this dish would be the equivalent of the feeling you have when you first sit down by the log cabin fire after a long day of skiing. It reminded me of leaves changing. White, yellow, and orange; the colors felt like a stint of sunshine on a cold fall day, and the brown butter just made every bit wonderful.
Slowly stepping out of the sea and onto land, we had a bowl of matsutake mushroom broth (kind of like a miso soup only clear) with Douglas fir, parsnip gelee (again like tofu in miso). This was earthy and unique—sort of a palette cleanser.
And now onto to the hearty stuff. The grilled pork! Pork two ways, we were served some of the jowl (guanciale) and some of the loin with Asian pears, frilly red mustard, red kuri squash, and pine nuts. The jowl is a cross between bacon and lardo. It’s smoky and fatty, but not so thin that it just melts in your mouth. The loin was moist and puree was sweet. The frilly red mustard was mostly for contrast and a little bitterness.
The last of the savory dishes was the duck. A medallion of duck breast was wrapped in cabbages and served over a bed of barley and buckwheat cooked in jus. The chanterelles and cracklins rounded everything out, with two cabbage chips for some added crunch.
The first dessert was a Koshihikari rice porridge over some huckleberry puree with some matcha paper-thin meringue, huckleberry sheets (imagine crispy fruit roll up) and a dusting of the matcha powder. The rice porridge was slightly warm, sweet, and the perfect canvas for the huckleberry puree to play on. The meringues were delicate and melted like snowflakes on our tongues.
Then we got a quenelle of coffee ice cream with a mini brick of chocolate and some pumpkin chips on top. The tobacco gelee on top of the chocolate was smoky and strong, but the ice cream mellowed everything out. There was chicory in this dish as well, but I can’t remember where.
And they finished things off with an assortment of treats. A pate du fui, a sesame rice ball like you’d find at a dim sum restaurant (only these were filled with chocolate), an early gray macaron, a s’mores semifreddo and a mini pistachio cake.
The s’mores semifreddo was the best dessert they served all night. All of them were great, but the s’more I wanted to bathe in. The bottom was a thin graham cracker biscuit, some peanut butter ice cream in the middle (I think it was peanut butter) and a thin layer of chocolate across the top.
If you don’t live in San Francisco, then a trip to Lazy Bear is going to take some planning in advance, but for the food lover or experience-enthusiast, it’s well worth the effort!