It’s been just over a year since I last ordered foie gras in a California restaurant. Not because I don’t love it. I mean I dream about it. I even try to recreate its umami goodness with chicken liver mousse (stay tuned for the most amazing recipe for that), but it’s just not the same as that gorgeous goose liver. When I’m going through withdrawal I close my eyes and imagine its smooth creamy texture. It melts and becomes one with the flesh of my tongue. Then I remember the intense richness of the foie gras and how it’s softened as I swirl it around my mouth and push it between my teeth, because that’s when the delicate cognac and truffle notes perform their soft shoe tap dance from one taste bud to the next, an encore-worthy performance I want to relive over and over again. Bravo! Brava! Yeah, I guess I’m a little obsessed with foie gras. Whether it’s served in a fragile little disc, perfectly shaped quenelle, or precious little mason jar, the food artist in me can’t wait to smear it like thick oil paints on a blank rustic canvas of crusty bread with some tart berry jam or chutney to tie it all together. The perfect bite!
This is a chicken liver pate with a strawberry jam that we had for brunch at SPQR on Fillmore Street.
No it’s not for a lack of passion that I haven’t ordered foie gras in over a year, but the fact that it’s now illegal to serve or buy in the Golden State. A law that I was once against, because I believed there was a suitable compromise we, as the eighth largest economy in the world, should have explored before we banished the bullion of these birds. Couldn’t my foodie brethren and I have acquiesced to a policy of just ordering it on special occasions? Maybe once a year? Surely we can agree that cruelty to only a few geese is better than the maltreatment of an entire gaggle? But then I realized I was only kidding myself. That would never work with food-obsessed pigs like me in the world. I can barely stop myself from ordering the entire left side of the menu at a tapas restaurant, because I have this strong fear they’ll go out of business or change their menu before I have a chance to visit it again. Moderation is lost on me.
This is a foie gras we had by traveling outside the state to Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Las Vegas.
But there’s a solution to my foie gras fix– stocking up on various pates when we we’re out of town. Like when we were in Paris over the holidays and found some of the best-canned foie gras at high-end shops (like Lafitte) and farmers market stalls along the Seine River every day of the week. So this is my new reality. If I want to enjoy some foie gras, I have to order it in a land far far away or smuggle it home from across the border. Now I just need to convince Jonathan that annual trips to Paris are a necessity, and we’re good.
Wayfare Tavern and Way Too Much Soap
The reason my memory of the last time I had foie gras in San Francisco is so vivid is because that was the same night a 35-year old houseguest of ours accidentally put dish soap in the dishwasher. I know! Here’s what happened.
I was racing across the Bay Bridge to get home in time for dinner with Jonathan’s mother and some friends of ours at Tyler Florence’s fantastic American eatery downtown, Wayfare Tavern. Knowing that I’m fashionably late to most evening activities I had barely enough time to get home, change into a nicer ensemble (fitted designer boot-cut jeans and a gingham shirt for sure), do my hair, clean my glasses lenses, feed and pet Eddie, and make it to the restaurant before our group finished their first round of drinks at the bar. That’s when my phone rang. I was stuck in traffic and still 20 minutes away. It was Jonathan.
“I’m almost home,” I said, which was a lie because I knew he’d just be upset knowing how late I was going to be. “what’s up?”
“Don’t get mad,” he said, “but I’m about to tell you something that might get you upset, and unfortunately, you’re going to have to deal with it, because I’m already on my way to the restaurant.”
Talk about the worst way to soften a blow. Fortunately he’s better at foreplay.
“Well what is it?” I asked, freaking out at the various worst-case-scenarios racing through my head. Did someone die? Was there a car parked in my parking spot? Had a bus driven into the side of our apartment building?
“Janice was trying to be helpful and she started the dishwasher,” he said, sounding innocent enough, “but….and this is a big but….she accidentally used dish soap instead of one of the dishwasher pellets.”
At first I didn’t really understand what I was being told. I thought it was a joke. I mean, was this really that big of a deal? Besides, what fully functional adult doesn’t know how to run a dishwasher? She’s lived in how many apartments and homes with dishwashers before? Come on, he’s got to be kidding me. We hung up the phone with the understanding that I would fix things before dinner.
Slightly panicked, and irritated by what I was about to walk in on, I ran up the two flights of stairs and fumbled with my keys. Before I could get the key in the lock, the door swung open and it was Janice– with a manic smile meant to mask her embarrassment, and beads of sweat on her brow.
“Everything was fine at first, and then I noticed some bubbles!”
She shrugged her shoulders like it was no big deal, but I could see some suds creeping out from the kitchen and into the entranceway. My bags slammed to the floor and I rushed passed Janice, and knocked her out of my way. There in the kitchen, like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, were the bubbles billowing from the top, sides, and bottom of the dishwasher. The kitchen was flooded. The floors were covered in mounds of soapy suds and soapy water with pieces of food remnants floating by in rapid transit. It was all going in every direction away from the dishwasher.
“All this water just spilled out of there?” I asked, shocked to think anything but soapy bubbles could break the seal of the dishwasher door.
Then Janice explained that she figure the best way to stop the problem was to stop the machine from running and since she didn’t really have time to read the buttons on the door and locate the ones that read STOP and PAUSE, she thought opening the door mid-cycle was the next best thing. Which as you can guess is the absolute wrong thing to do when a dishwasher is running.
This headache was the last thing I needed. The evening’s schedule was packed enough as it is. There was no room for an unforeseen disturbance, especially one of this caliber. Out of fear the flood would get the better of us and that we’d be getting calls from the crazy Chinese neighbor downstairs wondering why dirty water was dripping from her ceiling, we had to remove as much of the suds as possible. I tried capturing armfuls with a large towel, while Janice used a single cup measuring-cup (meant for dry ingredients BTW) to scoop them out of the dishwasher and into the kitchen sink one motion at a time.
Long story short (too late) we used every dishtowel, bath towel, beach towel, paper towel and washcloth we could find to remove as much of the soap and water as we could. I quickly Googled What to do when a dishwasher is run with dish soap and learned that we needed to first empty the dishwasher and dry the inside. Then we had to run it two or three times with a cup of white vinegar and salt or a cup of olive oil (you can use any kind of oil really), because you need to kill the suds (which are a basic on the pH scale) with an acid like oil or vinegar to reach a better pH balance.
Once we had it up and running with the first round of vinegar, salt and oil (I wasn’t about to take any chances), I asked Janice to keep and eye on it while I was at dinner. Suffice it to say, I made it to Wayfare Tavern with a perfectly good excuse for being late, and a captive audience for my story.
To enter Wayfare Tavern off the narrow back alley of Sacramento Street, is to travel back in time to the late 19th century– the New Era. When industrialist bankers like J.D. Rockefeller smoked cigars and sipped on brandy after a pheasant hunt in the woods. A mix of old world wealth and new world modernity, Wayfare Tavern’s dining room and bar are framed in rich dark wood moldings and ornate staircase railings white mosaic tiled floors and accents all around. The walls are deep earthen gray and decorated with antique prints, taxidermy mountings, silver framed mirrors and vintage photographs. Robust rustic opulence is what they’re going for here, and they’ve totally achieved it. Once seated, we realized the aesthetic of the venue is just a visual retelling of the edible creations we were about to enjoy, characteristic of Chef Tyler Florence’s Food Network show “Tyler’s Ultimate,” the delicate gold eagle on the china, the polished silver and pewter table settings, and the hearty wood tables…this was going to be the ultimate dining experience.
The meal always starts off with their amazing popovers. They’re piping hot, and crunchy on the outside with a hollow gummy interior. The perfect vessel for gobs of their delicious cold butter. A little bit of advice, you can have as many popovers as you want, but be careful to save room for the rest of the meal. (I would have taken a picture of any of the three I ate, but I’d eaten them before I could remember to take pictures)
Yellowtail crudo with orange slices, avocado and radish.
Foie gras disc on a ham and cheddar biscuit with rhubarb and cherry jam.
Grilled California salmon with a cream curry sauce, almonds, and apricots.
The Wayfare Tavern burger “Le Grand” which is a grass-fed proprietary grind, Marin Brie cheese, roasted red onion, and smoked bacon on a brioche bun.
For dessert we started with the burnt honey ice cream and goats milk panna cotta.
And finished things off with the dessert that’s always on their menu, the Chocolate Cream Pie made from TCHO chocolate pudding, salty caramel ganache, and devils food cake.
Check out our previous post titled Two Dishes One Cup…only this one is filled with Guacamole! Or our next post titled Guy Savoy & the Lost Art of Storytelling
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