Last night I cheated on my boyfriend and I’m sick to my stomach just thinking about it. Shame, shock…bulimia; words can’t describe what I’m feeling. And the worst part is that I have no idea what came over me. I just can’t believe I let myself get so intimate with someone, especially without even a glance at their W-2. Okay, here’s what happened.
It was LDOM (last day of the month), which meant Jonathan would be working late and I’d have to fend for myself for dinner. That usually means I end up nursing a bottle of wine while watching back-to-back episodes of Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles or the Real Housewives of who-cares-they’re-all-amazing. Some people might think that seems lonely, but I totally cherish those nights when Jonathan’s working late—because Bravo is so much better without the lecture on how ridiculous TV is these days. But last night was different.
Last night two of my friends randomly came over. They were working a conference around the corner in Japan Town, and asked what I was up to.
“Come on over!” I said, and hung up the phone. I stood in front of our wall of wine, and contemplated what to open. I was in the mood of a grassy pinot (one of Hartford Family Wines Sonoma Coast or Siduri’s pinots from the Santa Lucia Highlands), but I selected a splashy white as backup just in case.
It all started innocently enough. Shelly, the breasty Israeli, was on her second glass of wine and complaining about her recent breakup. And then she laughed infectiously at a text that came through on her phone.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“It’s nothing,” she said, “my ex, the guy I was just telling you about, well he texted me a photo of a giant pimple he’s about the pop, because he knows how much I love popping zits.”
An awkward hush settled in the kitchen where we’d congregated around the wine and some dried berries and hummus. [Don’t judge. Our fridge was empty after having traveled back east for a week]
“It’s disgusting I know.” She said.
“Oh no,” I said, trying to reassure her. “It’s perfectly normal to get photos of your ex boyfriend’s acne via text. I’m actually obsessed with picking pimples myself.”
Then two glasses of wine turned to four—we opened that white—and before I knew it, I was leading her into our bathroom where the track lighting is best.
I was shirtless, and hunched over. I could see the saliva gathering at the edge of her mouth in the closet mirror reflection. Her eyes were wide and mad with passion as she searched for blackheads between my shoulder blades where I can never reach.
While she combed delicately from one pore to the next with her nails like tine spider legs crawling up and down before stopping to take a bite, I talked about my obsession with seeing the “big ones” before they’re discarded.
“I don’t know why, but I like to squeeze the hard ones between my fingernails and see what’s inside.” I said.
“I love it when there’s a little hair inside,” she replied, “curled up like a baby fetus.”
It wasn’t until her breasts, like droopy water balloon pendulums, grazed my lower back that I wondered to myself is this okay for us to be doing? At this age? At any age for that matter? “Scavenging for flaws” is a game I reserved for Jonathan, because I’m really good at finding imperfections in people and he’s….well….nevermind.
“How do you say black head in Hebrew?” I asked Shelly.
“Rosh shachor,” she said, and that’s when I really felt dirty. Rosh shachor rosh shachor rosh shachor the words echoed in my mind, until I was the one who felt like a whore—a sebum whore. I should be wearing the scarlet letter. This is who I’ve become I thought to myself, wondering if I had any Abercrombie and Fitch shirts from college with a scarlet “A” embroidered across the chest. I was a lonely gay bear in his 30’s—disrobing at the mix of a little pinot and sauvignon blanc.
Having a day to reflect on things, I broke the news to Jonathan the following night. We took each other to a romantic dinner at Gitane, a French-Spanish tapas bar in an alley a few blocks off of Union Square. And that’s when I learned that my confession should be reserved for those moments when someone isn’t eating.
Gitane Restaurant and Bar
Gitane is one of those restaurants that’s on a lot of lists. It’s a super cute hidden gem off the beaten path downtown. They have tented seating outside on the alley, which is casual and like dining on the sidewalk of a bistro near the Pompidou in Paris. Once inside and down a few steps, you’ll take in the vibrant and powerful artwork, dramatic chandeliers, and millions of little details collectively celebrating the exaggerated style of the 1930’s. Imagine a whimsical night on the town in some underground jazz club filled with cloche-adorned women in gloves to their elbows, and men in Homburgs and drape-cut suits. Once inside you’ll find a collection of sherry unrivaled anywhere else in the Bay Area, which why they’re so comfortable cooking with it too. From the colorful menus, to the slicked hair and pencil thin mustache of one of the staff, we felt thrown back into Prohibition….as if it were in Europe if that makes any sense. Here’s what we ate.
Beets and clementines with chèvre crema, cress, coriander vinaigrette, and flowers. The beets were shaved paper thin and almost looked like smoked salmon. This dish was light and the chèvre cheese was fantastic!
Kale salad with roasted cauliflower, apple, pickled shallots, miticaña cheese, roasted walnuts. This looks simple and like you’ve seen this before, but it’s a lot more thoughtful than you might think. The nuttiness of the miticaña cheese was heightened by the roasted walnuts and the crisp sweetness of the apple paired well with the bitterness of the chopped kale. It all same together in one cohesive first course.
Papas bravas of Yukon gold potatoes with smoked paprika aioli. These were delicious and hot! As in temperature, don’t burn your mouth because you couldn’t wait to dig in.
Grilled octopus with confit potatoes, piperade, fried capers, and parsley oil. I’m always impressed with a well-cooked octopus. This was buttery and smooth, and not chewy at all. Make sure you swap up the piperade (roasted red pepper mash) with the potatoes and some bread…which they’ll give you if you ask for it.
Seafood tajine with fish, mussles, gulf prawns, churmula, couscous, roasted fennel and aioli.
The sustainable catch was the chef’s preparation du jour. We were lucky to get roasted whole branzino with fennel and a side of roasted root vegetables and cauliflower. The branzino was moist and just barely translucent inside like it should be.
Clam and pork casuela with smoked paprika, local clams, braised pork belly, pickled peppers, and grilled bread. They put a nice char on the pork belly, which renders the fat away, giving it a better meat to fat ratio in my opinion. Again, you’ll want to ask for more bread to soak up the sauces at the bottom of the cazuela (the terra cotta dishes they serve a lot of stuff in).
And for dessert we had the warm sherry dates with fresh lime and a mini tajine of fresh coconut-lime ice. This was the most refreshing and smooth sorbet at the end of a meal so full of spice and heat. The dates were warm and sweet, and melted in our mouths with the subtle acidity of the reduced sherry and fresh lime pulp. So good and so simple!
We also got a plate of the confections. We had the choice of pistachio and double cream, and chocolate-cumin milk balls with smoked almond nougat. We just selected the chocolate-cumin milk balls (one for each of us), which was really interesting. The waitress recommended we pop the entire thing in our mouth, because the inside was liquidy, as if there was milk inside…and she was right.