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Sep 23, 2001 06:41 PM

Chowhound Event #15--food in poetry , poetry in food(long)

  • l

Yesterday,I and several other 'hounds had the good fortune of experiencing the synergy of Theresa Whitehill's sensual poetry, bottles from Melanie's and Lucy's wine collections,and the wonderful food of Cafe Lucy in Napa. Before getting into the details, I just want to share my appreciation for Melanie, Lucy, and Theresa, not simply for what they do, but for the generosity of spirit and deep connection in how they write, read, gather, cook, eat, and drink.

Lucy had created quite a buffet.(Lucy, or anyone, please help out on the ingredients!)

--One all-around favorite was the chicken liver pate with carmelized onions. We all noted the depth of the pate, and how the richness of the liver was balanced by the sweetness of the onions and a bit of spiciness (green pepercorns?). Everyone went back for seconds, and toward end of the evening, I noticed the serving bowl had made its way to the table of a couple of Chowhounds!
Melanie brought a 1995 Petaluma Riesling from Australia and a 1996 Adelsheim Pinot Gris from Oregon which she suggested for the pate. (I learned that an older Riesling can have a faint scent of petrol and it's not a flaw.)

--Another dish good with those wines (I preferred the Riesling) was the cold mussels in a vinaigrette of reduced sherry vinegar, shallots, and maple syrup. I'd never had mussels with a slightly sweet sauce and I really enjoyed the comingling of briny, sweet, and sour.

--A refreshing salad of diced celery, diced asiago, parsley,lemon, and olive oil reminded us all that we had forgotten how good celery is. Melanie opened a 1984 Joseph Swan Estate Chardonnay that surprised us for how strong the fruit had remained.

--There were three other salads: one that included figs, pears, arugula,roasted pearl onions (shallots?), and gorgonzola; one of sweet tomatoes--yellow pear, cherry, and green zebra;and a mediterranean salad of basil, kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, italian parsley, and...baccala (salt cod). All were bright with the freshness of the ingredients.

--Lest the carnivores be worried, we also had fall-off-the-bone tender roasted pork ribs done in a marinade reminiscent of Filipino adobo. I could have made a meal out of those alone.

--Melanie also brought a 1995 Domaine de Garrigue Cotes du Rhone with its distinctive aroma of earth and mineral (though the fruit had gone) and a 1996 Marques de Grinon Syrah from Spain. There were other bottles Lucy had provided as well--some nice French roses, a lovely Macon Villages--that I didn't get a chance to write down. Anyone else remember?

As we ate and drank, Theresa treated us to her poems which so well captured the emotional truth of our senses when we take the time to listen. Of particular note to Chowhounds is Theresa's unabashed joy in food. One poem was a paean to Lucy's provencal onion tart and its pairing with a glass of 1995 Saintsbury Reserve Chardonnay. We too were given a slice of the tart (crumbly crust, creamy sweet onions set off by a bit of stilton and rosemary) and a glass of the wine (quite toasty with lovely vanilla overtones). You could hear the "oohs," "aahs" and "oh my gosh, this is sooooo good." We all clearly understood the poet's inspiration. (I have a link to Theresa's work below.)

The conversation, eating, and wine-tasting lasted well into the evening. I left feeling not only well-nourished but also grounded. Thanks again to Lucy, Theresa, and Melanie for arranging such a special event.


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  1. Busted again! Yes, we confess. Ann Leneave's husband and I were hoarding the chicken liver at our end of the room. I did offer you a tiny taste at one point, no? (g) Hope this makes it to the regular menu so that I can have it again.

    The pate's texture was also wonderful, not too smooth or overprocessed. Those little bits of bacon or maybe crisped chicken skin added extra interest. And of course the sweetness of the onions made it even more special. After hearing Theresa's poem on how onions yield their sugar to the essence of food, I'll never look at a carmelized onion the same way again.

    The wines from Lucy's stash that I thought were very special were the 1998 Ch. d'Epire Savenierres (unfiltered, Kermit Lynch import), a vivid, mineral-laden and fruity chenin blanc; 1999 Domaine EC Chiroubles, a cru Beaujolais with a feminine side of sweet candied cherry fruit and floral aromas; and the 1999 Macon Farges (can't remember the producer) which is the wine I recommended that Wonki snap up for his wedding in November. I was happy to taste it again and am delighted to report that it has developed well in the last six months - it will be beautiful for his banquet.

    I really loved the celery and asiago salad. Simplicity can be so satisfying.

    The presentation of the onion tart with the Saintsbury Reserve made Thereas's rapturous tribute resonate even more. My introduction to Cafe Lucy was the splendor of this tart, and I'm pleased that everyone there had the chance to taste the inspiration in this part of Lucy's repetoire.

    Lise, thanks for recording the event so well for all of us.


    7 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I was so happy to be allowed to join the event, although I did miss the first half. We impulsively made the call to see if we could join in, and were welcomed by Melanie, Lucy and by a gentleman who introduced himself as Mr. Lucy.

      The food was wonderful, with the richness and luxuriousness one finds with quality ingredients, thoughtful preparation and passion of purpose. Thanks, Lucy, for allowing us to join the event.


      1. re: Larry Conlin

        Hey Larry, it was great to meet you too! When you told me that you'd driven 7 hours just to eat at La Superica in Santa Barbara, I knew you were a true chowhound.

        Fwiw, while I haven't had the pleasure of dining there, I have had several meals catered by The Kitchen in Sacto and I agree with you that it's some of the best cooking anywhere.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Melanie, Lise, Brandon, Ann & Larry!

          Thank-you all for your help in creating such a great evening. It could not have been a more compassionate group! Smiles covered everyones faces and it left both Theresa and I with this level of satisfaction that comes with waves of gratitude, love of how good life can be and such an appreciation for all simple folks such as us that pay attention to all the unsuspecting treasures such as a good story-teller and a tiny cafe. We were looking forward to fortifying the spirit after the past few weeks and with all our lust for eating well, drinking well, laughing and sharing the sense of well-being that being a chowhound embelishes, I think you all should pat yourselves on the back for being awesome folks and lets do it again real soon!

          Lise, your take on the salads are perfect. Any one interested in the pate' recipe, just let me know. Same goes for the onion tart. (Did I ever send you a copy of that, Melanie?) And thank-you so much for bringing the great wines we all shared and your expertise.

          I guess it wouldn't hurt to let it be known that the evening went into over-time with all of us sharing food stories, Melanie explaining some of the wines in more detail, more food consumed, Peter Franus showing up at the very end, and the best of the evening was Larry & 5 chowhounds as a delightful surprise mid-evening, such an honor . . . and that pate' bowl continued to be passed around & around.

          Thank-you all!

          1. re: Lucy Gore

            Thank you, Lucy! The whole evening was a testimonial to both your talent and generous nature. Huge platters of wonderful food (gotta put those ribs on the menu), and so many bottles of interesting wines! I would have sworn it was way too much to be consumed. Since the whole evening was focused on food and poetry about food, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me that we made a big dent in it. And Theresa's succulent poetry was perfect. I can't think of a better place for a true chowhound gathering.

            1. re: Lucy Gore

              Lucy, thank you once again for a wonderful evening and sharing Theresa with us! We need to get you away and out of the kitchen for another event so that you don't have to work so hard.

              Please do share your recipes. Although without your TLC, they'll not be the same.

              And, yes, the "post-party" was even more fun!

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          Do ya think that chowhounds elsewhere have as much fun as Bay Area 'hounds?

          It was great to meet you and Lise, Melanie. Brandon and Tanya too. And thanks for the link to your original post about Cafe Lucy. It was fun to revisit that introduction. It now seems like ages ago. Your words "local hangout" have indeed come true. I have little luck in getting my husband to anyplace else, he is so in love with Lucy's food and cozy atmosphere. Since I love it too, I give in easily. And to think, we owe it all to Thanks, Jim.


          1. re: Ann Leneave

            Ann, no one is living better than we are!

        3. b
          Brandon Nelson

          What a lovely evening...

          Theresa took us to places shes has been with her wriiten word and passionate speech. I could almost taste the salt air as she spun verses about a night at sea, or Lucy's onion tart.

          Oh yes that tart. One of those rare instances where savory isn't a rich enough word. Buttery crust with a tender crumb. A little Stilton to add complexity to the custardy filling. Coupled with that Saintsbury Chardonay. A true masterpiece.

          I have played pate before. I often loose interest after a couple of bites. Either I'm unimpressed with the texture, or the flavor is a one dimensional rich monster. Lucy delievered a pate short on neither structure no depth. A couple of bites were a mere warm up in this case.

          Although those 2 dishes were my favorites none came up short. Lucy Gore was as sucessful at delievering poetry from her kitchen as Theressa was in creating a a delicious repast with her words. 2 divine ladies that are a true credit to their craft.


          1. How about all of you moving to New York?

            4 Replies
            1. re: Dave Feldman

              The food, the wine and the poetic inspiration are all out here. You need to pack your bags.

              If you've checked Theresa's website and her "fable for alice", you have a sense of how sultry her words can be. As the evening progressed, the stories became even richer and more lusty. Any unescorted male would have been devoured on the spot.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                I second that observation! What were you saying after Theresa's last poem? "I was getting the vapors..." g

                1. re: Lise

                  Intoxicating and very heady stuff...

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  One escorted male sat as all others except the poet (and the wine) slowly faded away...


              2. r
                randy salenfriend

                We are sorry to have missed this splendid gathering and likewise missed seeing old friends, as well as the opportunity to meet new ones. Our sitter contacted us on Friday evening with a sad lament about being ill,"low grade fever and such but I am sure your son is going to be exposed to that at school". Right.

                So we opted to do the responsible thing and avoid exposing the chowpup to a new strain of something. Instead, we followed the chowhound trail to La Corneta in Glen Park. Once again, yet another shining example of the Chowhound system at work. Sparkling clean taqueria, fast service, fresh ingredients and a tab of $10.00 for two massive burritos and a side of rice for the kid. Parking was easy,we took a stroll around the hood, past Chenery Park which looks inviting and a quick stop at the library to read some books for Parker.

                Lucy, we wish we could have participated in this event but we will stop in next time we are in the Valley. Melanie, would that we could have been at the table to partake of all the goodies. Next time.


                5 Replies
                1. re: randy salenfriend

                  I am happy to report that the Glen Park La Corneta has now finished expanding into the space next door. They're gonna finish up the mural and get some more tables. Check out the "housemade" fluids in the buckets in the fridge; the mango is yummy.

                  Tip: If you wanna beat the line, call 'em and arrange for pick-up.

                  1. re: randy salenfriend

                    Look at it this way, you didn't wake up with a hangover on Sunday. (g)

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      randy salenfriend

                      How can you be so sure?? (vbg)***

                      *** with thanks to Jennifer F. Wilson

                      1. re: randy salenfriend

                        *** with thanks to Jennifer F. Wilson"

                        Hey, Randy! Are you trying to get me in trouble with Melanie? I stole (g) and (vbg) from Melanie Wong! (vvbg)

                        1. re: jenniferfishwilson
                          randy salenfriend

                          Why no, quite the contrary!! I was merely trying to give you proper credit for which I thought you were surely due. I assure you, my intentions were strictly honorable.

                  2. r
                    randy salenfriend

                    B.T.W. Lise, thanks for the exceptional post which allowed me to live vicariously and almost experience the event. Almost, sigh. Great attention to detail.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: randy salenfriend

                      Thanks, Randy. It was my first report so I was a little nervous. Didn't want to let the 'hounds down!

                      1. re: Lise
                        Brandon Nelson

                        Props Lise!

                        You let no one down. You painted a vibrant picture of the event, food, wine, and experience. Other than pipe up about my favorites I didn't feel the need to add to your writing about our repast. You vividly captured the evening. I only wish Tanya and I had the energy to stay longer. I was shot up and sore from a day on the paintball field. Tanya had been on an excursion to select bridesmaids dresses. This was one hangover I wouldn't have minded sharing otherwise.