keyFor those who weren’t aware, when we moved to Portland from Denver, we took on quite a project. We found a bungalow a block away from Overlook Park that hadn’t really been touched since 1922. We soon discovered this was a blessing and a curse.

We knew we wanted to add a master suite to the back and push out the kitchen. This quickly turned into a new supply line, new plumbing, new wiring, new insulation in the exterior walls, new furnace, new water heater, new kitchen appliances…essentially we’ve created a new house.

What started in June became officially livable in February when we installed the range and unloaded everything from storage. The rest will just have to wait – ie; new laundry room, new windows, new doors, new exterior paint, new chimney, new landscaping – you know – the small stuff…

But the best way to not become overwhelmed is to pause and reflect on all that we’ve accomplished. Glad I was able to catch it all in photos. Enjoy!

tomte

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This Christmas season was the first in eight years that we’ve been able to spend with both of our families. We knew we’d be flying into the East Bay before the holiday, so Jason made sure this visit we’d have a lovely evening out just the two of us.

Commis is not too far from Jason’s parents. Although owner and chef, James Syhabout was not there this evening, the staff and food prepared definitely proved their Michelin Star rating! There’s no real advertisement – just the building number and a curtained doorway. The kitchen is open and in the middle of the restaurant – so to someone like me first coming in, you would think the kitchen is the bar and the seats were open to anyone. However, Jason of course knew those seats were the chefs counter and specifically made the request to reserve two for us – and I am so glad he did!

I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves. All I can say was these four chefs had control of this entire restaurant. It was like watching a dance. Their timing was perfect and SO quiet. Each plate for each patron was a work of art.  There was a little music overhead, but not distracting. No one on staff seemed rushed or flustered. Both sommeliers were very passionate and knowledgeable. I only wish I wrote down specifics to the wines. They were paired perfectly!

The food of course was delicious. I think the only dish I wasn’t keen on was the first. All the rest were a balance of flavor and beauty. For me the best surprise was this simple mushroom infused broth. The aroma transported me to a cabin in the woods. I just wanted to drink this on a cold snowy day while sitting in front of a wood burning stove. It was delicious. And – as all meals SHOULD end – Commis did so with success – I had chocolate, coffee and extra little bites that left me wanting more – but not feeling stuffed or underfed.

Another wonderful experience.

Thursday the 20th was a perfect reminder of why I married Jason. We celebrated 8 years together the night before with some fun friends at Tanuki. I highly recommend going omakase – chef’s choice – we had some amazing dishes I’d never thought I’d enjoy, like gingered quail eggs or squid-jerky.

But Feast Portland at Sharp Restaurant – that was like coming home! (We were able to attend two dinners that weekend, but this one was overall my favorite). We really haven’t experienced anything like this since living in Denver. The weather’s been cooling down, but still comfortable and dry! I’m sure that made several out-of-town chefs happy. Portland was on its best behavior. With so many meals to choose from, I am so happy Jason chose this one combining Chef Daniel Patterson of Coi in San Francisco and Chef Inaki Aizpitarte of Paris’ legendary Le Chateaubriand – only the 15th best restaurant in he world!

We arrived a bit early and the doors were still locked. But we could look through the huge picture window into the kitchen and see a sneak preview of the meal we were about to experience. I felt bad for standing around gawking at them like they were animals in the zoo, but I am glad Jason was bold and took pictures.

Once inside, we were greeted with smiles and led into the room filled with four long tables that sat about ten people each. The VIP table table closest to the kitchen sat several guests from Bon Appetite, food critics like Jeffrey Steingarten, and guest chefs like Matt Lightner. We were seated at the end of the second table from the door. The couple directly across from us became instant friends through the night. Tim and Gretchen flew in from Denver specifically for Feast Portland. The more we talked, the more we had in common – especially favorite Denver restaurants. As soon as we were settled, our glasses were filled with the best champagne – 2004 Nicolas Feuillatte Blance de blanc – so refreshing.

As we all chatted, the crisps and veggies came out with kale dip. The veggies were from the farmers market that day with brassica onion dip in the middle. The Treviso leaves with squash, quinoa, okra padron peppers and basil were nice single bites in between the other munchies.

Each subsequent course was well timed, well received and perfectly paired with wines –

Leche del Tigre et Fruits – 2011 Eroica Reisling from Columbia Valley WA

On a hot summer day, this would have been a perfect palate cleanser – sweet grape tomatoes covered in a very tart granita. This actually made the Reisling taste sweet.

Inverted Fromage Blanc Tart, Fennel and Wheatgrass – 2010 Bucci Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi from Marche Italy

It was very savory and creamy and made only two days before 3:1 cow to goat milk

Before the next course we were also served fresh baked olive bread with salted butter – so cozy!

Coquillages, Palmier, Buerre Manzanilla – 2008 Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 1er Cru from Burgundy France

This was Inaki’s first geoduck. What made it for me was the hazelnuts that cut the saltwater flavor. The whole plate had a lot of texture issues for me – geoduck, hearts of palm and mushrooms were too squishy. The fried fennel fronds on top were too much like eating coarse hair. I ate more bread to stomach it.

Chilled Piquillo Pepper Soup, Fresh and Shelling Beans, Preserved Lemon, Roman Mint – 2011 Sokol Blosser, Pinot Noir Rose from Willamette Valley OR

The plate was served with just the beans and the lemon jelly with just a flower of the roman mint. Then out came Chef Daniel to pour the chilled soup into each bowl. Such an honor. Again – the perfect course for a hot summer day on an outdoor patio.

Fish and Chips, Pilpil – 2009 Domaine Louis Jadot La Garenne 1er Cru, Puligny Montrachet from Burgundy France

The black cod was so light and the breading was perfect. The potatoes were night and bite-sized and both were delicious when dipped in the creamy sauce and onion flowers. The other bit was a thinly sliced potato covered with tamarind powder – it tasted just like malt-vinegar chips.

Emigh Ranch Lamb, Chard Leaves and Stems, Garum, Rosemary – 2004 Vina Haras de Pirque, Albis from Maipo Valley Chile

This was a GOOD dish – the lamb was a bit on the rare side but sooo tender. The Garum jus made all the difference. It made the meat and veg so savory, but not salty. I was a little turned off by the amount of fat on the bone – but that didn’t stop Jason or Gretchen and others at the table from picking it up and eating it clean. For me, the wine was amazingly paired, and of course my favorite for being the one glass of red of the evening. The server said it was from Argentina, so I’m not really sure since the menu said it’s from Chile – but it’s a Cabernet and Carbinere varietal I haven’t had and I really enjoyed. Fat and happy people – FAT-AND-HAPPY.

Frozen Bearss Lime Marshmallow, Coal-toasted Meringue – 2008 Iniskillin Vidal “Pearl” Ice Wine from Niagara Canada

But wait – there’s more! By now I was wined-out – and dessert wines are always too sweet for me – but this dessert was so unique I couldn’t help but love it. Like a key lime smores or a lime baked Alaska. The top was truly toasted by a red-hot piece of coal. The marshmallow was warm and gooey, but the inside was frozen lime. It was kick in the face of super sweet and super tart – and having an ice wine that tasted like apricot syrup was a bit too much for my system to process all at once.

Tocino de Cielo – same dessert wine

This final course was Jason’s favorite – but a bit too savory for me. Granted, if all meals ended with a chocolate truffle I would be a happy camper. What I thought was a visual trick – really was a bruleed egg yolk on top of a dark-caramel sauce – almost burnt flavored – on top of a short-bread-like crust sitting on a bed of powdered malt. Chef Daniel came out to encourage we eat the entire thing in one bite. POW – a burst of yoke – savory and sweet – it was good, but I personally would not ask for seconds.

The chefs came out as we all applauded and Chef Inaki passed out candied raspberries to our table. The were crunchy on the outside and still really juicy. We were really curious about the technique used to make them. I couldn’t stop eating them. They went so well with my cup of coffee. It was nearly 11:30 when we were still talking with Tim and Gretchen. I think anyone there would not have realized that we had just met for the first time that evening and hadn’t come together. Jason got several email address with requests to send them his pictures. I think for the overall experience the price of the tickets for this meal was a steal. It was so fun to be surrounded by people who loved to dress up, pick apart the components of each plate and savor each bite.

I’m not a food critic – but I love eating like royalty and hope I did my best to share my/our experience as concisely as possible. This evening was so memorable – it’s hard to put it all down in words or even in pictures. What remains in my heart is a night that I desperately needed during this season of transition.

While our lives are in transition, we’ve been working hard at saving money and spending as little as possible on food and entertainment. This isn’t a huge adjustment for us. When we married eight years ago, we lived on very little income. It’s only in the last couple years that we’ve splurged a bit on fine dining. I just didn’t realize how much I have grown to love it.

I enjoy the varying atmospheres, table linens, floor layouts, and overall energy when first coming into a place. I love looking over the menus and knowing we’ll be ordering drinks, appetizers, entrees and dessert. I also love knowing that between the two of us, depending on the restaurant, we can easily try virtually everything on the menu in one sitting. I also love leaving satisfied. Not too full, but not longing for anything else. Fat and happy.

It’s been several months since we’ve splurged on this type of dining. Perhaps it was our last day in Denver together, which would have been late April. I guess that’s why last night felt so special. Our realtor gave us a $50.00 gift card to Laurelhurst Market after we closed on our new-to-us house. I am so glad we held off on using it till now. We both hit a mid-week wall and really wanted a good cocktail and some yummy food.

One thing I’ve learned is that timing, especially in a restaurant, is everything. The detail of timing makes all the difference and this staff gets it. From start to finish, this evening had perfect flow. The front of house staff was so kind and attentive. Like coming home after a long day – we were greeted and seated and drinks ordered straight away. The cocktails range from perfectly classic to creatively complex. Jason had an Old Fashion – I had a glass of the Barbera. Neither of us really hanker for entrees – but prefer to split several starters and appetizers. We ordered a few and thankfully each plate came out at a staggered pace rather than all at once.

First we enjoyed the charcuterie plate. The ratio of crostini to meats was perfect. My favorite was the rabbit pâté with a little bit of the pickled carrot on top of a slice of crostini. Next they brought out their Pan Seared Lamb Rillettes and a side of their Grilled Green Beans. The Lamb Rillettes were by far my favorite dish of the evening. The combination of the lamb, onions and fried chickpeas – I couldn’t get enough! The flavors married so well! The Grilled Green Beans had a nice pop of flavor with the bits of pancetta thrown in. The last dish of Crispy Veal Sweetbreads came out and I was already full. (It’s funny to me how much my tastes have changed because of Jason. I went from never eating cooked vegetables or reheated leftovers to craving bone marrow and pork belly.) It was a simple yet a flavor-packed meal that left us both feeling so satisfied we decided not to get dessert this time. (Actually, for me the perfect ending to a meal is a good cup of coffee and a handcrafted truffle.)

When the check arrived – we realized the gift card nearly covered the entire bill. A spur of the moment decision offered good drinks, good food, good company and only cost us $13.00. Fat and happy.

The last six months have been a blur of events from selling our house in Denver, eating at all our favorite haunts, moving to Portland and STILL trying to get settled. In all this, I realize we have the rare gift to make a fresh start.

Working with my doctor taught me so much about improving my health and habits. Now that the training wheels are off and I’m on my own, I’ve decided to move forward in a way that works best for me. There is a fine line between taking care of oneself and becoming an obsessed perfectionist when it comes to food.

Rather than restrict everything, I recognize what I should do my best to avoid altogether and what I can enjoy in strict moderation. I know that caffeine and sugar in most forms negatively affect my energy, mood and other areas of health. On the flip side, I know that protein and veggies make me feel SO GOOD. Everything else including gluten sort of falls into this moderate “subject to interpretation” category.

The restrictions challenged life with Jason. To love Jason is to love food and experience its art form. Jason’s passion for food and cooking is beyond just preparing and eating a good meal. This process was a fun challenge for him to create new meals in the home, but was a real joy-suck when it came to our fine dining lifestyle. I never realized how much we used going out as our time for open and meaningful conversation.

So this fresh start has allowed us to step back and reevaluate. Now that we’re in Portland, we maintain our diet at home, but continue to take advantage of local cuisine and enjoy meaningful conversations over decaf americanos.

Let’s face it – staying Gluten Free this time of year is a joke! Tis the season for stuffing your face with candy bars, comfort foods, and baked goodies till…April? Surprisingly, my eating habits are pretty steady now. I’m pretty much dairy free except for an occasional treat of manchego cheese. I’m quick to grab a handful of almonds or a boiled egg or a slice of apple topped with almond butter when hunger kicks in between meals. But I admit my downfall this time of year is craving a pumpkin-spice latte and any baked good smothered in chocolate ganache! So for those of you in the same boat – but would like a “healthier” option – here are a couple of my new staples.

Gluten Free Granola

I’ve always been a cold cereal girl and when I was not allowed to have ANY grains – Jason got his creative juices going and came up with this super simple gluten free granola for me. This also tastes amazing with almond milk. If you don’t have a kitchen scale – buy one – they’re cheap and so simple to use – your recipes will stay consistent every time. Also, I buy almost all the ingredients from bulk bins at Whole Foods or Sunflower Market.

Preheat the oven to 350F or 325F if you use a convection setting.  Measure out 65g of raisins and 35g of dried cranberries or cherries into a separate bowl.  Soak these in water.In a large bowl measure out:

  • 150g golden flax seed
  • 50g milled flax seed (you can also find this at Costco)
  • 50g pumpkin seed
  • 65g chopped walnuts
  • 15g shredded coconut (optional)

Drain and add to the big bowl the raisins and dried cranberries.  Pour over all the ingredients 100g of clover honey.   For a chewy texture, I usually use 140g of honey.  With a spatula, smash the honey into all the ingredients – making sure you get a good coat over all the flax seeds. Spread the mixture over a silpat sheet on a cookie tray.  Bake for 25-30 minutes – then take out to cool.  Once cool to the touch, break apart the mix into bite-sized pieces into a container and keep in the fridge.  This will make about a week’s worth of breakfast if you eat about a cup’s worth a day.

Gluten Free Banana Bread Muffins

Ok – this one I can’t claim – my friend sent me a recipe for Gluten Free Bomb Banana Bread and it truly is the bomb! But – like all recipes – I’ve made a few of my own adjustments:

Preheat the oven to 350F or 325F if you’re using a convection setting

Ingredients:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 – 1/3 C Light Agave Nectar
  • 1 Tbs Vanilla
  • 2 Tbs Coconut Oil – it reminds me of when my mom uses Crisco
  • 3-4 really freckled, but not black Bananas – if smaller, use 4 – if larger use 3
  • 2 ½ C Almond Flour – Whole Foods sells this in a bulk bin
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbs Cinnamon (I’m very generous on my size of Tbs)
  • 1 C Dark Chocolate Chips – yeah baby!

Mix eggs, agave and coconut oil well, then add all dry ingredients – except the chocolate chips.  Mash up the bananas in a separate bowl, then add to the mix.  Once blended stir in the chocolate chips.  If you’re making bread – it should yield one large loaf and should bake for 60-70 minutes.  If you’re making muffins – they’ll easily make 16 muffins. Fill them all the way to the top – almond flour doesn’t rise like wheat flour.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

ENJOY!

Several people have been asking me about my cleanse and how am I feeling. I didn’t realize how quickly the time has flown. Next month will be my last doctor visit. The cleanse is over, but the diet restrictions have been and will continue to be a lifestyle change – by choice.

I work really well with routine. Once something is engrained in me as a new habit, I’m really good at sticking to it. Having been on this diet for months now, it’s been pretty easy to stick with it. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve cheated several times. However, now I notice how foods off my diet affect me. Wine keeps me from sleeping. Almost anything with sugar makes my skin breakout. Caffeine makes me anxious and really cranky. Those three have always been my comfort foods/drink. But to be honest, when I do cheat lately, I’ve been left quite unsatisfied.

On the flip side, I’ve found gratification in new foods. I love almonds and almond milk and almond butter…why I never discovered this before astounds me. The other crazy thing that leaves me feeling quite happy – BOILED EGGS! I love them! I can’t believe it. I’ve always hated eggs. Now I crave them – especially if they’re fried on top of a good burger! (my stomach is actually growling as I type)

So, on the medical side of things – after months of changing my diet and taking supplements – all those tests that had crazy results – my vitals are all back to normal – including my thyroid – which is what started this journey in the first place. Overall, my weight is holding steady, my body looks and feels better than ever, and I’m happy – my moods have never felt so balanced and manageable. I haven’t had an anxiety attack in months – even while tackling a new job! It’s incredible!

Overall, this really hasn’t been as difficult as I expected. I certainly would not have been able to get to this point if I didn’t have the weekly meetings with my doctor for the first four months. I know I’ll miss that the most. Dr. Watts and the entire staff at the Functional Endocrinology Center of Colorado have been a huge blessing!

The least I can do going forward is to chose to stay on this diet.

Just a quick post – to recap the last week of whirlwind adventure. Jason’s stage at TAG went really well. He mostly worked on the back line prepping for dishes, creating appetizers and salads, as well as worked on the front line making sliders for Sunday’s lunch service. By the end of his stage, Sam the sous chef approached Jason to say he spoke with Troy the owner and they both would like him to consider working for TAG. Long story short, Jason made the decision to join them every other Friday and every Sunday. This is a huge step for Jason in his culinary pursuit! TAG is one of the top restaurants in Denver.

Last weekend was his first as a paid cook! We also had a surprise visit from my sister-in-law, Deanna Moffitt. She happened to be in town on business and was able to spend the weekend with us. For anyone who’s visited, you know that the way we entertain is through eating. We took her to all our favorite places – Izakaya Den for sushi, Jelly for brunch (consistently the most amazing eggs benedict you’ll ever have), exposed her to the Justice League of Street Food, and of course – TAG.

After a long day of visiting the farmer’s market, shopping, and mani-pedis, she and I went to TAG and sat at the chef’s counter, two seats at the pass of the kitchen. As she noted – it’s not like Hell’s Kitchen with chaos and screaming and cussing. We had a wonderful time talking to the kitchen staff. Sam convinced us to do their Omakase – which is a 4-course meal of chef’s choice. Before our courses began, we started with very yummy cocktails. I highly recommend the Blushing Geisha – which has nice pineapple and lavender notes to it. Deanna had the more savory jalapeño mojito – which is refreshing with just a little heat.

Sous Chef Sam

As Sam was talking to us, he pulled out linked sausages to prep for appetizers. He made a comment that it was homemade – to which I said, “yes, I know, in my kitchen.” That was when I introduced myself as Jason’s wife. You see, while staging, Jason was prepping veal cheeks for another dish and mentioned that they should make sausage out of the extra meat that remained. They liked his idea and asked if he could take it home to run through our grinder. After some added spices, pistachios and garnish, they added the sausage to their Special for the coming week! Deanna and I were both very pleased by the dish – and I’m not even a fan of sausage.

Unfortunately, I did not bring a camera to capture the amazing amuse bouche served to us by my amazing husband, or the fresh tuna that melted in our mouths, or the perfectly cooked halibut with crispy skin, or the lamb gnocchi, or the special desserts and coffee served to us on the house. It was an amazing night and I am so proud of my man for accepting this opportunity!

me and Deanna at the end of an amazing night

Jason and crew

Wikipedia explains that staging (which comes from stagier – the French term for apprentice) is when a cook or chef works briefly for free in another chef’s kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines. A stage [st-ah-zje] is typically used to assess how well a new chef or cook adapts to the environment in the kitchen. Many chefs gain credibility based on where they have staged.

When Jason began pursuing his passion for cooking, he was advised to keep his day job and not go to culinary school, but rather get into professional kitchens by staging.

The chef who advised him gave Jason his first opportunity to get his feet wet by volunteering at Cook Street School of Fine Cooking. Since then, Jason’s been getting to know other local chefs by frequenting their restaurants and/or food carts and attending special dining events.

Last year, Jason’s first official stage in a restaurant was for Chef Matt Selby at Vesta Dipping Grill.  For two days, he was thrown into full swing assisting on the line for all appetizers and dipping sauces.  If you look at their menu, you’ll see just how many sauces that is!  The experience was one he’ll always remember.

This year, (actually, for the next four days) Jason will stage at TAG.  Troy Guard has three restaurants in Denver, and is one of the nicest chefs I’ve met.  Originally, Jason and Troy met while taking the same class on molecular gastronomy.  Through the years, we always seem to bump into each other.  Troy is naturally enthusiastic and so supportive of Jason coming into his kitchen.  I’m so excited for him to have this wonderful opportunity!

Jason once said to me that it would be amazing if he could eventually gain enough experience to stage in a Michelin starred restaurant. I fully believe in Jason’s talent, work ethic and determination.  As Jason’s biggest cheerleader and number one fan – I would love to see that wish come true!

Forgive me for the length of this entry – but I had to recount it all for posterity. I warn you, I’m not a food writer, but an “experience-communicator”. (more fuzzy pictures can be viewed on the flickr site at the bottom)

Memorial Day weekend 2009, Jason and I headed out to the Bay Area. It was an amazing weekend filled with music and eating. We had the amazing opportunity to attend a house concert in Mill Valley, a wonderful little town just outside of Sausalito. It may have been the glasses of wine that night, but this intimate concert with Allie Moss, Ian Axel and René Tomas was surreal. It made me miss my early 20’s when I was surrounded by so many artists living out their dreams.

This surreal feeling carried over the next day as we drove out to Napa Valley and had dinner at The French Laundry. It has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco, which is very rare since three stars is the highest rating a restaurant can receive, and they certainly proved it.

We parked by their garden and what a gorgeous view; beautiful green hills in the background and bursts of color from the flowers and other garden foliage. The restaurant itself looks like a cottage. We walked around back to check in and waited in the garden before getting seated. We were seated by a small window at 5:30pm in a room nearly to ourselves. Each guest was spaced throughout the two floors of the restaurant. We were waited on by several people, but Bob and Nathan were our main waiters for the evening. The ambiance was so quiet and intimate…until a large group from New York was seated next to us.

Our table was set with white linens and their signature clothes pin, which I took home with me. Each course was perfectly spaced, just enough time to rest, but never rushed or left impatiently waiting either. Our water glasses were constantly filled, which is top of my list when it comes to good service. The wait staff was always watching, but not hovering. Each course was properly given fresh cutlery appropriate for each dish. If I ever had to get up, which was often due to all the water, my napkin was always replaced with a fresh one. When I had to use the restroom, not only was I led upstairs to the room, but led inside, to which I thought, “You’re not going to watch me are you?”As I headed back down the narrow staircase, the staff would literally move back down to wait for me, as if they were in my way. It made me feel slightly uncomfortable to be treated like someone important, but I enjoyed it.

The menus were fixed, meaning you eat whatever they give you. However, there were typically two options per each course to choose from. That way, if Jason got one and I the other, we were able to taste most everything on the menu. We were first served warm cheese puffs, then their famous cornets of salmon tartare on a sesame cone. Next we had their traditional “oysters and pearls,” oysters topped with caviar served with a mother-of-pearl spoon. It was amazing! We were also given fresh house bread with two types of butter – so good.

The first starters came out. I had the “salad” of cauliflower, carrots and fava beans. It was ok. Jason’s foie gras was amazing! There were juicy strawberries on the foie that wouldn’t stay on my fork, and ended up staining our white linens right where my spoon should rest. I was so embarrassed and kept trying to cover the stain with my water glass. Due to the constant change of cutlery, our waiter Nathan kept moving my glass to place the spoons in their place. This turned into giggles throughout the entire meal.

The next two dishes were the halibut, which was ok, and the tartare of Hokkaido sea scallops. The plating of this dish was gorgeous – so delicate with edible flowers and cucumber – so many spring colors on a white plate. Soon after came the lobster tail “Caesar salad” – a deconstructed dish with a crouton, roasted romaine heart and an amazing lobster tail that had been cooked in a circulator full of melted butter. HELLO! (It was this dish when Nathan broke character to laugh at me pointing out that everyone used their sauce spoon but me. Mine stayed neatly in place covering the strawberry stain.)

The first “main” dishes were wonderful. Ballotine de Caille Froide – cold quail sausage with cherries, pistachios, frisée and black truffles. My entrée was the rabbit sirloin – playfully plated so the bacon-wrapped chops looked like little rabbits.

The finale was a delicious steak – perfectly seared with mushroom and asparagus. I gave Jason my potatoes because they tasted too much like tater tots. (I had my quota of tots as a kid and have been turned off to them or any “fried potato” that tastes like tots ever since.)

The evening did not end here. First, a cheese plate and a yogurt sherbet on oatmeal with apricot puree. Then the dessert courses began! Jason had the lemon parfait – like a meringue pie but lighter and fluffier.

I had the chocolate cake which wasn’t cake at all. It was a deconstructed plate of caramelized bananas, chocolate cake, and hazelnut sorbet.

I was already full by this point, and I really thought the staff was being overly nice to us. However, the proceeding desserts are also part of the experience. We had macadamia nuts covered in caramel and powdered sugar. Then they brought out a three-tiered tower of bite-sized yumminess. All I remember was my favorite, a shortbread filled with huckleberry. As I enjoyed a cup of coffee, one more waiter came with a tray of chocolates saying, “take as many as you want – it’s just a bite, there’s always room for one more.”

As we paid the bill, Nathan allowed us to go back and see the kitchen. I was amazed at how quiet the staff was; only talking in low murmurs, no slamming dishes, no rush, no shouting, and no frantic energy. The final treat for the road was a bag of shortbread cookies.

We left quite satisfied – sure, we paid a pretty penny for the experience, but it is one that I will treasure. It set the bar for all other experiences, and so far nothing has topped it.

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