The problem with professional restaurant reviewers
is that they limit themselves to food, wine, and décor. For
a novelist, the best morsels can be those you hear. Following are
actual quotes in the order I heard them. I did not make this up.
Incidentally, I was in full view of the fellow who did most of the
talking, but my scribbling presence did not cause him to wonder.
“She lives a pretty good life on my behalf,”
he said and took another sip of white wine. “She’s using
me. As far as I’m concerned, she’s abusing and losing
me.” His attempt at a wry smile fell short.
Cityscape restaurant, on the forty-sixth floor of
the Hilton San Francisco, featured spectacular views. I had a bird’s-eye
view of the downtown skyline set against the panorama of San Francisco
Bay, with the Bay Bridge before me and, if I turned to my left,
a misty image of Golden Gate. But my attention had been shifted
to a table at which two men sat in conversation.
“I should call her,” the man continued.
“No, you call her. Here, use my phone.”
The younger business colleague chose to use his
own cell phone and left a recorded message. “I’m sitting
here with your husband. He’s driving me crazy. That’s
why I had to call you.”
I studied the man. Early sixties, I guessed.
“I don’t entirely buy anything she says,”
the elder man said, “but when your father is dying…
Well, the guy’s probably dead.” His voice conveyed no
feeling. “I brought up this idea of let’s have a positive
attitude, but she twists things and uses them against me. Here I
am trying to make things happen and she takes them and uses them.”
He wore a white shirt, olive pants, black socks,
brown shoes, and a tie that contained none of those colors. “What
a sneak. She’ll pull one on you and smile all day.”
He and I both ordered a second glass of wine.
“’I really liked my first husband,’”
he quoted the wife, “’we had a lot in common.’”
The colleague listened with few comments and showed
patience if not understanding.
“She got really into this Alcoholics Anonymous.
Her shrink sent her there. She did a lot of dope.”
After he paid the check, he gazed at the view. In
the distance, a huge flag furled atop the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the
Top of the Mark. “You have people starving, suffering, dying.
Everything happens for a reason. What’s her reason?”
With that, the man who might have been the answer
to his own question left the room.
I’d found him both sympathetic and unsympathetic,
likeable and dislikeable in turns. What about you? Send your psychoanalytical
comments to the TaleCatcher Guestbook or read what others have to say. Or maybe you’ve
heard a conversation you’d like to share. The guestbook is
a message board you can use to share observations.
For those who prefer to read about food and wine,
during the above conversation I had a baby spinach and shaved fennel
salad with a wonderful preserved lemon vinaigrette dressing. Atop
the salad were shaved parmesan cheese and goat cheese along with
Kalamata olives. Following that came an excellent entrée
of halibut entrusted with pine nuts. I turned down the Fingerling
potatoes and substituted instead garlic-spiced Swiss Chard, which
was bland but satisfied my craving for something green and hearty.
For those who prefer to read about D.C.-area
food and wine, check out the work of Andrea Pace, new executive
chef at Il Cigno in Reston’s Lake Anne. She’s been on
the job six months and has rekindled the spark in what had become
a tired kitchen. We found her shrimp to be wonderful as well as
her sautéed halibut in an extraordinary celery root puree.
She’s well short of earning a Michelin star, but has brought
a welcome improvement to one of the few local restaurants where
you can dine outdoors in a pleasant lakeside setting.