Cooking School Journal: Amber’s House

I pulled up to Amber’s house. It was only two blocks from my own. She was in a 310 model, Joe and I had checked those out on our realtor tours with Rosie. Three bedrooms, awkward layout, small kitchen, atrium in the middle, all bad.

It made me feel more empowered as I walked through the atrium to the front door with the Alexander Valley Merlot in hand. Amber opened the door and greeted me with a huge smile. She grabbed the wine that I had gifted her as if it were a piece of lint on her sweater and tucked it into a far corner of her kitchen. There goes that $17. The greeting was done.

Now what?

“Do you like white or red?” she said.

She nuzzled a bottle of Shiraz that she obviously had an affinity for tonight. I told her that I prefer white. She offered me a fabulous $30 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

There’s no hardcore Chardonnay drinker that will ever drink a Sauv Blanc, but I thanked her profusely and drank two grassy, overly-dry glasses.

We cozied up by her dining room table and began to talk about the menu.

She reiterated, “Chef has said to me like twenty times that she really wants you and I to be involved in the menu planning of this banquet. I’m sure she’s told you, Jules. Right?”

I sat there feeling and looking stupid and said nothing. Amber pulled up eighteen cookbooks and forty magazines, all with post-it notes hanging out the front, “I have some ideas for the banquet.”

Wow! Amber’s worked hard planning this menu, and I’m starting to get it that Chef wants me to work on this menu, too. I hadn’t even begun to think about any of this until now, and I am blown away.  It’s six weeks away.

So Amber read to me about four thousand recipes while I listened intently. They all sounded pretty good. When she finally looked at me, I just said the first thing that came to mind, “Here are the six things that I want on our menu: Truffles, prosciutto, scallops, crab, lobster, and parmesan.”

She looked at me, nodded, and quietly said, “Me, too.”

My serious glance left her  and wandered over  toward the cheese plate she made for us. Point Reyes Blue, Humboldt Fog, and Fiscalini Purple Moon three of my favorites.  “Where’d you get the Humboldt Fog?” I said, “It’s hard to find around here.”

It was not labeled on her cheese plate, but I recognized its thin layer of ash. She was obviously impressed. “Oh, you know this cheese? I heard it was good. I’m glad you like it.”humboldtjpg

She immediately began to trump me with fifty stories about dining in the best restaurants in LA that I’ve never been to: Water Grill, Geoffreys, Bastide, Josie’s and more. She described in detail every entree and appetizer that she enjoyed. I sat there irritated but also in awe.

I knew I had to go, but I was listening so intently. I finally stood up. “I have to go. My mom’s watching the kids, and I’ve got to get home.”

She was so generous. She wrapped up all the cheeses and gave them to me. She placed  the cork back into the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, strapped it into the baby seat in my car, and sent me home with a hug.

Two blocks later, I got out of my car and felt electrified. She likes my food, and she likes me. And for the first time, I have a sense that Chef might believe in me.  And when I went to turn the knob on my front door, I wondered who would open it: the underachiever that I feel I am, or the one Chef decided should help plan the menu for the banquet.

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