I had promised The Guitar Player I’d have lunch at Chez Panisse, birthplace of the North American slow food movement, but I never did.
I never went to Diesel Bookstore, either, nor did I check out Market Hall or dine at Cactus. The Guitar Player’s instructions were exceedingly and lovingly specific, like she wanted to plant all her food memories in my body.
The Queer Baker met me outside Chez Panisse at the appointed time. When I admitted to my failure as a high-end foodie she shrugged goodnaturedly and said we should go take a peek anyway. It is the Vatican of all things local and sustainable after all. The staff was charming, genial, and the Arts and Crafts furnishings and decor felt restful and warm. “You all seem so happy,” I said, somewhat ironically, to the server. He smiled unironically, and said, “It’s the food.”
The Queer Baker and I had never met face-to-face. She has a food blog I admire for its loose sultry prose style. I like how she writes about baking, like it’s the most natural thing in the world to come home after a twelve-hour day in various kitchens and bake a cake, the way someone else might write in a journal or strum a guitar.
Turns out she’s generous and quirky just like her writing. Took me to The Cheese Board, a worker-owned collective of thirty people all making the same wage who sell an impressive variety of local and international cheeses. I got a lovely sheep’s milk cheese to go with the walnut bread i’d got at Farina, and this sustained me for several mornings.
The climax to the day’s food tour was a visit to an extraordinary ice cream parlour, Ici. They serve homemade ice cream, sorbet, candy, and cookies made with local organic ingredients and surprisingly cheap.
Co-owner Mary Canales spent nine years as pastry chef at Chez Panisse (I’m hoping this might mollify Guitar Player), and, popping into the kitchen (The Queer Baker knows her!) I found her to be as charming as her ice cream. I’m no ice cream fanatic but this stuff redefines the genre. I had apple spice sorbet in a handmade cone, but I also got to taste honey lavender and pink peppercorn. The chocolate ice cream sandwich with earl grey tea ice cream will, alas, have to wait for another visit.
I had a revelation that day. I’m no purist. I’ll never be one to sit alone in a fancy restaurant and carefully, seriously, assess the food. Being a foodie, for me, is about relationships: with friends; with other food bloggers; with queers who cook, and people who write; or who want to talk about writing;and have a deep need to discuss it, over delicious food.