Beautiful Experiences and Wonderful Places, PAZAZ™ Style

Have you ever had a moment that you wished could be frozen in time? Have you had a place, an experience, or a single occasion that you go back to when you want to smile?

Of course for most it might be the birth of a child, a marriage (or divorce), or an escape to a place that checks all the collective sensory boxes. Today, in this blog I will focus on a place, a wine, a meal that speaks to an internal conversation that ultimately creates a wave (for me) of endorphins whisking me off to a wonderful place where there’s no space in time.

To create this envelope of satisfaction and pleasure you must be able to dream. The dream can be an experience you’ve had or one you can imagine. I will give you several examples that reflect all the above.

When I was in high school I worked at the Caprice restaurant in Tiburon, California. It still exists today and can be found next to “Elephant Rock” across from Angel Island with views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Belvedere, and of course, Tiburon.

The hidden gem in this restaurant lies below the main dinning room and consists of a fireplace (carved out of the California coastline), portholes from the USS Texas, and a bar and wine cellar. The ceiling is covered with treasured old French wooden case boxes dating back to the 1950’s. But the real “Wow” is the fact that the wine cellar is chilled when the waves from San Francisco Bay come crashing underneath the restaurant to perfectly chill the wines in the cellar.

The owner felt it necessary to educate all employees in fine wine and port. On this particular occasion he pulled out of storage (beneath the seat cushions that provided seating around the portholes) a bottle of 1945 Quinta do Noval port wine. I didn’t know it at the time but that vintage was one of the top five of the 20th century. I remember as I tasted it (one of my first experiences tasting fine wine) the flavors of chocolate, spice, dark cherry, a gentle herbaceous-ness and a whisper of mint with a long elegant finish.

This single experience provided me with the impetus to learn and study fine wines, Ports, Madeiras, and my single favorite Burgundian pinot noir. It seems to me, that looking back, there could not possibly be any finer example of a wine and environment for launching my career in the food and beverage business.

The meal I will never forget took place (of all places) in Gualala California in Mendocino County. This amazing moment was captured at an inn called, St. Orres. The restaurant attached to this beautiful inn is designed like a Russian Mosque. A forty foot vaulted ceiling with stained glass and a view of their gardens is the perfect place to unveil a spectacular meal.

This meal was highlighted by the entree which was eloquently described by a passionate server. I asked the server,”Why should I order the lamb you tout as being the best in the world?” His reply, I will never forget…” The lamb is grass fed from organic grass on land that is the same longitude and latitude as Provence in France. This lamb is a breed called Cheviot which provides the most succulent and flavorful lamb in the world. Because of the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean the lamb is weathered to provide a mouthwatering aroma and a sumptuous consistency. Sir, this will be the best preparation of the most perfect lamb you have ever tasted.”

Roasted to perfection in its own juice with fresh rosemary and thyme from their garden the display on custom plates to accentuate the dish also consisted of roasted organic potatoes, sauteed beets and beet stalk’s to give the plate a sense of elevation.

The place I’ll never forget is when I lived in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York. I lived in Alexandria Bay on the border of New York and Canada. I was the food and beverage manager at Bonnie Castle Resort and my room looked out to an island shaped like a heart that had a castle on it. The castle was built at the turn of the 20th century by George C. Boldt to reflect his love for his wife which is why he shaped the island like a heart.

I lived in a castle looking out to a castle in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York. I would upon many occasions marvel at the beauty that surrounded me and thank God how blessed I was to live in that experience.

Enjoy your experiences to draw upon during these troubling times to remember the beautiful memories that transcend any place where there’s no space in time.