Inspiration…PAZAZ Style!

Once I worked in a restaurant and someone on the staff photo-shopped me serving Jesus at the Last Supper. That rat bastard wasn’t far off.

The first time I was in a quality restaurant was when I was hired while still attending High School. I was fortunate enough to work as a bus boy (with no prior experience) at the Caprice restaurant in Tiburon, California. I remember to this day the smells of that restaurant as I first walked in to apply for that job. The garlic, butter, and fresh bread mixed in with a myriad of other (at that time) indiscernible scents was truly magical.

From that first scent I was hooked. Even though I went to Stanford North (Chico State) and graduated with a communication’s degree emphasis in broadcasting (it was either that or quantum physics) I could not forget the delight on the customers faces when they experienced the view, food, wine, and service all working together to create the end game… the “dinning experience”.

Through-out the years Nancy and I have dined at some wonderful places. From Somm’s Kitchen in Paso Robles, 71 Above in LA, to Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago, the magic of dining where the cuisine is enriched by service is such a rare combination to find. But when you step into that rarified space where the flavors, ambience, service, and beverage work in concert you know a memory has been created that will last a lifetime.

Somm’s Kitchen was one of those “Wow” meals where you have no idea what to expect. Of course the reviews were fantastic which gave us the impetus to try this unique restaurant. I say unique because you have no idea what the meal for that night will be. Open Thursday through Sunday for only 10 guests sitting at one curved granite counter (all served at the same time) each course 8-10 is served with a wine specifically paired to enhance the cuisine. You have to wait for a call back from the owner to let you know your reservation has been accepted. Plus, the owner/chef leaves the bottle poured for that course in front of you in case you’d like to pass out face down in your plate.

Typically the rule of thumb is, the higher you go in a hotel or really any building that houses a restaurant… the worse the cuisine. That was not true in this case at restaurant 71 Above. Everything from the amazing view to the cuisine was fantastic. The meal began with a steak tar tar split for two, then an organic arugula salad with a peach vinaigrette as a middle course, finishing up with a veal chop topped fresh morel mushrooms in a marsala sauce. This was the perfect ensemble of flavors to compliment a wonderful Rhone varietal (not on the wine list) chosen by a sommelier that I knew from the Aria in Las Vegas. Proving once again its a small world (but I’d hate to paint it).

Finally there was Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago which affords you the opportunity to dine in the lap of luxury located on Chicago’s famous “Magnificent Mile”. The palatial doors open into a tiered dining room that features comfortable booths and tables along the window. The highlight for us was the chef coming to our table to shave white truffles onto the handcrafted pasta he had just prepared. They comped over three hundred dollars worth of food and wine simply because of my affiliation with chef Jean George. Going that far out of their way to create something special is a rare gift that we appreciated so much.

In these times of gloom and doom it is sometimes helpful to reach into the past to remember that a bright future lies just on the other side.