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Cyrus Restaurant

The last dinner of our trip was at Cyrus Restaurant, in Les Mars Hotel. We went down a few minutes before our 6:30 reservation so that we could enjoy a final wine tasting in Les Mars’ library with Ron.

Ron in Les Mars' Library

Les Mars wine expert Ron in the hotel library

In the library with Ron was the gentleman from Baton Rouge with whom we talked the evening before, plus another older couple. They were talking about their wonderful visit to Lambert Bridge Winery in the Dry Creek Valley. We intended to stop there on Saturday, when we explored Dry Creek, but it was closed for the day for a special event. Our hotel mates had spent some time earlier in the day with Lambert Bridge’s owner, and they and Ron were talking about him. It turns out that he is on the board of some organization for old-time baseball players. He had told the hotel mates, during their winery visit, about his helping of a down-and-out third baseman of the 50’s and 60’s, whom he did not identify specifically. We started speculating on who it might be. I mentioned the Boyer brothers, and Gil McDougald. This led our Baton Rouge friend to reminisce at some length about Herb Score, the great young Cleveland Indian pitcher of the 50’s whose career was curtailed by the eye injury he suffered on a line drive hit by McDougald. (You can read about this in many places, but you might start with the post last summer by the fine sportswriter and Cleveland native Joe Posnanski at his blog.)

Our Baton Rouge friend grew up a Cleveland Indian fan. He spoke about putting some antenna rig together in Louisiana with his father to pull in games from Cleveland. And he described waking up one 1957 morning to read about what Score did the night before, only to learn of Score’s injury. But soon he was talking about Bob Feller, one of the ten or fifteen greatest pitchers of the twentieth century. We needed to be going across the hall to Cyrus, but there was no stopping him and we didn’t want to be rude. He reviewed the 1954 World Series, which the Indians lost to the Giants in four straight (after winning an amazing 111 games in the regular season). It’s best known for Willie Mays’ great catch in deep center of Vic Wertz’s shot, but this story was about Feller, who was at the tail end of his career, and was the fourth starter, but after the Indians were down 3-0, the manager, Al Lopez, decided to go back to game one starter Bob Lemon rather than letting Feller pitch. Our friend’s father decided on that day to stop following the Indians.

The story jumps to 1997. The Indians are facing the Marlins in the World Series. The Indians win the first two in Miami. Our friend tells his wife that whatever it takes, we’re going to Cleveland for game three. She shows no interest. But he makes all the arrangements — tickets, flights, ride to Jacobs Field. The timing is tight. They race straight to the field, haven’t eaten all day, sit in club seats, and a tuxedo-ed young man appears to ask what they would like to eat for dinner. Are these great seats or what? But wait. The ceremonial first pitch is to be thrown, and out comes Bob Feller. Bob Feller! Our friend is in tears. It’s too much.

Jump ahead yet again, to 2004 perhaps, which finds our friend and his wife at Indians spring training in Florida. It’s hot. Way hot. The wife is sitting high up. He’s down in the first row. His wife calls to him. It’s Bob Feller, in uniform, on the field. He can’t believe it. And then, later, he feels a tap on his shoulder, looks up, and Bob has come to talk to him. Rapid Robert himself.

At Ron’s invitation, we tried to leave in mid-story, but our friend wouldn’t let us. This time we had to. We said our goodbyes, crossed the hall, and entered Cyrus.

Cyrus Restaurant, Healdsburg

Cyrus Restaurant, Healdsburg

The hostess takes us to a two-top near the front of the restaurant, right up against a wait station. The room is fairly full. I don’t ask if we can be moved. But after 15 minutes, the action at the station is so frequent and intrusive that I get someone’s attention and ask. He checks with the hostess, offers a two-top right at the entry to the dining room and another farther back. We take one farther back. I’m glad I asked, because the meal was to be so incredible, and if we had stayed by the station, it would have been a continuing distraction. Part of the problem is that there are so many courses with the meal, each with a new set of utensils, so the wait staff is constantly going to the station to take out new silverware.

Here’s how Cyrus works. One can choose an eight-course chef’s tasting meal. As our captain explained to us (at our initial table), this consists of six savory courses, a cheese course, and a two-part dessert course. Or one can choose any number of courses from those listed on the menu. Prices are given for three-, four-, or five-course meals, with the option of adding more courses for an additional fee per course. Anything goes — one can choose courses that seem more like appetizers, or entrees, or cheese, or dessert, but all courses have equal weight. The captain made her initial appearance with a three-level tray on which were five pairs of small tasting items, canapes, corresponding to the five types of taste — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umami. She told us what each was, urged us to start right away, and described the menu options, as above, while we ate. The five tasting items were wonderful. Umami was some sort of mushroom broth. Bitter was a beer bubble. Sweet was a half grape filled with grape things of some sort. Salty was some tiny soft pretzel (like 3/8 of an inch long) with lavendar something on top. And sour was a piece of seared tuna with something on top. I can’t remember.

It was after eating this that we moved tables. At the new table, with a new captain, we made our selection of four courses. Right after that, an amuse bouche was served, some sort of gazpacho jelly with tiny apple and tomato pieces on the side. There would be several interludes and a postlude, but I’ll probably not remember them all.

For a first course, we both chose the Tasting of Fall Beans. Gail’s initial reaction as we reviewed the menu was that this was pedestrian, but I wanted to try it, so when we reviewed the menu with the captain as we ordered, he described it in detail, from which we could see that it was anything but pedestrian. Words will fail me here. There were a few green beans on a basil sauce, a pesto, that was out of this world. Fresh garbanzo beans on a tiny spread of hummus. Wax beans on something, I don’t remember, but they were the best wax beans I’ve ever eaten in my life.

For second course, I chose the Dover Sole with Sweet Corn and Tomato Fondue, Lemon Verbena Nage. Gosh it was good. The sole was on the corn thing, which was like the most heavenly corn chowder imaginable. Gail had The Cyrus “BLT”. Where to begin? The waiter had described this in detail in reviewing the menu, and warned us that it was rich. Well, the B was pork belly, along with a beautiful pancetta slice. The T was a local heirloom tomato. The L I have forgotten. I didn’t try it. But it was gorgeous.

Perhaps the next interlude was after this. One of the waitstaff appeared with a tray holding two sticks, like lollipop sticks, upright, and at the top of each was what looked like a gumball or a dot candy jelly. She had to convince us to take the sticks while she stood there and eat the little candy-like item. We must have been staring confusedly for a couple of seconds. What it was was actually a little canteloupe ice, with some other flavor as well. Exquisite.

Third course already. I had the Lamb Loin with Cranberry Beans and Cippolini Onion, Van Santo Sauce. Gail had the Crispy Poussin with Roasted Corn Stuffing and Nardello Peppers. Again, we didn’t share. She loved hers. I loved mine. There were so many flavors that to share would have overloaded us. Each and every little bit was perfect.

This must have been when we got the next interlude. The interlude waitress returned with two tiny glasses, each of which had a bit of nectarine concoction at the bottom and a metal straw. She also had a classic soda bottle, from which she squirted soda into the glasses to mix with the nectarine. We drank. Nectar indeed.

For course four, we both chose dessert. But there are three dessert options, listed only by theme — a chocolate theme, a tart and tangy theme, and something else. When we were ordering, the captain said we could choose a theme and be surprised, or ask what each theme consisted of and spoil the surprise. I might have been willing to be surprised, but he seemed to misunderstand our intentions, based on our attempt to ask questions without revealing details, so we got the details. But even so, the details did not properly convey what came, so we were properly surprised.

I chose the tart and tangy theme, which yielded Pomegranate and Pear Baked Alaska and Lemon Almond Custard. Gail had the chocolate theme, yielding Chocolate Ganache Bar, Milk Chocolate Sorbet, Raspberry Tuile. When I saw the two plates, I was convinced I had erred, but the moment I tasted the baked alaska, I was thrilled. The dessert was stupendous.

Finally, the Mignardises. One of the waitstaff rolled a tray over and put a selection of tiny bite-sized (or really smaller than bite-sized) mini-desserts on a plate for us to share. Sugar cookies about half an inch in diameter. (He put on one. I suggested two.) Chocolates. Some candies wrapped in foil, such as a home-made tootsie roll. Maybe 14 items in all. At the same time, he gave us each a box to take home with another goodie. (It turned out to be a brownie, wrapped in plastic with the printed message “Tomorrow??”)

The last item we were given before the bill was an envelope with our personalized menu. It’s about the size of a greeting card, with the restaurant and address on the front. The inner left page has the date and says The Irving Party Dinner. It also lists the wines we drank. (I haven’t mentioned these. We had so much wine at this point in the trip that we weren’t up for more than single glasses. We had a Russian River Valley Syrah from Dutton Goldfield “Cherry Ridge Vineyard.”) On the right is the list of all our courses, which I have been making use of above. The interludes aren’t listed.

Well, that’s it. We’ve never eaten a better meal in a restaurant. We sure wish it were closer.

Categories: Food, Travel
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