A year ago almost to the day I wrote about our celebration of my mother’s 93rd birthday at New York’s great French restaurant La Grenouille. (A little over four years ago, I wrote about La Grenouille on the overlapping occasions of my parents’ celebrating their 68th anniversary there and the NYT offering a new review of it.)
Well, we ate there again, last weekend, on the occasion of my mother’s 94th birthday. Another wonderful meal.
The restaurant website appears to be in a state of transition. It’s not working now, or I’d link to the menu. Gail and I both started with Le Potage Saint Germain, or split green pea soup, which was sublime. The waiter brought croutons to dish into it. Maybe the best croutons I ever had. Joel had salmon tartare. For our main course, Gail and I both chose the onglet, or hanger steak, which was served with a light, pureed, mashed potato. Joel had calf’s liver. I was tempted to have the grilled Dover sole with mustard sauce, for which they are famous, but had it last year and decided to do something different. (Oh, I see now that last year I had the split pea soup. I had forgotten. But it’s so good. I’m glad I had it again.)
Shortly after ordering, before any food came, the waiter returned to ask if we wished to have any hot desserts: soufflés or apple tart. The soufflé choices were Grand Marnier, chocolate, and something else. Well, looking at last year’s post, I see that I wrote, “According to the menu, there are three options: Grand Marnier, Chocolat ou Citron ‘Meyer’. Other options offered were an apple tart and a tarte tatin.” I suppose the options last week were the same. Gail chose a chocolate soufflé, Joel the Grand Marnier, me the apple tart.
It doesn’t seem that I have much to add to what I wrote a year ago, when I concluded that “the meal was delicious, the service both warm and unobtrusive.” One difference: I wrote then that “I’ll be happy not to wait another 35 years before returning.” Happy indeed, after waiting just one year. And boy what good bread they have!
It’s been seven months since we lost our sweet Emma. Gail has insisted that once the remodel is done, we will bring home new residents. I found myself in no hurry.
But with the remodel showing no signs of ending, Gail’s patience had waned. When our friend Brooke mentioned on Tuesday that All The Best Pet Care on Lake City Way had two sisters up for adoption, Gail got it in her head that these were the cats destined to share our house with us.
Gail called first thing Wednesday morning, thinking that even though it was New Year’s Day, someone had to be there to feed the cats. Actually, one of the store staff—Jen—had been their foster mother for two months, taking them home each night. Thursday Gail called again, confirming that the girls were still available. She and Jessica showed up in the afternoon.
Friday, once I was done at work, we all (Gail, Jessica, Joel, and I) met there and spent 45 minutes with the cats in a special quiet room. They are 7 1/2 months old. Jen had named them Ruby and Rose. Until she came in to join us, they spent most of their time heading to the corners, but her presence calmed them. She told us that just a few days earlier, in discussing with Janice (the woman in charge of adoptions for the organization that had placed the cats with the store) what kind of family the cats needed, she posited that a professor would be a good match. And here I was, a professor. Providential for sure.
Yesterday morning, Janice called the house and interviewed Gail for half an hour. The key issues were, don’t declaw the cats, don’t let them outside, feed them wet food. Once we got past that, the question of how to manage the transition arose, the woman insisting that the cats be kept in a small enclosed space, preferably a bathroom, to start their adjustment. We agreed. A few hours later, we were at the store, ready to complete the adoption.
Food, litter, litter box, scoop, toys, treats. What else? Scratching board. A free throw-in: the bed they had been sleeping in. But the adoption fee had to be paid by cash or check. Oops. No one had mentioned that. We paid for the supplies, drove to an ATM, returned with cash, took the cats to the car, picked up a takeout dinner, and headed home.
Gail put the cats in the assigned bathroom. I brought our dinner in, she set up their dinner and litter. We ate, checked in on them, and found that they had eaten in parallel, devouring all their food. That was 26 hours ago. There’s little to report since then.
I can’t help thinking they’d prefer run of the house. There’s not much they can do in the bathroom. One of them made quick work of one of the toys, a stick with dangling feathers, tearing all the feathers off in short order. This morning, when Gail went in to spend time with them, they headed for the farthest corner, behind the toilet.
This afternoon, my futile attempt to provide company drove them into the litter box.
Better days await. If only our co-occupants shared our confidence in that.
My mother-in-law Bea died Friday afternoon. She had not been well for many months. Nonetheless, the decline at the end was rapid and unexpected, with word Tuesday that she was not eating and death 72 hours later. Gail called me at my office in mid-afternoon Friday to say she was going out to be with Bea. We agreed that I could wait until the end of the afternoon. I didn’t get there in time, and neither did Gail.
Bea did not have an easy life. In her final years, she was beset by Alzheimer’s and then a fall and broken hip from which she never regained mobility. Which is especially sad given how much she enjoyed getting around. She didn’t drive, but she was determinedly independent in her use of the Seattle bus system. I’ll never forget Thanksgiving dinner of 1986, when she went toe to toe with another experienced rider, a brilliant colleague of mine, and held her own in bus mastery.
At her first Alzheimer’s home, before the fall, she would frequently head out the door and around the fenced-in open air area surrounding the facility. The only problem was that it consisted of four identical spokes off a central reception area and she didn’t always return to the correct spoke. Right bedroom location, wrong wing. Oh well.
Bea was a fearless cook. We can put aside the question of how successful the results were, though I always seemed willing to eat them. She’d cook day and night (her eating schedule being a bit unpredictable), and no one could out-bake her. Some details might get overlooked, like shutting off the cooktop burners, but no matter. And anyway, thankfully, Jessica lived with her in the last years before she moved to the home, so someone was paying attention when those burners were left on.
No one spread the church news better than Bea. She’d call for Gail, I’d answer, and she’d plunge right in with the latest death, along with the scheduled service at the neighborhood funeral home, Wiggins. That I had no idea who she was talking about, that I knew no one at the church besides the family, that I didn’t go to the church (or any other) never mattered. Nor did I know Wiggins, but I eventually caught on to his identity.
It’s only fitting that she, too, is now passing through Wiggins. I would say I’ll miss her, but that Bea disappeared some time back. I’ve been missing her for years.
We were married 28 years ago today at the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. As I wrote last year, “we therefore make it a habit to return to the Olympic for our anniversary dinner. Not every year, but many, including this one. We eat in their Georgian Room, one of the most beautiful dining spaces in the city, and with excellent food too.” The Georgian Room is closed on Sundays and Mondays. That’s the main reason that we sometimes celebrate elsewhere. This year, we decided instead to stick with the Georgian Room but eat a day early, i.e., last night.
In reviewing last year’s post on our anniversary dinner, I see that this year wasn’t much different. Nearly the same menu; nearly the same choices. I’ll write about the meal anyway.
As has become my custom, I had called Topper’s, the excellent florist that resides in the basement level of the hotel, ahead of time to arrange for flowers to be delivered to our table. I had also called the restaurant to request one of the two-tops spread throughout the room that has a banquette on one side for side-by-side seating (and no chairs on the other side). I particularly like the table by the rear window toward the right that affords a view into the entire room, and I successfully explained to the host which table I meant. When we arrived last night, all was in place. We were led to the desired table, and a floral arrangement of modest size—so as not to overwhelm the space—was there.
We had decided before arriving that we would follow last year’s plan and start with glasses of Prosecco, to be followed later by a half-bottle of red. As we studied the menus, we ordered the Prosecco from our waiter. We’re especially fond of the Georgian Room’s long-time sommelier, an Austrian gentleman named Joseph, and were pleased that he came by to pour the Prosecco. This offered us the first of what would be many occasions to chat with him. (You can learn more about him here and click on the embedded links that take you to youtube videos featuring him.) His own anniversary is near ours, a fact we keep re-learning each year. He has two older stepsons and two teenage sons.
The menu presented us with some familiar choices. For instance, which salad to start with? The Young Spinach Salad with truffled quail egg, bacon lardons, and white balsamic, or the Olympic Caesar Salad with aged pecorino and toasted crouton? I asked the waiter’s advice and he said he loves both, but maybe I’d enjoy the Caesar more with the Prosecco. That decided it.
Looking back now at my post a year ago, I see that I went then with the spinach salad. And I see that Gail repeated last year’s order, described on the menu as Dungeness Crab Bisque, Tarragon Infused Mini Crab Cakes. The bowl comes with two stacked crab cakes and, above them, two pieces of crab meat, over which the soup is poured. The Caesar has a long, thin-sliced piece of pecorino, above which is an equally long lettuce wedge, with dressing and some shaved cheese pieces on top. And to the side is a long, thin, crisp “crouton”. No, it must have been served on top of the rest. I simply removed it first thing. Great presentation.
I enjoyed the salad. The dressing was applied lightly. Perhaps a little too light for me to appreciate how well it matched the Prosecco. And Gail enjoyed the soup.
On the entree choice, this is what I wrote last year:
For our main dishes, I was leaning toward the rack of lamb, but when Gail ordered it, I went for the T-bone steak. Hers was listed on the menu with four accompaniments. Each was prepared in a block about one-and-a-half inch square and maybe three-fourths of an inch high, the four squares laid out in the center of the plate to form a three-inch square with the lamb on top. It looked beautiful. One of the squares was a mashed pea concoction with tomato jam on top. I ate some of it at the end. It was sublime. Another was spinach, another lamb shank, and I don’t remember the fourth. Gail chose well.
This year was a near repeat. Perhaps I should have read last year’s post before we went. Once again, I was tempted by the lamb, totally forgetting last year’s experience, and once again, when Gail told me she planned to order it, I decided I would have steak instead. Here’s the menu description of the lamb: Roasted Rack of Lamb, Herbs of the Garden Crust, Quadrant of Flavors & Textures: Crushed Peas, Braised Shank, Spinach Gratin, Crispy Prosciutto-Whipped Potato. Once it came to the table, I knew I really wanted those peas. Oh well.
Last year’s T-bone came with three sauces—béarnaise, peppercorn, cabernet jus—each in its own small square plate. This year’s menu has in its place a Black Pepper-Crusted Bone-In Ribeye Steak, Bacon Whipped Potato, Roasted Bone Marrow, Truffle White Asparagus. The steak comes in a large metal plate with handles on left and right, as if straight from the oven, with asparagus below. Also on the plate is the potato, in a miniature metal pot about two inches in diameter, and the bone marrow, in a deep cup. I’ll confess that I didn’t eat much of the bone marrow. Everything else was superb.
Oh, the wine. Well, when you go with a half-bottle of red, your choices are constrained, and there’s not a lot of advice for Joseph to offer. In recent visits, we’ve chosen the Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Domaine Vieux Télégraphe. Not a novel choice, but we love it, so much so that we have several bottles in the basement waiting for suitable occasions. Also available was the Pirouette from Long Shadows, a Walla Walla winery whose wines we have been trying in recent months. The (sold out) current release is a 2009, a classic Bordeaux blend: 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec. We had never tried a Pirouette of any vintage, but do have a bottle of the 2009 downstairs, also awaiting a suitable meal. On the menu was a 2007. We conferred with Joseph, who agreed that it would be a good option, so we chose it. And we weren’t disappointed, though Gail did admit at the end of the meal that she might have preferred the Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
As with the rest of the meal, dessert presented another opportunity to do what we always do, which in this case means ordering the soufflés. (Can you blame us?) There is always a fixed option on the menu, black and white chocolate, and a nightly special, which last night was white chocolate and strawberry. Gail chose the classic black and white; I went with the special. And they were perfect. I couldn’t have been happier, except that mine didn’t look as cool as Gail’s, with its split down the middle into black and white halves.
We paid, had a farewell conversation with Joseph, asked our waiter for the box our flowers came in, had him pour some water out of the vase, carried the box and vase out, then had yet another conversation with Joseph, just outside the Georgian Room entry at the top of the lobby.
But wait. The amuse-bouche. I forgot about that. Back when Joseph was pouring our Prosecco, the amuse-bouche arrived. A custardy concoction with a poached cherry on top, served on a spoon as a single bite. My custard stuck to the spoon, so I didn’t quite get it all out as intended. Maybe it had sat too long.
No matter. It was a beautiful evening. Food, presentation, wine, service, flowers, setting, and most of all, Gail. Happy Anniversary.
Emma turned 17 six weeks ago. As I wrote at the time, “just getting up onto the bed is chore enough … but Emma remains determined to get around. … She’s a tough old gal.”
About a week ago, getting around became even more difficult. She was spending more and more time on her heated mat. Friday night, when I watched her head out the back door to the yard, her rear legs were noticeably stiffer than usual, and the next morning, she struggled to walk down the hall to her bowls.
Thus, it was with surprise—and delight—that I watched her work her way down the stairs later in the morning and head out the back door. At which point the mean Stellar’s jay started harassing her, flying from branch to branch and screaming at her. Emma retreated under some shrubbery and hung out there for a while, then emerged, at which point Gail carried her back into the house. I opened the front door and she hobbled right out. Soon she settled into a location where we don’t usually find her, under some more shrubbery, as shown above. (Look closely and you’ll see her eyes.) There she sat in the sun and relaxed.
We had some errands to run, so we left her there, where she was a half hour later on our return, and another twenty minutes after that. Then she came in and worked her way upstairs to her mat. In late afternoon, she came down again and headed out back. There was still life in her.
The thing is, she wasn’t eating much, and on Sunday she ate nothing at all. Nor did she get off her mat. Yesterday morning, I went upstairs at one point and was surprised that she wasn’t on the mat. Gail and I searched the entire house. Then Gail went out the back door and the jay’s clicking sound was in evidence, suggesting that Emma was out there somewhere. We looked under the shrubs again, but this time she was hiding in full view on the patio, sunning herself.
Yet, she wasn’t eating, and walking was hard, so Gail made an appointment with the vet for this afternoon. I had some meetings I couldn’t re-schedule, meaning Gail had to bring Emma on her own.
Emma weighed in at 4 1/2 pounds. The kidney disease we were warned about in its early stages two Decembers ago and in a more advanced stage last December had taken its toll. I got to the vet around 5:00, an hour and a half ago. Gail and Jessica were with Emma. We spent some time saying goodbye. As I petted her, she licked my wrist and made some noises. Still engaged in life, though no longer up to living it.
And now our dear, sweet, beautiful cat is gone. We miss you so much, Emma.
A month ago, I wrote about Emma’s seventeenth birthday. I thought at the time that she had retired from active duty. But with warmer weather and longer days, she’s been resuming some of her outdoor ways, including a return to sentinel duty this afternoon outside the front door. She had been keeping a keen eye on passersby until I appeared in the doorway to take the photo above.
A few evenings ago, she performed similar duty at her more familiar post in the backyard. Thanks, Emma. Good to have you back.