BON VOYAGE, BON FROMAGE
BON VOYAGE, BON FROMAGE An homage
December 23, 2006
I love reading restaurant reviews, especially when they teeter on the brink of impossibly overblown philosophical musings and sexual double entendres, and I have been thinking lately that I’d like to write my own food reviews for this newsletter (and for practice, in case someone hires me as a restaurant reviewer. I totally need a job) and so I thought I’d start with my first, and hopefully not last, dinner at the Green Street Cafe. I am not sure when it is closing but I hear it may be soon. So it’s last call for the Green Street Cafe.
Anyway, Thursday evening I had dinner at the Green Street cafe as the lucky guest of Jeff Mack, who you might remember as the painter of the mural at Green Street Cafe and/or as local children’s book illustrator extraordinaire . Those of you who have met him will also attest to his refreshingly genuine and deliciously (this *is* an overblown food review) amiable nature.
I loved the idea of the mural call for proposals at GSC and promoted it extensively in this newsletter, which is how Jeff found it. What a beautiful and supremely dignified vehicle for the owners of GSC, facing closure due to the whole of Green Street being leveled to make a new engineering complex for Smith College, to call attention to a seemingly unfair and emotional situation which affects not just all the business owners on Green Street but the entire community as well. The folks at GSC graciously turned a bitter situation into a poignant farewell celebration to and for the community, as evidenced by the fabulous and endless array of food and wine offered up for free and with exquisite grace at the mural reception.
I see the mural as a larger than life letter of farewell and good tidings to their staff, patrons and neighbors.
Rather than depict the closing of GSC as a scandalous occurrence as, perhaps, the Théodore Géricault painting (pictured), “The Raft of the Medusa”, which caused great scandal in its time as some saw it as a scathing indictment of the French government’s lethargic and ineffectual attempts to save the shipwrecked passengers of the Medusa, Jeff Mack’s stunning mural depicts the owners and staff at a bittersweet “Last Supper” with plates scraped clean and scraps of baguette cast despondently aside on a forlornly linened table, littered with the remnants of a sumptuous, gastronomic series finale.
We started with a bottle of the Sipp Mack Pinot Blanc, Alsace, 2004. This is Jeff’s favorite wine and, since I know him to be a humble and balanced person, I am certain it was not a narcissistic, doppelgangerish, choice of self-serving wine. He did not for a minute gaze into his wineglass searching for a glimpse of himself as evidence of his existence. That was me, actually.
The wine was expertly decanted by our server Danielle and was exquisitely light and refreshing; a perfectly understated, fermented red carpet (though it was a white) for the rich and intense cuisine to follow, strutting past the endlessly popping flashbulbs of our gustatory anticipation.
We started the food journey with Salt Cod Fritters w/celeriac remoulade over greens (drizzled with the tears of a clown) and topped with cashews chopped with Sartrerian exuberance. (Sartre was a closet foodie, once writing in his diaries; “I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long”.)
Anyway, back to the Fritters, they were succulent, rich, and perfectly salty with a slightly crunchy exterior, as true french *gastronomie* will be, perfectly balanced with the greens and the view of the mural over Jeff’s head.
And then, a surprise! The chef sent out an unsolicited offering of braised pork belly balanced precariously atop a sweet potato pancake (as metaphor for the precarious nature of life) and red cabbage, artfully shredded as so many dashed hopes, in an odeful dance of joy to the persistence of epicurianism in time, in spite of looming *progress*.
We followed this with the Mussels Mariner, a swanky soiree of impossibly tiny diced carrots smacking of lofty ideals and divine truth, steaming mussels with shells outstretched in a hopeful, yearning plea to the universe, all while languishing idly in a garlic cream sauce. Six syllables; succulent and sublime.
Next, amid olfactory trumpetary announcement, arrived warm duck leg confit salad with red radicchio curls (spurring nostalgia for the 80’s and my fantastically permed, gravity-defying hair in those days, pictured) jauntily topped with a poetically jiggly, solitary poached egg, like so many heroes who have stood alone before it.
Escargot and potato pancake in parchment followed, with spunky snails happily exhibiting their glee at being freed from their parchment prison with outbursts of garlic-enhanced steam and herbal tra la las.
We finished the meal with coffee (strong and forthright, with perfectly chilled cream), vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce and a pot of chocolate. All providing a luscious after party to an extraordinary repast.
The ambiance is perfect simplicity, in balance with the perfect complexity of the cuisine. Wood floors, wood tables and chairs, soft lighting and simple decor. Simplicity done to perfection, as a Matisse-like dance in which the joy lies in the dance rather than the adornment of the dancers. I will miss the Green Street Cafe. My friend Maureen Scanlon absolutely adores it and she *knows*. I once said I’d pay $100 for her pesto. Thank you Green Street Cafe. Thank you Jeff Mack.
Pictured- The Raft of the Medusa
Théodore Géricault, 1818–1819
oil on canvas
491 × 717 cm, 193.3 × 282.3 inches
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Mural at Green Street cafe, Jeff Mack
Big Hair, circa 1990
DISCLAIMER–This is not an advertisement. My meal was paid for by Jeff Mack out of his stipend for creating the mural, and not by the Green Street Cafe. It is actually meant more as a thinly-veiled commentary on the cost of *progress* and the loss of one of the last few independently-owned restaurants in the community. And, at the end of the day, all the events I post here are *advertisements* for the artists and events covered.