look! there it is! ooh … 3×3 animal style. oh yes, YES. or I’ll just save calories and go for the Flying Dutchman. or both, one for later. maybe fries too. oh my god yes. yes! let’s just use the drive-thru, I don’t want to get up…
55 minutes later in the parking lot : F*%# YEAH! i’ve been waiting for this, oh my god, oh-mmm…
3 minutes later: aww man, that was good. i wish it wasn’t over. maybe I’ll have just one more…
2 hours later: oh S%#* F*%# me, why did i do it? why, oh god why… i wish i was dead.
The way we eat is often like watching two lions mate. It’s instantly amusing and you need to stop to watch. Then, it’s over before you (or her) have even had a chance to get excited and realize what just happened. What’s worse is the Catholic guilt that settles in later, as you writhe in pain and wish it had never even happened. Hell, you can’t even remember why you wanted it in the first place.
Fast food has turned eating into something worse than padding your account at the local sperm bank. Where’s the excitement, the lust, the hunger to really enjoy food? Most of the time we eat alone against the backdrop of our offices, ours cars, at a desk in front of our computers. We eat just to get it done. While this is sometimes due to necessity and time, I ask, where the hell is the foreplay?!
Well, we decided to get the night started off right at Meze Wine Cafe & Market in San Luis Obispo. The idea is to create a full sensory experience by creating a menu of small plates that serve “to complement and enhance the taste of the drink and to provide the backdrop for a social gathering.”
How can you not love a place with salamis hanging from the ceiling?
One portion of the menu is zoned “Cheese+Charcuterie.” We chose France – NOT because we’re snobs – no obviously because:
Truffle mousse paté – silky, indulgent and sublime spread like butter on toast.
Black pepper country paté – meaty and coarse, laden with spicy dijon and cornichon condiments.
Chaubier – a tome style goat/cow cheese semi-firm nutty and smooth.
Explorateur – a sensuous triple cream drizzled with honey and fennel pollen.
The combination of rough and silky textures; the flavors from sweet and sensuous to salty and tangy; the interplay of tasting partnerships. All this created a dish that was playful, seductive and always new.
After overindulging in fats and fighting my husband off for the last few scrapes, the quinoa arrived to mediate. The impressive panoply of finely diced apricots, parsley, green onions, peppers and almonds partnered with the quinoa to create a flavor party in our mouths. Although I tried to recreate at home, my knife skills in no way matched Chef Michael Reyes, and the texture was an integral component of this dish.
Meze's food mentor: Chef Michael Reyes
Next, Jason brought out the Raclette which teased us at our table while we waited for our “utensils.” This stinky French cheese sat intoxicating our senses, and I was suddenly drooling all over again.
The traditional accompaniments (or utensils) of boiled matchstick potatoes and cornichons were served along with chorizo and toast.
This was food foreplay at it’s best: scraping, and drizzling the cheese onto our “spoons” or into our mouths was some of the most fun I’ve had playing with food in a restaurant.
I have now ordered my own Raclette grill because I cannot wait to do this at home (you can also pick one up in their market after dinner).
What could be a better palate cleanser after a pound of cheese?
Sweet melon from that morning’s farmers market and salty prosciutto di Parma all drizzled with evoo. It was the perfect palate cleanser and should have been our dessert. Instead, the glutton inside us took hold, and we were forced over the edge by Jason who asked “Do you guys want to dive into a bread pudding next?” Seriously, who knew a simple question could be so deadly?
Yes, you are right. It really was really dripping with caramel. The bread really was soaked in bourbon. Oh, but it was filled with cherries to ensure my immune system was healthy enough to engage in this activity.
Meze: Part II
So because we actually didn’t order everything on the menu as you may have thought, we went back the next day for lunch to finish the job.
I was in the mood for bubbles and salt. So I started with a half bottle of the Gruet Brut Sparkling Rose that I found in their market. Meze has an incredible selection of both international and domestic wines that can be purchased at retail pricing with only an $8 service fee. Oh, and for those of you who throw up your hands at a “corkage”: get over it or stay home! Seriously.
The owners, Kari and Jason, have worked hard to create a casual environment focused entirely on the quality and flavors of both the food and wine they serve. The kitchen is the heart and literally the center of the restaurant, surrounded on one side by their pantry and on the other by their patrons. It’s a place you could visit every day and continue to be inspired by new culinary ideas.
Our gracious hosts: Kari and Jason
This time we ordered a meze of Marcona almonds with Idiazabel cheese served with a glass of amontillado sherry.
Although simple, it was the perfect pairing of flavors and a valuable lesson in learning to appreciate sherry. The sherry itself is slightly sweet and oxidized which gives it a nutty flavor, yet the alcohol is also quite apparent making it somewhat of a turnoff if you’re a wuss like me. Oh, but when it’s tasted with the salty almonds, the alcohol nearly disappears. Then, when tasted with the cheese, it becomes sweeter and the consistency almost oily. Finally when tasted all together, it’s a beautiful posse of sweet, silky and salty flavors and textures.
Next, we munched on crostinis of manchgo, salsa verde and chorizo.
The manchego and salsa verde had been whipped together so that it formed little pillows for the tasty slices of cured chorizo. Did I mention this was the best chorizo of my life? Soft, chewy and salty like a thick slice of salami, but with higher meat to fat ratios and more density. Oh, and the cheese was so silky and salty it had to be licked.
The chorizo and cheese was followed by the panzanella salad with fresh mozzarella and housemade ricotta – because I hadn’t had enough cheese yet.
As Chef Michael prepared the panzanella, and as Jeremy dutifully snapped away at his camera, I continued on to eat both shares of the cheese and chorizo. One of the best things about being married to a photographer (other than perfect head shots for FB) is that I am often left alone with the food – like a married woman being forced into an empty room with Daniel Craig. What else could I possibly do but eat?
Amazing. Yes, that is the best word to describe it. The bread was crunchy, but soft. The tomatoes were ripe and tangy. The corn was smoky and sweet. The ingredients were thoughtfully diced. The flavors were well married, but the dish allowed for the expression of each individual flavor so that every single bite was new.
Finally, we had to try at least one sandwich and decided on the grilled prosciutto di Parma, 60% cream brie, and harvest song sour cherry jam.
What could be better than crusty bread, prosciutto, buttery cheese and sour cherry jam? Blatant, unapologetic, pure comfort food.
Economics teaches us that utility, or the amount of happiness a person gets from consuming a product, decreases with each and every bite a person takes of the same product. Simply speaking, the last bite of your burger is never as good as your first bite. So why then do we choose to supersize everything when we’re only getting more of the same? The idea behind Meze is to tease your palate. To keep it excited and always craving more. With each bite, comes new flavors, new textures, and new food discoveries. It’s re-teaching us how to eat and why we love food.
Personally though, I just couldn’t get enough of one thing…
Chorizo! and I'm eating it with goat cheese right now.