Saturday was by far the most stressful night of the week. The Prix Fixe menu was repetitive for the hot side (the station I had trained for) as we only had to prepare the Poblano Chile, but was an absolute train wreck for the cold side. While this station prepared solely the Garden Salad, it was responsible for plating each and every dessert. And because of this special Saturday night menu, each person's meal includes a dessert. The person working on the station was incapable of working with efficiency and organization, and I was responsible to assist him in scooping each sphere of ice cream, carefully moving each piece of cake to a clean plate, then drizzling each sauce on the correct plate. While desserts may seem innocently sweet, they have a dark side in the restaurant. We have to prioritize first courses, but not let desserts get too far ahead of us. Anyway, Saturday was torturous. And I came in the following day hoping for a more peaceful night, which I thankfully was able to receive. I stayed up far too late that evening, talking to Mason. He and I are now seeing each other, and I visited the next day, waking up at 5:00 AM to catch the Greyhound to Truckee, where Mason lives in a house with three other [crazy but hilarious] boys. After 5-and-a-half hours, sitting in the leather seats of the bus, listening to a man snoring loudly, I arrived in downtown Truckee. I blushed as Mason gave me a dozen fragrant pink roses, my first bouquet from a boy. Small-town restaurants, including the Bar of America (the one with the crappy pizza dough), Mexican joints, a famous diner (Jax at the Tracks), and a few expensive places filled the streets with plenty of people roaming around enjoying the sunshine. I realized then how much I missed the bright blue skies and warmth of the towns of California, rather than the smog, fog, loud cars, and tall buildings I was experiencing in San Francisco. I love it in this city, but I cannot see myself living here forever: I could never be one of the many elderly people sitting on the red plastic seats of the lurching busses. City life is just not maintainable for someone like me: one who values nature just as much as culture. A mixture of the two is my goal for the future. My ultimate dream is to live in the lavender fields of Provence amongst gorgeous food from the marché and levain from the boulangerie which I would pick up every day and cook for my family. But, this wishful yearning would be far into the future, like the Provençal vines that need time to hone before transforming into wine.
We went to his house and there I met Dave, Mason's best friend. He, being a very talented cook and all around intellect was incredibly interesting to talk to. He shared with me his French Laundry and Bouchon cookbooks and their shiny pages, then speaking of Thomas Keller's innate OCD. Mason and I left and stopped at Safeway for some of GT's Synergy Kombucha (one of the many things I became addicted to at the Hunger Mountain CO-OP in Vermont). Following that, we visited Reno to pick up some much needed pepper spray; those crazy people scare me so much when I walk home after work, when the homeless and deranged roam the streets searching the trash for food and hunting strangers for a feel-up. Cabela's was like a department store for those who, instead of preying on people, hunt for game. Not only did they sell guns, they sold homemade fudge and roasted cinnamon-sugar-coated almonds! It was a very...interesting experience. The stuffed exotic creatures for the jungle prompted my eyes to water, and I was reminded again why I have chosen to be vegetarian. Later that night, we went to the Drunken Monkey for dinner, where we shared an avocado and cucumber maki roll (Mason was nice enough to order something vegetarian). He had the shallot chili chicken in which the chicken and vegetables were sautéed in a roasted shallot and chili sauce. I chose the singapore street noodles; rice noodles cooked in a broth of cumin, turmeric, and basil. The pungent spices sang in my mouth and each time I cleaned my palate with water, I felt as if it was a new experience all over again. My expectations of the dish, although different than what I had thought, were triumphed. My tastebuds crave another visit.
The next day, Mason and I woke up at about 5:30 AM. We both were just so adamant on spending the maximum amount of time with one another, so off we went by 8:00 to enjoy more of Truckee's offerings. Mason took me to Kings Beach later that day; the soft rays of the afternoon sun hit our skin with the sweetest touch. We took pictures as I dipped my feet into the shallow cool waters of Lake Tahoe, so fresh and clear. We were hungry and went to the restaurant Mason's friend works at called Old 40. Trent is the head chef there and creates refined diner food. I ordered the Fakie Scramble. The name suggested something…well, fake. But the tofu it was cooked with was far from the flavorless soy product we have all come to know and hate. It was spiced and seasoned, then cooked with vegan sausage, and served with sourdough and fruit. And this fruit was not soft and coated in syrup, as many diner "fruit cups" are served; it was bright and fresh and naturally sweet. Mason had the "special." I can't recall exactly what it was, but I do remember that it was smothered in a creamy hollandaise and served with the crispiest hash browns I have ever seen. Well done, Trent. He and his girlfriend, Melissa, invited us to go fishing with them after Trent's shift ended. We happily agreed and proceeded to Donner Lake. I immediately jumped in the water, just as refreshing as it had been the first time I went to Lake Tahoe. Melissa caught a Rainbow Trout and I held it in my hand, following her directions to squeeze in order to stop the fish from slapping around. Like Lenny in Of Mice and Men, I squeezed too hard, feeling a bone snap, and crushed the poor fish! We tried to rehabilitate it, but failed as it floated to the surface of the water. Mason cut it and used it as crawfish bait, which we were catching for dinner: gumbo. We left and I ventured into peeling crawfish, which are surprisingly similar to lobsters, much to my surprise. Trent made a roux, which he darkened for the quintessential toasty flavor that always accompanies gumbo. He added shrimp and lots of spices, then we cooked rice to go with it. Although I didn't eat the gumbo, the smell rising from it was enough to fill me. And the rice was cooked well and was buttery, satisfying my moaning stomach. We went to bed late that night, despite our needing to leave by 6:00 AM for my Greyhound home (very bizarre to call San Francisco my home).
We said goodbye again and again, until finally, it was time for me to leave, and I continued on my six hour trip back to the city. And as soon as I left, I booked another ticket for the next week, so eager to go back to this magical place.