Monday, September 25, 2006

The Ghet Gets Vegetarian

Last night's Ghetto Gourmet at the top-secret location in North Berkeley took place outdoors under the stars and the icicle lights in the back garden of two lovely folks who'd attended a few dinners and hosted one this summer (which was recorded for NPR).

The menu, which was entirely vegetarian (and nearly vegan) was full-fledged late-summer/fall bounty. A hot and cold salad of confit tomatoes, little sea plants, and chrysanthemum fronds led the way to a minestrone-like soup with all of the vegetables distinctly flavored and textured. It's so easy to turn vegetable soup into a hearty mush (which I always seem to do), that the cranberry beans and patty-pan squash pieces floating in an herbed broth, seemed like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And normally I don't even like cranberry beans because it seems like they're on everyone's menu this time of year.

The main course was a butternut-squash lasagna, with thinly-sliced layers of the squash itself acting as noodles interspersed with black and white chanterelle mushrooms, white corn, and parmesan. The lasagna sat atop a puddle of red sauce and was adorned with arugula and more crispy parmesan. Dessert was little chocolate cakes with homemade caramel ice cream and crispy little pieces of vanilla bean.

The Ghetto Gourmet is a BYOB type event, so the communal tables (there were 30 guests in attendance) were filled with pens and wine-openers, all the better to take down names, doodle in gastronomic frenzy on the menus, and open bottles. Musical entertainment was provided by Jeremy's roommate on classical guitar, and some hippie chick from the East Coast wailing about the Mother Earth. Mostly I couldn't take my eyes off of her glittery, tasseled, white Sherpa boots, and the boxer dog who lived there put in a decent effort at hooking up with them a couple of times through the night.


Although it was a Sunday night, I should have known this wouldn't stop the roving band of bohemian culinary outlaws who'd just returned from a weekend spent 24/7 drinking Macallan 12-year scotch with Gore Vidal. The boys hadn't slept much and were loopy from a weekend of amazing conversation, food, and company (I knew I should have pressed them to let me be their waitress-in-residence!), so of course I took them out. We met up with Matt Dillon from Sitka and Spruce, who was in town from Seattle trying to get away from the pressures of being the town's most recent four-star chef (and on GQ Magazine's Top 5 Hot List for restaurants this fall), at the 500 club for a few and then moved on to the Lucky 13 until closing time. Fueled by cigarettes, adrenaline, and skyy citrus vodka, we headed over to Baker Beach (which took me 40 minutes to find from Market Street as I never drive in the city) so that the photographers could jump into the ocean while I did headstands on the beach (a yoga instructor told me last week that inverting myself for a minute every day would combat the stresses of waitressing all night. She was right!)

I woke up this morning feeling strangely refreshed after my second night of bohemian debauching in four days, and realized that my theory must be true: it doesn't count as being a lush if you're in the company of other artists. I'm like Kerouac, baby!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been dying to go to one of these dinners! Thanks for the photos and inside scoop. Here's the thing, though: I'm on the e-mail list, and it never seems like there are any vegetarian dinner nights. Will that ever be a possibility??