So here’s the problem with book tour. You do a dinner, and the restaurant cooks a spectacular meal. In San Anselmo, that meal was at Insalata’s. It looked really great, and the 130 guests were really happy. And why not, when each table had it’s own individual version of The Cake That Cures Everything? But I did not eat a bite; I was too busy walking around the room, meeting people, signing books. It was a great party – but I left hungry.
My friends Hiro and Lissa came riding to the rescue. “Come join us at Wako,” they said. “It’s our favorite sushi bar.” I instantly saw why; the first course, pictured above, arrived,a picture-perfect array of delightful little bites. Each was different, each was fascinating, and each served to sharpen your appetite.
It was followed by shiokara, one of my all-time favorite dishes.
This is one of those serious sushi dishes that you often get in Japan. It’s rarer in the States, reserved for customers the sushi master thinks can be counted on to enjoy it. Little strips of squid are laboriously cured in their own guts. The result is a textural delight – crisp and slippery at the same time – with a pungent flavor that practically demands a sip of sake. If someone offers you a chance to taste it, don’t pass it up.
We went on to this limpid and lovely soup, followed by an array of fantastic sushi, served one elegant piece at a time. We ended with matsutake in a little iron pot – it’s almost ubiquitous in fine sushi bars at this time of year – and finally this elegant take on tamago, the traditional omelet lightly stuffed to make it even more delicious.
I learned, yesterday, that Wako has just been awarded a Michelin star. I don’t always think the Tire Company gets it right, but in this case they certainly did. For traditionalists, Wako offers a truly memorable sushi experience.
Still on book tour, but I did get one night home. Much needed, to do some laundry, iron my sadly wrinkled clothes, change from summer to fall. And also, to have one meal with my family.
We went to Sushi Zen, for a big splurgy dinner. The meal ended with the classic matsutake broth, above. But the real highlight was this sashimi opener featuring, among other delights, octopus, Hokkaido uni, yellowtail tuna, ankimo and Spanish mackerel. Really special.
I’m living in a whirlwind, different city every day, endless airports…. It’s the modern media experience known as booktour. This one had been both exhilarating and exhausting, and I apologize for not posting more frequently.
At the moment I’m in Portland – and about to dash off to do a reading at Powell’s. But I’ve finally got five spare minutes, so I thought I’d try to note a few of the highlights of the past few weeks. Best moment? No contest, it’s the tattoo above, on the leg of a fan who came to see me at Book Larder.
Other Seattle highlights: The geoduck, above, at Taylor’s seafood. Both neck and belly – and always a treat.
The spectacularly delicious roasted tomato soup with crisped bread and poached eggs at Stoneburner. I don’t understand why this understated, market-driven restaurant, beloved in Seattle, does not have more of a national profile. When I ran into members of the James Beard restaurant committee, which happened to be meeting in Seattle and staying in my hotel (The Alexis), not one of them mentioned Stoneburner as a must-go-to place. And in my opinion, it is.
And then, the truly wonderful dinner Renee Erickson made to celebrate my book at The Walrus and the Carpenter. I was too busy chatting up the guests to take a single picture, but it’s one of my favorite restaurants anywhere.
Portland highlights? Dinner at Coquine – where we had one of the most fragrant and subtle soups I’ve ever experienced. Really. Its haunting flavor drifted through my dreams last night.
The main theme was matsutake (they’re everywhere in the Northwest at the moment), with pear – a brilliant combination. Just the right note of sweet crunch. But what made this memorable were little pearls of finger lime, adding tiny, tantalizing citric pops with each spoonful of soup. Music in the mouth.