Napa Valley, Mid-Eighties

December 27, 2018

Looking for wrapping paper the other day, I came upon a small trove of old menus from St. Helena, when it was a quieter place than it is today.

The original French Laundry, under Don and Sally Schmitt, was a lovely, simple place much beloved by local winemakers. (Don was also the town mayor.) They had the best wine list: everyone around them was deeply represented.  And they served wonderful California food.

Mustard’s was another beloved local establishment.  Cindy Pawlcyn had her finger on the food pulse; she once called her place a “deluxe truckstop.” And unlike most of the old places in the Valley, Mustard’s is still going strong, still pleasing people.

Miramonte was more representative of what the tourists wanted…

And then there was Doidge’s.

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  • Hans says:

    This is a long shot, but I’m going to try…
    My mom was a huge admirer of your words and dishes, calling you “Ruthy” around our house for many, many years. My mom died suddenly of ovarian cancer last week. At her memorial, I would love to read a short passage of yours. Somehow, many of her cookbooks were given away, so I can’t just dip into one of your books, which she marked up with notes. If by chance you read this within the next two weeks, would you be willing and able to suggest a specific passage of yours that touches on the healing power of food or just on the joy of sharing meals and treasured dishes together? SUCH and odd request to post as a comment….sorry! Thank you for considering.

    • admin says:

      Hans, I’m so sorry for your loss. And very touched and honored by your request. I’ll go through my books and come up with a few passages I hope your mom would have liked.

  • admin says:

    Something from this perhaps? (It’s from My Kitchen Year.)

    I longed for the feel of a knife in my hand, the heft of water splashing into a pot. Yearned for the joyous sizzle, burble and hiss that are the ever-changing soundtrack of the kitchen. I missed the daily transformations: fruit ripening, dough rising, bread toasting into golden slabs. I’ve always thought of these elemental pleasures as minor diversions, but now I understood that they’re the glue that holds my life together.

    I lay there, unable to move, reading about disasters in the far corners of the world. What could I do? Write letters, send checks. But there will never be a time when terrible trouble is not stalking the earth, and I began to see how important it is to appreciate what you have.

    For too long I’d been waiting for the wonderful. But there is so much joy in everyday occurrences: a butterfly in the sun, the first crisp bite of an apple, the rich aroma of roasting meat. Maybe I had to break my foot to open my eyes, but I finally understood why cooking means so much to me. In a world filled with no, it is my yes.