Bye-bye, NapaPosted: April 10, 2011
“Jeffrey Schlossanoggle, please return to United Airlines gate 32.” That’s what I’m overhearing at the San Francisco airport, awaiting our flight home to Houston. I’m ready to taxi away from the gate of wonderfulness that was our weekend in CA, but am guessing it’s gonna be a bumpy ride back to reality. What do you mean I have to pour my own wine tonight? What, no high tea & finger sandwiches from 3:00 to 5:00 every day? No happy hour from 5:00 to 7:00 each evening, followed by fantastic dinners at the hottest hotspots? I’ve gotten pretty used to the different bottles of bubbly that preceded the multitude of interesting wines that graced our tables each night. And are you really telling me that the Russian limo drivers have shuttered our fine rides in the garage? Who’s gonna drive the kids’ carpool??? I’m going to miss the fresh figs & creamy cheeses that I ate at practically every meal. Something tells me they just taste better in Napa.
Last night’s dinner at the chef’s table at Bottega was one of the most memorable meals ever. And not just because the food was amazing, which it was. The staff was interesting and full of amusement, and being amid the hustle & bustle of one of the most popular eateries carried a certain excitement in and of itself, and being at the only marble-topped table in the place lent a nice cache to our festivities. The chef himself uses that same table to make his signature gnocci, so we were in the presence of culinary greatness, for sure. Our waiter, Murph, has worked with owner Michael Ciarello for nearly 2 decades and had lots of stories to tell. The ladies in our party kept a sharp eye out for the chef, and I can tell you for certain that he’s even better-looking in person. He greeted our table and spent a few minutes with the Birthday Girl, signing her copy of his latest cookbook and posing for photos. Which I can’t load right now on the cranky iPad, and certainly not within the short window of free wifi offered at this airport. No matter, I will regale you with tales accompanied by photos in the very near future. Nape Valley is also more good-looking in person, but we can still enjoy the photos. Later.
Highlights of dinner at Bottega: punched tin water glasses; the very best wines handpicked from our tours; toasting the Birthday Girl with champagne; deciphering the more unusual terms on the expansive menu; verbal sparring with the waiters; my roasted beet salad and the sublime seafood stew; and keeping pace with Team Cremer in the glass-lifting marathon. Our chef’s table gave us a bird’s-eye view of the revelers last night.
But the very best thing in a night full of wonderful things was being there. Just being there. Because my presence on this momentous trip was very much in question even up to the departure date, the fact that my body cooperated–for the first time in a long time–was such a luxury. If I’d had to stay home, missing yet another trip because of the stupid cancer or the even stupider infection(s), I would have been one unhappy girl. I bet I would have consumed even more wine at home than we did on this trip, because I’m a big believer in drowning one’s sorrows. So glad that wasn’t an issue.
A weekend in Wine Country might not be grand enough or elaborate enough in most people’s book to qualify as the trip of a lifetime. That designation seems to be applied more to multiple-week sojourns to faraway tropical beaches or European cities in centuries-old castles or super posh B&Bs. But this weekend in Wine Country was a trip of a lifetime for me because of the uncertainty that surrounded it and because the medical-disasters-from-Hell that preceded it qualify it as such. There will likely be more exotic destinations in the future, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to go on more trips in this life of mine. But the future isn’t something that cancer patients like to think about. And cancer patients whose path contains some serious twists & turns certainly don’t look too far down the road because the here & now is so fraught with all-consuming and messy things. For the weekend in Wine Country, though, I was just an ordinary tourist who happened to be celebrating just being there.