Why is it, the same day I sign up for Weight Watchers Online, again, everyone wants to talk about food? Patti Digh, author of Life is a Verb talks about slowing down and actually enjoying a meal. Life flies by to the speed of three meals a day while we multitask our way to senior citizenship. Looking back, we don’t remember the yogurt cups devoured while checking email or the cups of coffee slugged back while rushing to carpool or the dinners served buffet style so everyone can eat according to his or her own schedule. The meals that matter are the ones where we actually share a table with others. A meal, served with company and laughter and no time limit, seems like such a luxury these days.
When my husband’s grandmother turned 91, she asked her only two grandchildren and their spouses to take her to Las Vegas. A world traveler, she had been there in the 1970’s and wanted to see how it had changed. While we were there, Gram treated us all to a once in a lifetime meal. My sister-in-law made reservations for a restaurant at Ceasar’s Palace named after it’s chef Bradley Ogden. Based out of the San Francisco Bay area, Bradley Ogden was a ground breaker in “farm fresh, American” cuisine.
The five of us were seated at a private table in a room of our own and introduced to our personal maitre d’. I don’t remember his name but his service was fabulous as he poetically guided us through a menu like none I’d ever seen. Organic, farm fresh everything shipped in daily from all over America to make a meal for the four of us and little old Gram: bison steaks from Oregon, mini blue corn cakes from New Mexico, micro-green salads from California and hand selected wine to pair with each course.
After we made our selections, our maitre d’ invited us to visit the kitchen and meet the chef…the Bradley Ogden. So, off we traipsed into an unbelievable kitchen space. Now, I’ve been in many commercial kitchens in my time. My husband worked for Marriott hotels for many years as a building engineer so I’ve had my fair share of back-of-the-house tours. The Bradley Ogden kitchen was like a surgical suite. I’ve never seen a kitchen so well-lit, sparkling clean and organized. Covered in stainless steel, every surface seemed to glow with divine light. It was like a dream world. Then we entered the walk-in cold pantry and were assaulted by color; stainless racks filled with rows and rows of brilliant produce, fresh from farms across the country. Clear acrylic bins were stacked full of vegetables organized by color. Sweet red peppers, next to orange carrots, followed by yellow squash and green asparagus, it looked like the set for a magazine cover shoot.
Back at our table, we were served our first course, poached Foie Gras (goose liver) with sea salt. Our maitre d’ described this delicacy in such a romantic way that I just had to try it. The buttery texture in contrast with the crunchy bitterness of the sea salt was an experience I will never forget. When I got home, I looked up Foie Gras and found that I am politically opposed to it, but I’m sort of glad I didn’t know that at the time.
The meal that ensued was a kaleidoscope of color and flavor set to a chorus of, “Mmmmm,” and “Aughhh” around the table. We tasted from one another’s plates and laughed and listened to Gram tell stories of food adventures in Egypt. In contrast, she shared memories of meals in a dirt floor farmhouse during the Depression in what is now urban Hammond, Indiana.
This was truly an experience of a lifetime. For one night, we ate like royalty holding court with Gram, our queen. The memory is like a dream, Gram’s last big adventure, a meal I’m glad we slowed down long enough to share.
To find out more about Bradley Ogden click here: http://www.larkcreek.com/bolv.htm