Sam, known to us as Sang, our resident sommelier, selected a Twomey Cellars by Silver Oak, Napa Valley 2006, to go with the next course: Beef on a String — tender, juicy, poached filet of beef, bone-marrow flan (yep, bone marrow made into flan), and aromatic vegetables with smoked black tea and sherry broth.
The broth’s aroma was like a warm blanket on a cold day. Chef Kolanko explained how, one day, feeling extra creative, he’d added black tea to the already awesome mushroom-sherry broth. It was such a hit, the dish stayed on the menu. Served on the side was a buffet of options, house-made Dijon, fleur de sel, and smoked sea salt. The chemistry experiments began, a challenge to see who could come up with the best taste combination.
As the beef melted in his mouth, Sang’s eyes rolled back.
“Until now,” he said, “the best meal I ate with Naomi wasn’t for a review. We dined at the Better Half. Chef John Kennedy came to our table and said, ‘You two look like adventurous eaters. I can make some dishes that aren’t on the menu. Just give me a heads-up.’ We took him up on the offer. That meal included two foie gras dishes. In its brief incarnation, the Better Half was my favorite restaurant. Since all of our favorites have closed, I’ve been lost. But now I think I’ve found a new home.
“For Naomi, it wasn’t about ego,” Sang said. “She had business sense and compassion. She didn’t want to be too negative about a small place, as that might put them out of business. Neither would she publish a great review for places not equipped to handle a sudden onslaught of business. One thing she demanded was that the average diner be treated with respect. Restaurants that failed to do so got the razor end of her pen.”
For the final course, it was all hands on deck. Our server, the sommelier, Chef Jackson and Chef Kolanko presented our desserts, then, with our sincerest thanks, paraded off to a standing ovation.
The sommelier returned to pour a smooth Fiore D’Arancio Orange Muscat. Our first plate was the pastry chef’s signature Black Magic Cake, layered with pistachio brulée, and a lemon tart that made our mouths flood with anticipation. Then came house-made marshmallows, fresh-from-the-fryer donuts, and candied passion fruit. The only thing missing was an insulin pen.
Lynne, not a dessert person, was so impressed she had to try a bit of everything.
“I was recently in Mexico for a wine tour for foodies,” she said. “We’d have great food paired with each winery’s signature bottle. One of my fellow tour participants was a big-time chef, and toward the end of our conversation, he asked if I was in ‘the industry.’ I felt so complimented. Because of Naomi’s tutelage, I can talk knowledgeably with chefs. How cool is that?”
We toasted our friend one final time. Then the last crumb of the tart was licked off the plate by Fred. Sam tossed the last home-made marshmallow across the table, and Samurai Jim caught it in his mouth.
We unanimously agreed that the meal was the best we’d ever had.
Therefore, based on creativity, presentation, and service, we, Naomi’s friends, award Chef Jeff Jackson, Chef de Cuisine Tim Kolanko, and A.R. Valentien five stars.
We thank you, the readers, as well, for your support these ten years. It has been an honor to serve.
So long, farewell, and good eats. ■