Auros (auros) wrote,

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Report on food and ballet.

So, last night I got together with DEC, my old roommate from Berkeley, for dinner at Jardiniere followed by a performance of the SF Ballet's 2004 Repertory Season Program 7.

Edited to add: I just wanted to note that Jardiniere has a very architecturally interesting interior -- bar in the center of the lower floor, with a ring balcony around it forming an upper floor with more tables; the railings around the balcony are shaped into curvy loops that looks sort of vine-like, and the light fixtures look a bit like calla lilies, so the whole place has a garden-y feel, without the look being overdone and distracting from a focus on the food. [end of addition]

For dinner I had a roasted-tomato soup (with shredded basil leaves and cubed pancetta, plus a fair bit of red pepper and garlic to make it spicy) and two small salads. First salad was built around root veggies (beets, radishes, carrots; plus some cucumber, which is I suppose not a root, nor a veggie, but has an appropriate texture and flavor) with a dressing involving chevre being somehow melted/dissolved into it. The other was a bit heartier, with chunks of lightly-fried garlicky bread (sort of like croutons, but chewier), baby artichoke hearts, and olive-oil-and-vinegar marinated crescenza cheese, which has a texture a bit like mozzarella, but a stronger flavor (in the neighborhood of asiago). After consideration, I decided I really ought to have gotten a different one of the salads as my second -- there was one involving asparagus, prosciutto, and I think some fruit (dates? I've forgotten, now), and I think that would've been more of a contrast; but what I got was still very good. Also, DEC got a potato-leek soup with crispy shallots and a drizzle of basil oil, followed by a risotto (the exact contents I forget, aside from the fact that it involved locally-foraged trumpet mushrooms; I think it also had either asparagus or artichokes, which were all over the menu because they're locally in season, and the chef, Traci des Jardins, favors cooking with fresh local ingredients).

So, that was all very tasty, but perhaps only just barely justifying the price tag... Dessert, though... Eep!

DEC got a selection of five cheeses with some raisin bread -- he's generally not in favor of sweets. That was just generally good, not "eep"-inducing; I'll get to that part. One of them, a Spanish semi-hard called Cantu, was quite extraordinary, and I'm going to have to check on whether Milk-Pail Market or Whole Foods carries it. I'm pretty certain I haven't seen it at Andronico's... Hard to describe, if you're not already a cheese-fan; somewhere between Manchego and Flor, maybe, but with some other earthy and fruity overtones...

Now, the dessert I got... Almond baklava -- though not so much the standard layered baklava as kind of a phyllo-dough dumpling stuffed with almonds and I think some little bits of dates -- served surrounded by little dollops of intensely almondy crème fraîche (I joked to DEC that with that considering the level of cyanide -- cyanide is what gives almond its fragrance, if you're not aware -- it was a good thing they hadn't used all that much of the crème), a scoop of fresh tangerine ice cream, several segments of tangerine, and a drizzle of tangerine sauce. None of it was overly sweet; just enough honey-and-rosewater sweetness to play up the almond and citrus flavors.

But that's not the end of it. I got their recommended matching dessert wine, a Tokay (specifically, 1996 Royal Tokaji Red Label, Aszú 5 puttonyos -- and yes, I do know what "Aszú" and "puttonyos" mean, but won't go into that; read the stuff behind the link). I'd never tried a Tokay, though I'd been told I'd probably like it. (And if you're even slightly goth-inclined, you've got to appreciate the idea of a wine from the homeland of Vlad Dracul.) I've always been just a touch suspicious that the "recommended wine" thing is a method for somelliers to unload bottles that they want to get out of stock, but I'm thinking I will need to try matched wines more often from now on. This stuff was a perfect match for the dessert. If you like port and other dessert wines, imagine starting with something like that, then thinning it out a bit so it's not so syrupy-sweet, removing any alcohol "bite", and giving it a perfectly smooth structure. It starts out with a burst of clear, bright floral (mainly rose) and citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit) tastes/aromas as you sip; followed by a body that has the pleasant honey taste you find in all good dessert wines, intense but not too sweet; followed by lingering citrus and nut flavors. All of which matched and enhanced the tangerine/almond baklava.

That practically knocked me out of my chair, and made me feel the exorbitant bill was entirely worthwhile, almost a bargain. Not something I can afford every day, but... Like I said before: Eep!

Oh, right, and then there was that ballet. *g*

The program was a tribute to the choreography of the British Ballet -- three pieces by Ashton, who was a contemporary of Balanchine, then one by a more recent director, MacMillan. (They'd apparently had a tribute program for Balanchine earlier in the season.)

The first piece, Monotones I & II, was okay, but kind of quiet; I liked the music of part I better than the choreography; the second half was better. The set and costume choices were interesting, but also understated -- the dancers had on very pale unitards and matching "helmet" things binding their hair. First half was done with sort of chartreuse-ish (mostly yellow, but with a hint of green) costumes, and lighting that varied from blue-green to yellow. Second half was in silvery-white with blue light.

The second piece, the Thaïs Pas de Deux, was lovely. I'd heard the music before (though I'm not sure why, since I haven't seen the opera Thaïs, from which it's taken, so far as I can recall) and like it a great deal, and the choreography was just generally pretty and romantic. Highly recommended as a "date ballet". *g*

I was less than impressed with the third part, the Symphonic Variations. The choreography is kind of interesting... but not moving. I read the program in the BART on the way home, and apparently that was kinda the point -- Ashton, the head of the British Ballet, was developing a minimalist style in which he was trying to express the music itself, and nothing else. There's a reason why I'm much more of an opera fan than a ballet fan. I've performed both, and I watch both, but the dramatic intensity of opera appeals a lot more to me; and of course, for ballet, I much prefer the story-oriented ones like Swan Lake, Firebird, Nutcracker, etc.

The last section made up for the Variations. MacMillan choreographed a series of short pieces set to ragtime and proto-jazz beats by Scott Joplin and his contemporaries. I had sort of been expecting to find this silly (I like rag and jazz fine, but had previously not imagined them as being terribly suited to ballet), but it works spectacularly well. The dancers were done up sort of as speakeasy patrons, in skin-tight outfits that looked practicaly painted onto their bodies, with absolutely riotous colors and patterns. The top-billed soloist had a white outfit with red and blue highlights; particularly noticable were the very, er, strategically placed red stars -- she's in the picture on the site, so you may be able to figure out what I mean. *g*

Anyways, the set alternates ensemble/corps bits -- which are almost too much to take, with an orgy of motion in which you just barely recognize how precise the movements have to be to avoid having people kick each other's heads off *g* -- with smaller bits for one to four people. Some of those latter ones featured "stock characters" from the speakeasy-story genre; a domineering woman and her young go-getter paramour; a sort of Beatrice-and-Benedick pair who each have a solo bit to one-up each other and show off to the crowd (but you know they'll end up dancing together in the end); and so on. Very entertaining, with a lot of humor, as well as spectacular moves.

So, all in all, a very satisfying evening. That nicely caps off the week of general celebratory fun requested last week after I got the raise. :-)

Now, if I can just manage to actually get some work done (both at the paying job, and for SH) some time in the next week...

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