On Thursday night, we were supposed to go to dinner with Craig’s former boss and the boss’s wife. A work dinner, so to speak. “7:30 at Pizzeria Mozza,” said Craig, earlier in the day.
Then, as 7:30 rolled around, Craig pulled me aside. “I told a white lie,” he said. “We’re not going out with (name redacted) and (name redacted). I’m taking you to Rustic Canyon.”
Rustic Canyon is the restaurant I’ve been most eager to try since returning to L.A. from New York back in February. The chef, Jeremy Fox, is our new neighbor here in Atwater Village. His reputation, as a chef, is stellar; back in 2008, Frank Bruni named his former restaurant, Ubuntu, “the 2nd best restaurant in the United States outside of New York.” Rustic Canyon was #1 on my “to try” list.
Of course, all of this was a little suspicious and I had questions.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“To say thank you for taking care of the move while I was working on my movie,” said Craig.
“Ah,” I said.
“I don’t have a ring in my pocket, so don’t get your hopes up,” he joked. (We joke about getting engaged often.)
Rustic Canyon is a sunny, friendly spot (though the woman in the foreground of this picture clearly didn’t want to have her picture taken. Sorry!)
We started with the cocktails you see at the top of the post: mine, Corazon de Fresas, had Scorpion Mezcal Silver, Gaviota strawberry, fresh lime and fresh basil. Craig’s–Rosemary’s Baby–had Old Tom’s Gin, Cocchi Americano, Prosecco, and a Rosemary sprig.
The drinks hit the spot and then the food was just oh so good. The Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese Puffs with Sauce Mornay were so full of flavorful, liquified cheese, I almost wore it out as a souvenir. But I would’ve been glad to have had a souvenir of something that tasted so good.
The halibut tonnato (with pickled vegetables, capers and tarragon) and fat uncle farm’s almonds with lavender sugar & sea salt–gifts from the chef (very neighborly!)–were also wonderful. (Those almonds are addictive. They give lavender a good name.)
The pork belly terrine with violet mustard, cornichon, shallot & parsley was expertly made.
The beets and berries with creamy horseradish, fresh dill pollen and pistachio were delightful and surprising.
The Coleman green beans & stonefruit with cana de cabra goat cheese, grilled peach jam and macadamia were a highlight.
But my favorite dish of all was this deconstructed French onion soup with grilled bread, bone marrow and a really intense broth. Amazing.
The California prawns with Calabrian chili butter were excellent too (with bread to sop up the sauce, thank God).
And the ricotta gnocchi with short rib, strawberry soffrito (yes you heard that right), pine nut, and wild fennel was a far out dish.
At this point in the meal, we were a bit tipsy with cocktails, wine and food and we jokingly brought up the engagement conversation again.
“Do you want to get married?” asked Craig.
“I do,” I said.
“Ok, we’ll get married,” he said.
We’d had this conversation before. It went just like that. Then: nothing happened.
I went to the bathroom and when I came out I said, “You know, if we leave here and say to ourselves ‘we’re getting married’ but we don’t do anything about it, then we won’t get married.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying, the only way we’ll really get married is if we call our parents tomorrow and say ‘we’re getting married.'”
Dessert arrived (suggested by the chef). Pudwill Farms Blueberry tart had a sweet corn pastry cream that made it positively scream of summer.
And the frozen mint chocolate torte really tasted like a York Peppermint Patty, only better.
“Ok,” said Craig, “we can tell our parents tomorrow.”
“So we’re engaged? For real?”
The next morning, I called my mom and Craig called his. Turns out dinner-with-the-boss was really our engagement dinner. Now we just have to plan a wedding.