Sonoma in late summer/fall is amazing. While we anxiously anticipate Indian Summer in Pacific Grove, it’s nice to know we can drive northeast for three hours and be in (another form of) paradise.
I went to Sonoma this past weekend for a friend’s wedding. My friend Magda and I met while we were studying abroad in college. I was at UCSD and she was at Davis and we both chose the same “language and culture” program the fall semester of our junior year to spend in Córdoba, in the south of Spain. Back then, Mags was a tomboy and incredibly athletic (she still is very athletic). She was opinionated and a ball of energy. She concluded after orientation that she didn’t like me because I was too happy. Last I checked this was no reason to dislike someone but nobody ever asked a 20-year old to rationally justify their feelings. At the time, we all lived with old Spanish ladies. They were responsible for housing us and feeding us three meals a day. My señora got me snacks to take with me to school, like little individually packaged chocolate-stuffed croissants. I didn’t care for them so I would always bring them to school and share with my classmates, namely Mags who, much to her disappointment sat next to me in the front row of Spanish class. We were both overachievers.
Every day I showed up, happy to be in Spain, happy to be in class, excited about something I had seen or learned, and to sit next to Mags who had her arms folded over her chest and was slouched in her chair. She would roll her eyes at me when my hand would dart up at the
“what is something you learned that you would like to share with the class” prompt. But every day at break I would lean over and ask her how she was getting by and if she wanted some snacks. Mags was a bottomless pit and always wanted my snacks but she was always leery of my sharing them.
When we eventually became friends, which was not long after orientation day, she confessed that she hated my optimism and didn’t understand why I shared my food with her when I could eat it all myself. I was dumbfounded. I remember telling her that food tastes better when shared with other people and I couldn’t eat in front of someone else and not offer what I was eating, it wasn’t how I was brought up. Over the next four months we traveled together to Lisbon, Paris, Zurich, and several towns in both Spain and Morocco. We ran a miserable marathon in San Sebastian and went sky diving over the Alps in Switzerland. By the end of our adventure we were sad to part and promised each other we would have a lifelong friendship. My attendance at her wedding this past weekend is a testament to this wonderful friendship.
The day after the wedding a (different) friend and I went to have brunch just off the Sonoma Plaza at the Girl and the Fig, a Sonoma tradition. Due to the restaurant’s popularity, we sat at the bar and enjoyed an amazing brunch, sans-mimosas on account of our needing to drive home to Monterey. The little old lady sitting next to me ordered the Quiche Lorraine (ham and Swiss cheese)–which was an enormous slice of quiche that looked more like a soufflé than anything–and she said it was the best thing she had had in her life. Well already by the look and smell of it I was leaning towards ordering it but with that recommendation, I had to. It came with both a small salad and shoe string fries and it was indeed, delicious. The sides were seared so after cutting the slice of soufflé from the pie dish the chefs must sear each side, adding a caramelized, slightly crisp and charred taste to the already amazing egg flavor. The shoe string fries were good although fries aren’t my favorite but they did make an excellent vehicle for gobs of the garlic aioli, which was amazing. The salad was nice: frisée, baby chard, quinoa, marcona almonds, and cranberries with a light vinaigrette. But the quiche was the star of the show.
Next time you find yourself in Sonoma, be sure to check out the Girl and the Fig. Heads up, you are better off with a reservation ahead of time to avoid the wait, especially on the weekend.
**a shorter version of this story appeared in my column Postcards from the Kitchen in the Cedar Street Times on 14 September 2018