Sun, 27 Feb 2005

"We season our garlic with food"

That's a trademark of The Stinking Rose (an ancient term for garlic, for no obvious reason) in San Francisco. I went there in October of 1998, while consulting in SanFran. I'd wanted to go there for years, but never had the opportunity. So when my customer was taking me out to dinner, and we were wandering around North Beach looking for a restaurant (the problem not being a dearth, but a surplus), I hit upon The Stinking Rose.

Well, when we walked into the restaurant, our noses were immediately assailed by the perfume of garlic. Led to our seat past an impossibly long garlic chain (they claim it to be the world's longest), we opened the menus. Surprisingly, a number of the dishes had no garlic in them. Presumably the inescapable smell was sufficient seasoning for them. I located the "40 Clove Garlic Chicken", and ordered it. Our waiter pointed out the minced garlic on the table.

I split a roll and dug in with a spoon. As I heaped the garlic on the roll, my customer (Vijay), who's from India, said, with eyes ever growing wider, "Um, Russell, that's a lot of garlic. That's a LOT of garlic. Russell, I like garlic, and I wouldn't eat that much." Ignoring his sage (or was it garlic?) advice, I dove in. Again and again I hit the minced garlic, roll after roll.

By that point, when the 40 Clove Garlic Chicken arrived, it was disappointingly mild. Tasty, yes, but not the whole garlic experience I was expecting. Of course, cooking the cloves tends to mute their effect.

Had an excellent dinner that couldn't be beat, went home, and got up for the last half-day of the consulting gig. Nobody noticed anything strange about the two of us (well, me more than him but still). Vijay took me to the airport mid-morning, spending nearly an hour in an enclosed car, without saying a word about garlic.

Flew home via Philadelphia to Ottawa. Heather (wife) was waiting up for me, and forcefully noted that I reeked of garlic (remember, this is 24 hours later). In the morning, the children ran into the bedroom to greet me. They stopped mid-step as if they had hit an invisible force field. They said "Daddy, you stink!".

By itself, that's a great story. It gets better, though. A week later, Heather was telling the story to Rebecca, a Friend of the family. Rebecca said "Wait. What airline was he on?" Heather said "USAir". Rebecca said "Friday?" "Yup." "Well, I was on the next leg of that flight, and the whole airplane smelled of garlic!!"

Damn, that was a good meal.

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