Saturday, November 9, 2013


And another thing that happened in Berkeley: the Loved One and I were in Comal, a rather superior Mexican restaurant owned by John Pulaska who was manager of Phish for 17 years.  We were sharing tripe guisado, birria quesadillas, and some papas fritas with coriander-lime salt, chipotle aioli; all pretty good. 

The restaurant has “acoustical insulation” by Meyer Sound that supposedly makes you feel as though you're wearing sound-canceling headphones.  I’m not sure about that.  The place seemed pretty loud to me, and I don’t know what it means that I could perfectly hear the conversation of the three women at the next table who were talking up a storm and drinking Mexican “craft” cocktails: The Quince Essential and the Comal Swizzle are two of the signature drinks.

The women were very excited, and it became clear why.  One of them had a brand new boyfriend and he was supposedly going to join them for dinner. The previous weekend he’d taken her out to meet a dozen of his friends to play golf.  Now he was coming to meet two of her bestest girlfriends.  The women were not especially young, but quite glam, and it seemed that they’d watched a lot of Oprah and Sex and the City, and so the friends were being enthusiastic and supportive, saying stuff like, “You go for it girl.   You deserve to be happy.”

Anyway it wasn’t quite clear when this new boyfriend was going to arrive, but at least he kept his date informed.  He called her three times that I heard, and from the woman’s half of the conversation I could tell that he was giving  status updates, saying he was on his way and getting closer all the time, without ever quite getting there.  She called him “Baby.”  Eventually the three women decided to order their food, including (and this seemed most significant of all) - a whole spit-roasted Fulton Valley chicken with fire-roasted fingerling potatoes, just for him.  It cost $39.  The food arrived, the alleged dream boat did not.  The roast chicken sat on the table and the girls didn’t touch it.   

Of course it was tempting to stay to the bitter end, either to see this dream boat, or (far more likely, it seemed to me) to stay and watch how the woman coped when the guy rang one more time to say that something had come up, he’d got lost, his car had broken down, he’d had to go back to the office, he just couldn’t make it.   But we didn’t stay.  We aren’t that cruel or that patient. It looked like it might be a very long night, and it seemed likely that the woman might be in alcohol-fuelled tears by the end of it.  Perhaps the acoustical insulation would help cover the sound. On the other hand, I’m sure her girlfriends had watched enough Oprah and Sex and the City to help her get through it.  Maybe some extra Mexican craft cocktails would help.  I wondered if or when they’d eat the chicken.

Photo by  John Storey for the SF Chronicle. 

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