Saturday, April 11, 2009

Black Pearl

Natural black pearls occur rarely once in every 10,000 oysters. I’m in a conference in Denver, amidst the company of culinary professionals. And in droves of amazing writers, chefs, and other food enthusiasts, one lady stands out in the sea of strangers. We sit in the same table on the very first day. Jacqui, reminds me of Michelle, my Japanese-American classmate in graduate school. She looks somewhat Japanese, but not quite.

Jacqui invites me for dinner tonight to a restaurant she wants to check out called Black Pearl, some ten minutes away from Downtown Denver. But first, we take advantage of the free glass of wine served in my hotel everyday from 5:30 to 6:30pm. Over a glass of Pinot Grio our friendship is forged. We talk freely and openly initially about how the conference is going, but also about our dreams and our lives. By the time we had hit the cab to the Black Pearl, we were talking about dating disasters.

Realizing we did not have a proper lunch, we were hungry. The food at Black Pearl is described as contemporary American cuisine. It features a changing menu featuring fresh, locally produced ingredients, at its seasonal best to ensure fullness of flavor.

Sitting by the window, we decide on our choice of vino, entrees, and mains. I had settled on a Colorado Lamb Burger served with a Bleu cheese fondue and fries for my main. But my curiosity and greedy eyes could not resist the Macaroni and cheese with truffle and gorgonzola cheese. It was a decadent indulgence. My dining companion and newfound friend Jacqui chose "Mussels served with frites and garlic aioli." Denver was expecting a snow storm in April. Looking out the window, there was no storm in the horizon. But the conversation flowed. For her starter Jacqui chose Shishito Peppers, dipped in a coarse salt herb mixture. Shishito Peppers are sweet green peppers with the occasional fiery fluke. Jacqui warned me that these mild one to two inch long peppers were fun too eat for once a while you bite into a fiery one. I am spice wimp, but Jacqui insisted I try this Japanese appetizer.

So I did. But Jacqui first took a bite of the pepper, like my food taster to make sure it was not spicy one. It was a delightful sweetness from the pepper, nicely contrasted by the saltiness of the sea salt. The lamb burger was delicious. But the star of the meal was the bleu cheese fondue. As if fries were not calorie-laden enough, dipping them into a pool of bleu cheese made them even better. Spread some of the runny cheese on the burger for added richness.

The couple sitting next to us obviously had food envy for they ordered exactly the same two dishes we did. Jacqui could not resist saying "Good choice!" when their food arrived. When the guy asked if we liked our lamb burger, we said yes and insisted it was imperative to use the Bleu cheese fondue. Clueless he asked "On what?" Jacqui answered "On anything, even dipping your napkin would make it delicious." The macaroni and cheese was delighfully decadent with the distinct nutty truffle flavor, but perhaps it was over the top when eaten with the rich blue cheese burger.

Jacqui’s mussels were swimming in a sweet sauce. But eating the shishito peppers was most enjoyable. It was like a game of chance. With every bite, we took a risk, if it were a fiery one. Together jacqui and finished the entire plate, with only one left. There was only one spicy one and jacqui bit into it.

After all the laughter and the most delicious meal, I realize the Shishito makes for a great analogy to life. You meet many people and only few relationships and friendships truly sizzle. It is also an apt analogy to being a freelance writer. It is a life of constantly pitching, a hit and miss affair. Many times, there are rejections. But sometimes, your fiery pitch gets the attention of an editor hungering for ideas.... only then do sparks fly!

Maida.writteninDenver. postedNJ04.11.09

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