curATE: Quince at Hedge Gallery

Last Monday got into work and proceeded with the usual catch up with my officemate James. The normal pleasantries include “What’d you do this weekend?” “Happy Monday! *sigh*” and similar questions that you could chalk up to a ritual. Remembering that James and his wife had a date weekend planned, I asked where they ended up eating in San Francisco, as I had suggested Gitane. This is when James lights up and details an illustrious pop-up dinner from Quince that he found on Sosh. He raves about the meal and getting to meet the chef, but mentions it might be a bit on the pricy side.

Immediately I look up the menu and see exactly what James is talking about, the menu during the weekend that he attended was ridiculous, and chalk full of all my favorite foods:

Kumomoto Oyster – monterey bay kelp, sour apple, lemon verbena
Big Eye Tuna – watermelon, shiso, dragon’s egg cucumber
Santa Barbara Sea Urchin Risotto – samphire sea bean, passion fruit
Smoked Sonoma Liberty Duck – riso nero, black garlic, scallion
Pluot – sesame, aloe, lime, peanut

Sadly there were no other menus that stood out in comparison to that very first line up with all my favorite flavor profiles. Yet I was still intrigued by his experience at cur/ATE (which in my head I cheer out like KU-RA-TE, while performing a karate chop in the air, even if it’s supposed to be a sophisticated play on words for the combination of art and eating), and the idea of a fusion of art parings with food.

Flash back a couple years ago when I moved into Santana Row for a brief seven month stint, a twenty something year old kid who claimed to work as a Google Chef tried the following pick up line on me:

Him: My latest culinary masterpiece is attempting to pair food with music.
Me: Oh that’s interesting, what is a sample pairing you’ve done?

He becomes flustered and can’t think up with anything good. I laughed as he relentlessly tried to give me his number while Jen and I proceeded to walk away. Nevertheless I digress, this seemed to be a legitimate artistic and culinary paring experience, however at $199 for the dinner it was steep adventure for a non-celebratory occasion.

Who could I get to commit to this instantly? Laurie comes to mind as she is an impulsive foodie after my own soul. I chat her, and within 30 seconds I have a dinner date. I spin around in my chair and smile at James as his jaw drops. Within 5 minutes of reviewing the menu options, Laurie and I are booked for the Deconstruction Menu that consists of:

Our Menu

Our Menu

Happy thoughts swirl at the possibilities that this deconstruction menu could entail. Little did I know until speaking to the servers that Quince is a two Michelin Star Restaurant. God, I’m sometimes such a foodie n00b.

Leave work earlier than usual on Wed to rush up to the city to ensure that I get the full experience. Am temporarily hindered by droves of people that follow the cult of Queen Bey, as the Jay-Z and Beyonce On the Run Tour is the same night.

Since Monday and Tuesday had been exhausting, and I decided to not dress up despite fair warning from James that even in a shirt and dark denim he had felt under-dressed. Ended up wearing a floral print tank over dark denim with a long black blazer. Needless to say, I have never felt so underdressed wearing a blazer to any event. All attendees were in suits and dresses, including the children.

Upon arriving I had needed to go to the restroom, but instead I snatch a glass of champagne from one of the servers and sip, beginning to sweat at how out of place I feel, and desperately look up Laurie on Find My Friends to see her estimated time of arrival.

Darn. She’s far off. I continue to wander around the artwork of the gallery, talking to no one as I can’t find an opening in this group of people. One man is large and is wearing some sort of smoking jacket with ascot despite it being 75 degrees outside. Another man was older and kind of sketchy looking, who nodded at people but really wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying. He later introduced himself to us as a writer from the Chronicle and I notice he spells my name wrong on his notepad. I awkwardly planted myself on the couch and studied my phone furiously until Laurie arrived.

Laurie in the doorway light was a vision in blue flowy top and black curled hair, beaming with upbeat smiles and apologies for being late. Seeing her, the host brightened and greeted her genuinely, and asking if she encountered any issues finding the pop-up. Laurie mentioned the difficulty finding parking around the area and he apologized, suggesting that she might have been able to use the valet.



Briefly we plant ourselves in front of what looks like a deflated gold mylar balloon, before I tell her that she should try all the canapés that I had been partaking in before her arrival. Then we navigate towards the area where the canapés are prepped and decide that the person standing in front of them must be the chef. He’s wearing a rustic apron, which is different from all the servers in suits and his eyes are darting around making sure that everything is going to plan.

He offers a plate of deconstructed caviar topped deliciousness, and mentions honestly that we should take two since the portions are small. In that instant I decide that I like him. Later after we left I would realize that we were talking to Michael, the Michael Tusk who was the owner and head chef of both Quince and Cotogna. n00b mistakes abundant this night.

Gorgeous table settings

Gorgeous table settings

We were then seated at a table near a beam which is beautifully set with a long black candle. I glance up at the open flame and worry that any intense movement of the table will light this room ablaze. While that didn’t happen, my eyes would would cautiously dart back to the candle mid conversation with Laurie.

Then it begins.

Deconstruction Menu

Deconstruction Menu

My favorites for the night were the spaghetti in meatball and the hollandaise tatter tot. Secondary delectable bites were the celery and celery leaf paired with the sorbet in the Waldorf Salad, as well as the cacao encrusted steak dipped in hollandaise and egg yolk.

During canapés and dinner service I notice that everyone on staff tonight have a beautiful fleur de lys pin attached to their lapels. I want to deliver this pin to Patricia since it’s her iconic symbol and proceed to ask one of our servers about more about the pin. Monique lets us know that it represents a group known as Relais & Châteaux. All members of this selective group rate high in the 5 C’s criteria Caractère, Courtoisie, Calme, Charme et Cuisine.

Our dinner rates high on all 5 C’s. The pairing of deconstructed art with food gave the night a feeling of continuity that was nice. After dinner service Michael comes back up from the kitchen to chat with us and ask us our favorite dish. Mine by far was the spaghetti which I mention and ask how it was cooked, so that I might some day be able to recreate this wonder if only in my mind. He explains how it’s done with a slight twinkle in his eye.

A fabulous Wed night dinner, to take away from the normalcy of the week.

If you go, which I hope you do, as there are several weeks of this special Quince pop-up event, say hi to Michael. He is completely down to earth and kind. You can recognize him by the look of concern in his eyes surveying the room, or you could also Google him first. If you’re curious about any of the dishes by all means ask questions, it makes the meal entirely more fun that way.

However if you can’t make any of the dinners at Hedge, Quince opens back up to the general public in September. I’ve gotten a taste at Hedge, but I definitely can’t wait to try the full Quince experience.

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