CHEAP EATS I am not my new favorite restaurant's new favorite customer. No. If restaurants could review the people who eat at them, I would be roasted and raked right now. Or deep-fried.
Really, I deserve worse.
We were dining with people we hadn't dined with before and didn't know especially well: our landlordladypersons. They were kind enough to sublet their amazing li'l cottage to us, and to share with us their amazing li'l tomatoes, and sunshine and garbage collection in general. And, oh, we love it here in the Oakland foothills. Therefore, we invited them out to dinner. Not the foothills; the people, these beautiful two foothillbillies who have roofed our heads until the end of the year.
Which is fast approaching, so we figured we'd go somewhere close. First, though: a cocktail. It was so cute: like we were all on a first double-date together. Which, I guess, we kind of were. We live in these people's back yard, but we went around to the front door and knocked very formally.
They showed us in, sat us down, and popped a bottle of champagne.
I'm not making excuses. I mean, I am making excuses, but I'm not. I don't handle my alcohol very well. Still, I did manage to have a polite glass of champagne and a handful of home-roasted almonds without ruining very much of their furniture or saying anything particularly stupid.
We talked about where we were all from, and accordions.
Then we walked to the restaurant. The Bay Leaf! Home of fantastic fried things, and even some fantastic other things, too. My new favorite restaurant was the first place I saw the first time I wandered around my new neighborhood. It's at the corner of MacArthur and 38th, in the Dimond District. But they're not open for lunch, or I would have fallen in love with them a lot sooner.
Cold night, warm place. Friendly waitressperson. We ordered two fried oyster dinners, a fried chicken dinner, and a fried catfish dinner. With greens, greens, yams, yams, mac & cheese, fried cabbage, and fried okra by way of sides.
The idea being to share it all, so in addition to the regular dinner plates of fried things, they also brought four empty plates. For sharing.
Luck would have it, waitressperson set the fried catfish in front of me. Being a good citizen, I immediately cut it into four equal pieces, and — being a bad citizen — elected to serve myself first. You know me: I was starving.
So, while everyone else was doling out everything else in no particular order that I knew of, I scooped some mac & cheese from my plate onto my other plate, a piece of fish, and in the process of passing the plate along to Hedgehog, I didn't dump it in my lap so much as throw it across the restaurant.
It's not for no reason that Hedgehog calls me Graceful Little Flower. It's for sarcasm, which is as noble a cause as any, my book. I walk into things. I trip over things that are just barely there, like a color.
And, finally, I drop things — in sometimes (such as this one) spectacular fashion.
It landed face-down behind me, fried catfish and creamy mac & cheese grinding into the carpet. (Yes, my new favorite restaurant is carpeted.) And while I buried my face in my hands out of equal parts embarrassment and loss, a different very nice waitressperson came and cleaned up my mess, and my dining companions swung into suicide-watch mode, there-there-ing and graceful-little-flowering me with sentiments meant to help me fathom that I might not be the clumsiest fucking idiot in the history of the world.
There was plenty of great food, for example, that was still on the table! The fried oysters were the best I've had in the Bay Area since the Gravy days. The fried chicken wings were great. That quarter of a catfish fillet on my other plate, the still-plated one, was out of this world ...
But saying so only makes me miss the three quarters of it that left this world even earlier. *
THE BAY LEAF
Wed.-Sat.: 3-9 p.m.; Sun. 1-7 p.m. Closed Mon.-Tue.
2000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakl.
Beer and wine