The legendary chef answers the question…What did you eat today, Jeremiah Tower?
Much has been written about airline food and I have nothing to add to the universal moaning. But the flight a few days ago was the first time that I didn’t know what I didn’t eat. It was not familiar either by sight, smell (well, perhaps that), or touch. Sound, thank god, was not involved. The tires hitting the runway in San Francisco, though, was a welcome sound. No more cabin air filled with cat food. Then, once the Union Square hotel was sorted, I was off to Mark Franz’s Waterbar for a lunch a deux and a dining room filled with perfect smells of the fresh ocean and its bounties. The next day was my birthday and Mark’s trip to London and Alba to immerse himself in the new season of white truffles. This is the first year in a long time it’s without me. He knew that I would sorely, very sorely, miss our usual first lunch of pizza covered in melted fresh mozzarella, perfectly butter-steamed fried eggs, and lashings a quarter-inch deep of shaved white truffles. Hence this lunch with a few promised tubers. As usual, Mark did not disappoint. Already on the table as I arrived was a pound of white truffles sitting on a napkin with their slicer. My “Holy Shit!” disturbed a few neighboring tables, but only momentarily as they shared the sight of them and their perfume. The largesse continued when a huge platter of ice on its stand arrived, the ice covered in 36 various small oysters (my preference). After chowing down on a heavily-buttered slab of bread covered with truffles and a flurry of sea salt, I dug into my favorite little edible animals. I tried shavings on an oyster since it appeared there might be too many of these lovely aromatic creamy white mushrooms to eat, and looked up at Mark. “Patience, my dear, patience.” Moments later he was off to the open kitchen to make us two plates of freshly-made tagliarini with butter and parmesan. It is rare that one gets to slice away on white truffle with no one (or one’s financial conscience) to say ‘stop.’ I sliced away until I was nearly embarrassed.
It would be too much with what was to follow, Mark told me, to try his new cured Wagyu beef ‘salami.’ Too much fits nicely, I told him. In minutes I had in front of me a plate of tissue-thin beef that had been cured in salt, a bladder, and air. It melted across my tongue in a way that nothing had ever before. I wanted a shirt made of it. I wanted more. I wanted it not to stop. A discrete cough from the waiter made me look up. He was holding a huge bowl of cooked Dungeness crabs cut in quarters that had to be put where the now empty platter of Wagyu held court in the center of the table. ‘Court,’ because I still had my hand on it. We never made it all the way through the three crabs that bathed my fingers in buttered olive oil and rosemary, but halfway through I moaned that how could I get white truffles into, onto, married to the crab. Once more I was advised to hold on. Another bowl was on its way across the dining room to our table. A big white one filled with perfect French fries. No truffle oil on these boys, no, just a full minute of slicing and lashings of the real thing over the potatoes. The perfume of the truffles coming off the bed of those other tubers, as their heat penetrated the slices, suffused the air around our table. Even the waiter looked a bit faint as I asked him to use my iPad to photograph the truffles falling onto the most glorious fried potatoes I had ever seen, smelled, and finally tasted. When I got to my next stop at Foreign Cinema restaurant to test cocktails for our Stars event the next day, everyone could smell me. “Oh my god, Jeremiah, you have been at it again.” // Jeremiah Tower
The Truffles of Waterbar