Saturday, January 31, 2009

Week's End at Cliff's Edge

Zach and I are finally beginning to settle into the beginnings of a routine out here, and one of the nicest parts is having dinner or a drink at the bar of our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Cliff's Edge, which is conveniently located right across the street from where we live.

We usually go on Friday nights, when we're feeling the weight of the long workweek, and an hour or two there is just the right amount of decompression to send us gliding into the weekend.

Although the restaurant has an incredible outdoor garden—which is where we sit when we bring friends or family, at least when the smokers are not out in force—we've taken to spending our time there at the convivial bar. We've befriended a couple of the regular Friday-night bartenders, a transplanted-from-New-York actor and a philosopher-writer, and we've probably spent more quality time with them over the past several months than we have with any one of our friends out here. (Such is the way of Los Angeles that you can go months without seeing your dearest friends. In one extreme case, we hung out with an old pal at Sundance that I hadn't seen at all, and Zach had seen just once, since we were here on vacation a year ago.)

Cliff's Edge also has great food. I'm partial to their rigatoni with wild-boar ragu (yes, really) and tend to default to that despite lots of other yummy stuff on the menu.

One of the most surprising things about the restaurant is that it's virtually invisible from the street. The entrance is at the far end of the small, gated valet-parking lot, and there's no sign other than an easy-to-miss placard on the valet stand. I first went there after reading about it in the Zagat guide and then realizing, from the address, that I must have walked by it dozens of times without ever seeing it. The garden is entirely out of view until you walk through the entrance, and the effect, enhanced by flickering candles that light the path, never fails to charm a first-time visitor.

A few weeks ago, on my birthday actually, we decided to have dinner there. When we walked into the parking lot on our way to the front door, we noticed that the ground had been strewn with rose petals. For a moment, I thought perhaps this had been Zach's doing, but then the valet clued us in: the restaurant had been rented out for the evening for a wedding. We had really been looking forward to an evening there, maybe even out in the garden, and were sorely disappointed.

But we couldn't hold a grudge when we realized what an amazing setting the bride and groom (or bride and bride, or groom and groom) had chosen, and what a memorable evening they and their guests were about to have.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I knew that Zach had been planning a belated-birthday surprise because, well, he told me so.

He also told me a couple of weeks ago that I needed to pack a bag, and that I should pack as if we were going to spend a quiet weekend hanging out at our place in Phoenicia—although we were decidedly not going to Phoenicia.

I studiously avoided thinking about the mystery trip, not wanting to spoil the surprise.

So last Thursday, when one of my colleagues asked me to come to his office to check in about a few things, I had no idea that it was a pretext.

Nor was I suspicious when, in the midst of our meeting, he received a text message that prompted him to apologize and ask whether we could reconvene a little later on.

I just walked back down the hall to my own office, pausing only slightly when I saw that my office door—which I had left open—was shut.

Here's the photo my colleague somehow snapped of me being completely surprised:

That's Zach sitting in my chair, with his feet on my desk, wearing shades and a brand-new ski jacket, poised to whisk me off to Park City, Utah, for the opening weekend of the 25th-anniversary Sundance Film Festival. Woo-hoo!!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

Zach and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary yesterday. By "celebrated" I mean spent the day together, which is one of life's little luxuries for us.

We walked down to the farmers' market in the morning, an indispensable part of our still-evolving LA routine.

We listened to unhurried music while we made breakfast that we ate for lunch.

We made plans to visit old pals in San Diego next weekend.

We had a long talk about our future, and what we hope it will bring.

We invited friends to our next gathering, now that we're back in the groove of entertaining.

We read noteworthy snippets to each other from whatever we happened to be reading.

We got in the car together to run errands that one of us could easily have handled alone.

We had a home-cooked meal with wine and candlelight and left the dishes until morning.

We curled up on our new day bed and watched a couple of DVDs.

We shared the one leftover dessert from New Year's Eve.

And we went to bed as tired and tranquil as could be.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Last night Zach and I hosted our 19th annual New Year's Eve dinner party. We realized with something of a start that we hadn't entertained since last New Year's Eve, which is undoubtedly the longest hospitality drought in our history together. I guess we were trying to make up for lost time when we came up with the menu:

Toasted Homemade Whole-wheat Pita Chips with a Trio of Homemade Dips: Romesco, Tzatziki, and Hummus with Parsley Oil

Deconstructed Chardonnay: Buttered Toast Points Topped with Explorateur (triple-crème cow's-milk cheese), Golden Raisins Steeped in a Chardonnay-Vanilla Bean Reduction, and a Drizzle of Chardonnay-Vanilla Syrup

Mesclun Salad with Broiled Figs Stuffed with Bucheron (goat cheese) and Wrapped in Bacon Dredged in Cumin and Brown Sugar

Individual Beef Wellingtons (filet de boeuf en croûte) with Mushroom Duxelles and Truffle Paté Nestled in a Port-Wine and Demi-glace Reduction

Pommes Soufflées (puffed potatoes)

Caramelized Cauliflower with Currants and Pine Nuts

Frozen Lemon Soufflés with Crumbled Almond-Lace Cookies

Knower Family Eggnog (aka A Fluffy White Cloud of Booze)

Many thanks to our wonderful guests, including several new friends, for the loveliest possible evening. And best wishes to everyone for health, happiness, peace, and prosperity in 2009!