There was the night I hosted a wine-soaked, candlelit, French extravaganza for seven fellow eager eaters in Salem.
And the night I was a little fatigued from ambulating the streets of Paris and so gave myself up to Joel Robuchon’s twelve course tasting (including the famous mashed potatoes: equal parts potato and butter) at L’Atelier.
Then, there was the night I went to the Bamboo Cafe in Naples, FL.
These are the most distinctive meals of my life.
I had no expectation that my time in Naples would render any experiences worthy of this list. Most restaurants here I have found are in strip malls, belong to a chain, are corporately managed or corporately aspirational. They’re concerned with portions, noise, blandness.
The Bamboo Cafe is tucked in to Crayton Cove in Old Naples, just steps from the city dock. It’s independently owned by Lisa and Phillipe Boet, and specializes in French Home Cooking with a Moroccan twist. Though I passed some shuffleboarders on the walk over, this is a far cry from the retirement community.
My mother’s on their email list and had learned that Monday’s Boeuf Bourguignon night. My favorite.
From the street you can see the Cafe’s glowing dining room and are drawn through the front door by a pleasantly pulsing Moroccan beat. Lisa and Phillipe are there every night and greet each diner as an old friend or a new one with expectations of many good meals ahead.
As a single diner, I always prefer to sit at the bar and though the counter was cluttered with La Galette du Roi (a king’s cake in celebration of Epiphany) and the Boet’s young daughter and her homework, room was quickly and happily made for me.
I’ve been to these sort of family-run bistros in France, but as an American who doesn’t quite speak French I always feel a little bit the outsider. Here, I’m a neighbor who’s preference for the salad after the main is delightfully indulged as I join the kitchen staff in attempting to understand a middle school homework assignment. Who founded Hinduism?
I can’t wait to find out next week.