Now don't think this piece is about a huge ship trolling around the Arctic. Au contraire, it's the story of an amusing lunch encounter at Fumé Bistro in Napa. On a frontage road east of Highway 29, it is easily missed by the casual observer. I know it has a bar and serves lunch, and I like the idea of staying close to home on a rainy day.
The maître d'/waiter/bartender makes me feel welcome. He is a charming young man wearing a striped shirt and a short beard. He recites the off-menu items, advises me on the wine, and has a friendly and relaxed manner, unlike the staff in my last posting. I'm alone at the counter until after I've ordered.
I am soon joined by one fellow and then another: a bald, bespectacled man my age and a younger fellow with a big smile whom the bartender greets warmly, seeming to know already what he is going to order. Both men take out their smart phones and become engrossed, despite the two television sets tuned to different sports channels and, of course, moi.
The salad special with grilled salmon sounds tasty, or I could try the veggie burger with fries. I choose something more exotic off the appetizer menu, a pear salad and spring rolls with duck confit. Here I must pause to sing the praises and defects of duck confit. Ignorant of its charms until I attended chef Eric Maczko's lunch demonstration at Pine Ridge Winery, I had the immense pleasure of watching him do the preparation, then consumed every bite of a confit of duck leg cooked by his staff. Absolutely wonderful flavor and texture. Of course that is no surprise, given that it is cooked in duck fat for hours. While planning my holiday menu, I visited The Fatted Calf charcuterie at the Oxbow Market to examine the duck confit for sale. Cold, the legs don't look so appetizing, as they lie there slathered in lard.
Back to Fumé Bistro. I sip my Roth Sauvignon Blanc, knowing the wine will oil my jaw. I start my salad and spring rolls and observe my two male barmates as they study their screens. The dipping sauce is very spicy and I'd prefer to just taste what's in the crunchy roll--a mix of crisp shredded vegetables and the sweet duck. Bald guy asks the bartender if the restaurant has wifi and what's required to "get on." He mentions he has an iPad he might want to use.
This fellow is several seats away from me, and the other guy is farther, but I shout down the line, "I'm just curious, are you checking email or playing games?" That starts a conversation. The first diner tells me he and his wife have been in the high tech business for twenty years. They both have iPads. They split their time between homes in Silicon Valley and Napa, are investors in Sweetie Pies, my favorite Napa bakery, and as a news junky, he uses his electronic devices mainly to read. He's reading a blog while waiting for his lunch to arrive. He informs me the average teenage girl gets 150 texts a day. The research says so. I wonder how many of those are read while she's sitting in a classroom.
The other fellow, Luis Robledo, has been checking his email. He works for his family's winery in Sonoma. We chat about restaurants. It's so hard to get a dinner reservation in Napa Valley on weekends, Tech Guy's wife will only go to restaurants that use Open Table. I recommend Farm and Boon Fly on the Carneros Highway. We talk about multi-tasking; I say it doesn't really exist. People who think they are multi-tasking are simply in training for permanent hyperactivity as they jump from task to task.
I purchased an iPad two days ago and am afraid to remove it from the box. Although it's already set up with my email and an Amazon "ap," thanks to the lovely sales folks at the Apple store, how steep is the learning curve going to be? How crazy is this new device going to make me? How soon will I drop it on a hardwood floor and break it? Tech Guy tells me how much he likes his, how he's never needed the 3G upgrade that we both paid to have included, just in case there's no wifi around.
When I'm asked if I am a visitor to the area, I fess up, not only to being a local, but also to the fact that I'm writing a blog and they're both going to be in it. No objections, so I ask if I can take their photo. I go out to the car to get my camera and upon returning hand them both my card and a standard model release. I don't recall the fine print, but apparently by signing, they're giving me permission to totally alter their image in any way I choose. I show them the photo I've taken and promise that is all I will post. Only one of them signs the release.
Fumé Bistro is a neighborhood place I will definitely visit again. Good food and service, reasonable prices, and interesting company around the bar, even if they had to be pried away from their electronics.