Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Path Is Being Carved

In the past few months, I've been seriously making my way through some incredible restaurants. I've been rather dedicated to trying as many new places as I can before life might lead me away from this amazing city. Around every turn, there is something new to eat or drink and I don't know why it's taken me so long to throw myself into experiencing as much as I can. In February alone, I tried over ten new places and each experience was just awesome.

Last week, I had the pleasure of being treated to dinner at Hearth, Marco Canora's incredible restaurant on 12th and 1st. Chef Canora has been very well established for a number of years but he most recently rose to the rank of "celebrity chef" as he competed on the 'Next Iron Chef' show. He lost by a very thin margin to Marc Forgione (whose restaurant I tried a week prior, in fact) but he's become even more well known now due to his television debut. I'd wanted to go to Hearth for a while so the evening was really exciting for me already but Chef Canora is known to be in his restaurant regularly. I was hoping so much that I might have a chance to meet him, especially since our reservation was on the early side.

First of all, the restaurant is so pretty. It's so much of what I'm drawn to with the dim lighting, dark wood, dramatic red wall. It was inviting and cozy while being romantic and a little seductive. I felt really at home there which I happen to think is deeply important for a restaurant. We'd asked the server if Canora was there and he was in fact with his family in the back room so already I was thrilled. There were six of us dining so we decided to try a bunch of different appetizers which were all fabulous, namely the octopus and the quail with farro. I'm telling you, never would I use the word 'tender' to describe octopus but that's exactly what it was and it was divine. The quail was perfectly cooked as well and so delicious. They do half portions of their pastas also (only two on the menu) as an appetizer if you choose so we had the bolognese. Homemade pappardelle, a touch of ricotta, and a sprinkling of fried rosemary which was just heavenly. I swear, I'm not even sure how I had room for dinner. As we finished up the appetizers, I was wondering if I really would get to speak with Canora and, next thing you know, he's right next to me saying a big hello to all of us. I almost died and, like a five year old child, looked at him and said oh my gosh, can I give you a hug?!?. Yes, I said that. Yes, I gave him a hug, too. I was totally embarrassed but that awesome red wall cast just the right amount of color to hide how much I was blushing. He stayed and talked with us for some time, particularly about my chef aspirations, and then proceeds to say well, I think you need to come spend a couple of nights cooking with us in the kitchen here. Holy. Crap. I'm pretty sure my heart stopped for a minute. He was dead serious and I just don't even really have words for something like this. He told me to get ready to be crushed which turned on my competative switch instantly. ;) I like that kind of challenge and I'd welcome the chance to get beaten up by Chef Canora. We all know I usually learn best the hard way, ha. We talked for a few minutes more and, as soon as he walked away, I cried.

How often do we 'wander around the desert', so to speak, looking and searching for answers in life? I mean, I've spent a decade trying to find meaning and purpose and focus yet I feel like I've done that from a place that has been so wrong and confusing. It's only been in this last year and a half that I have gained new ground in terms of who I am as a woman, as a christian, and as a person. My life stems from the very lifeline of who god is and my focus is on listening out to hear where he is calling me to go. I'm not concerned anymore with the anxieties I once had and what used to be self-doubt and fear in my life is now hopeful anticipation, joy, and excitement. It's been one long road but my life is no longer about what I can't do and fully about what I can. Having this talk with a master of Italian cuisine is yet another step forward. I can hardly believe the things that have happened to me in just this past year be it Jewels and Jill, the wonderful Cesare Casella, or now with Marco Canora. This path of mine is being carved before my very eyes and I'm being shown where to go, one step at a time. My passions are being affirmed and I feel that god is totally directing my steps. I trust so whole-heartedly in his perfect timing and, for the first time in my life, so many things are just easy. I used to think I'd always have to encounter something terribly difficult in order for me to learn a lesson yet my heart has always been in such a tumultuous state. I've never been at ease or at peace with who I am or what I believe yet, now that I AM, I feel like life is really happening just as it should. I'm in awe of the experiences I've had and of what's happened to me recently. It is divine and magical and it's like a dream in some ways.

I called Hearth today to set something up and the smile on my face couldn't be bigger. Am I freaked out about getting my behind handed to me? Of course I am but you know what I'm not? Scared. That is exactly how I know I am meant for this.

PS - I have to note that we had the apple cider donuts, warm chocolate pudding cake, and mascarpone cheesecake for dessert and I did everything but lick all of the plates.


Susan said...

I just stumbled upon your blog today. This is so exciting, Val! I feel like I could've written the same thing about my life just six or so months ago. They say life really doesn't begin until you're 30. I couldn't agree more. The twenties are way too confusing with all that emotional development still going on and in the throes of some of life's biggest and most challenging transitions. I'm glad to see you are being led to your place in this life! I'm very happy for you!

-Susan McNeel Camp xoxo

suzanne said...

Hi Valerie,

Great post--I just posted it to Chef Marco's facebook page! Thanks again for your visit, and we can't wait for you to join our family for a few days.

Hearth and Terroir,

katherine said...


This was such an exciting post. Now, I can't wait to experience Hearth (and perhaps, Chef Canora's welcoming personality). I loved your journey of discovery.