Some of my favorite moments at AQ happen when the blinds roll-down and block-off the ever weird and lively world on Mission street. During the last hour of Saturday night’s service everyone smiles a little bit more and laughs a little bit more as the anticipation of the weekend settles to the bone. As restaurant people, we are fortunate to have our protected Sundays – no high-chair brunches, no line-cook crying about the missed football game, no 9:45pm reservation running late for their romantic Sunday night chef’s tasting menu. For some of us, Sundays are moments to be outside – camp, ski, swim, and hike into Northern California’s extraordinary topography. For others, Sundays are moments to be with family, lay low in the neighborhood or rightfully catch-up with a good book or that secret junkie television series. For me, I look forward to my Sunday walk down Larkin Street past the confectionary smell of almond-y pastry at Mr. Holmes followed by the savory scent of potted pork at Saigon Sandwich. I always cut through the farmer’s market at the Civic Center where I like to watch the hunched Chinese ladies buying lots of green leafy things – thinking that these women, right here, are the best chefs in San Francisco. Then I pass the steps of the courthouse (where I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly patriotic and think of my father and brother who are passionate lawyers), and I know I am close to AQ.
As I type these words, it is just another AQ Sunday. I am enjoying an afternoon snack of Amaro CioCiaro over a thick cube of ice, which I like to steal from the bartender’s freezer (they will have to freeze a few more on Tuesday). When I arrived earlier, I found remnants of silver duck tape on the downstairs prep table, a tangible sign that Chef Mark and Chef Jimmy were here, moments before, packing their coolers of abalone and stinging nettles for their special dinner at the James Beard House in New York. An hour later, a few of San Francisco’s most talented sommeliers knocked on the back door, academic satchels and tasting-grids in-hand, ready to tackle a lethal blind tasting of thirty wines. The room is in need of a deep-cleaning by me - decanters lined-up like soldiers on tables 51-55, broken corks and plastic spit-cups married in the blue bin, and a squeaky dishwasher cart, turned fancy guéridon, decorated with corkscrews, wire decanting baskets, and hot pink lighters. I’ll get to cleaning-up in a couple of hours, after I binge on some 64% dark chocolate discs while looking-up market prices for the 2010 Bordeaux vintage, followed by Burgundy. Then maybe I’ll do some Rhône or even Australia, if I’m in the “new-world” mood.
In the next hour Matt will stroll-in with plastic crates of arugula, borage, and wood sorrel, fresh and zesty from the farm in Cloverdale. Then something that is broken (and requires a power tool) will need to be fixed, and he will fix it. Then Guy and Melissa will park the motorcycle in the back and turn-on a ‘feel good’ Pandora station as they prep their ‘feel good’ pita dough for tomorrow’s pop-up (and soon-to-be falafel craze), Sababa. I’m not sure who it will be next… maybe Ryan will pick-up his bicycle after a friendly night’s excursion with beer and whiskey, or I’m hoping Sonja will swing-by to work on next week menus – so I can find-out what happened on date #3 and the other date #1 (slowly becoming more and more intrigued and rather tempted by online dating). Whoever it will be, a moment will proceed. A small conversation or act will be next week’s memory. Some madly funny, others more profound and cordial, but these memories will slowly join together to become stories and to me, the real rhythm of AQ.