Every other restaurant on the Santa Monica Promenade has faded from view for me since Shiho and I had tapas at Bar Pintxo. We took Jack there, without realizing that Spanish tapas - and really, a menu that is meant to be consumed with copious amounts of alcohol - is a land mine for anyone with gastro-esophageal netflux disease (GERD).
Knowing Jack as I do, I had suspected that GERD was just another way to for him to get attention from girls. Sadly, it is a real condition, with symptoms ranging from heartburn to difficulty swallowing to a regurgitation of bile. He cannot have things that we all take for granted and regard as healthy, like tomatoes, citrus, or olive oil. He can have poultry, fish, most vegetables, and whatever junk food I happen to have in my office when he rambles in at precisely the moment I am working on my next Pulitzer-quality opus.
With this in mind, we perused the menu. Shiho and Jack had gotten there before me and already ordered a couple of things: peach gazpacho and ensaladilla rusa, or Russian potato salad with tuna.
A view from the bridge.
I sat at the counter with my two friends, who had just met that day at an event we attended at a place near and dear to my heart, the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum. Beauty and the Beastly seemed to hit it off, but I was hardly a third wheel, having been lucky enough to find two handsome dining companions of my own. Sitting inches across from me on my end of the counter were two gorgeous serrano hams, installed on special wooden racks, one of which had a swath of glistening fat that the chefs kept to "seal" its cut end.
Swoon over my hammy.
The gazpacho arrived, topped with thin slices of serrano ham and lashings of lovely green extra virgin olive oil. Lovely that is until we were told what the effects would be on Jack's digestive system. So Shiho and I carefully skimmed it off the top of the pale yellow soup, which by the way, was fantastico. It was a lot like a vichyssoise with a summery, sweet finish kissed with cinnamon.
Everything's better with bacon - even peaches!
We needed to find more things that Jack could enjoy safely and selected the tortilla espagnola, which to my surprise was actually a type of Galician omelette. Composed simply of eggs, onions, and potatoes, it was the perfect thing.
Jack tentatively poking at the tortilla espagnola.
There is no sauce like laughter. We especially enjoyed the slideshow of someone's vacation in Spain that was playing over and over on the restaurant's widescreen monitor. There were images of hilarity amid much food, much wine, and much willingness of the revelers to moon the camera.
Humor is also the best medicine. We managed to eat well despite Jack's dietary limitations, which to his credit, he handles very well. I always feel badly for people who cannot eat everything because I live to eat, not eat to live. But considering some of the rare places I like, where one might say that food takes a backseat to ambiance, I also know that the power to taste and consume is not everything. Spending time with good friends is.
Which is not to say it was all a Kodak moment. Jack made fun of Shiho and me for being women of a certain age; I made fun of him for being bald. Your real friends are the ones who hammer at your faults and who let you hammer at theirs, yet everyone comes up laughing.
He gives it a thumbs up! Jack Sprat can eat no fat, so more aioli for Shiho and me!
Between bursts of hilarity, I obsessed over a stray flake of ham that had fallen on the base of one of the wooden racks. I wanted it, like it was a shiny, porky jewel. But I was being polite and refrained from snatching it up. It was kind of like when you are at someone else's house for Thanksgiving and can't just start ripping the skin off the turkey that has just emerged from the oven.
It was the best of all worlds for me, hanging out with friends while watching the Bar Pintxo team of chefs and cooks at close range, kind of like our own personal Food Network show. And somehow, we managed to finish with the traditional churros con chocolate. I guess GERD doesn't rule out dessert. Or hopefully, Jack felt too good to mind.
She's a lady. Except when it comes to stray bits of ham.
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