Saturday, March 17, 2012

BAUMÉ: My dinner at Baumé, or “Please Don’t Eat the Towels”

The evening began quietly with a drink in a neighborhood bar.  The BH and I, discovering quickly that we had arrived too early for our five-thirty reservations at Baumé, ducked into a neighboring Mexican restaurant and bar for a pre-meal cocktail.  After checking our watches after every other sip, we decided we’d burned enough time to check again so we trundled off down the street to our destination.  This time we were greeted with success, and allowed access to the interior of Baumé, no longer to remain wistfully beyond its doors.

When we entered the small, inobtrusive building in Palo Alto that houses Baumé Restaurant, we found Chef Bruno Chemel’s establishment it to be beautifully appointed and overtly welcoming.  My memory recalls a golden hue, the restaurant’s interiors lit by beams that bounced off the red curtains to warm them to a rosy glow, an effect that suggested to the visitor that they had entered the chambers of a beating heart.  But it was the beating heart of a lover engaging in a stolen kiss beneath the shadow that falls under a misty bridge at sunset, not the chaotic red of some tortured teen’s vampire crush fantasy.  It set the mood beautifully for another birthday to celebration.  My birthday always starts the New Year off right when it begins with a romantic dinner with my own immortal beloved.  

Seated at a secluded table in a small room enclosed within a cocoon of silken draperies, the adventure began with a Kir Royale cocktail.  Simple enough, a Kir is a cocktail of fine champagne set off with a hint of Cherry Cassis.  At Baumé they make their own “cassis” consisting of fresh currants reduced to a frozen gel stick that slowly dissolves at room temperature into the bubbly liquid.  The alchemy began at once to transform the effervescence of my champagne from its natural golden glow to a darker ruby hue, in my mind mimicking the sunrise on a Santa Barbara beach.  The perfect mood for making another memory.

Kir Royale
We are unabashed foodies.  The excitement and anticipation that builds when one is waiting to be amazed and thrilled by the talents of a chef whose food has yet to be experienced, is always something we allow ourselves to enjoy, and we make no effort to hide our childish glee.  The waiter soon brought out a pair of dishes with a single white puff on each.  Expecting an amuse bouche, we leaned forward to catch any possible whiff of what was to come.  It’s an action as routine as it is familiar, that first bite... They were ready for us.  The maitre d’ spoke softly, but firmly and the smile on his face was intriguing.  “We ask that you don’t eat this one.  They’re towels.”  We burst into giggles.  Freeze-dried towels?  This was a new one, even for us, and we’ve dined at the table of Wylie Dufresne, whose mad genius in molecular gastronomy is legendary, and whose dishes bend the mind to places one would never imagine in the world of  edible art.  But even Wylie didn’t present us with tiny towels that came with a warning announcement.  I found it delightful.

Moments later, the amuse arrived, and it was eminently edible, a lovely treat to start off our palates for the evenings’ entertainment.  And the evening was most certainly entertaining.  The meal was one blissful dish after another.  I can’t recall all the ingredients perfectly.  As every meal is prepared by the chef each evening with the freshest and most unique foodstuffs available to him on any given day, there isn’t a regular set of dishes so even if I were to taunt and tantalize my readers, their own experience would be quite different upon dining at the restaurant on any other evening.

What one will find if he or she dines at Baumé, is that Bruno Chemel is an artist and food magician.  Every mouthful was heavenly, the service delightful and the ambience inviting.  Go and check it out for yourself.  Make a very special memory of your own.  What lingers for me is the experience, the conversation and the incredible talents of Chef Chemel.

201 S. California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306
Tel 650.328.8899