Monday, August 27, 2012

CYRUS - Of all the Restaurants in all the world....

The Magic Begins...

Ilsa: I wasn't sure you were the same. Let's see, the last time we met... 
Rick: Was La Belle Aurore.
Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget.
Ilsa: No.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.


I recently learned that a favorite restaurant of mine, Cyrus, is closing its doors at the end of October.  Maybe this will be a temporary hiatus for the talented crew of this magical establishment.  Maybe it is just for now, but there is no immediate plan for relocation.  Certainly the gold-washed walls beneath the perfect mini-cathedral arches shaped just so will no longer house Douglas Keane and crew.  The massive wooden bar that is the first thing one sees upon entering the hall will no longer be where I sit and playfully interrogate the knowledgeable bartenders as to the merits of all forms of crystal tequila to enhance my personal education.  Cyrus, a place I have grown to love beyond reason, will, in this particular iteration, be gone forever.

The very special restaurants (and people behind them) that find their way into our hearts by taking us places we’ve never traveled before, can develop connections with their customers that become deeply personal.  This is particularly true when the occasions spent within their walls are ones as momentous as the anniversary of the date on which you pledged your troth to another human being until the end of time.  Those moments become the touchstones of our lives, and the surroundings are carried in the memories.  Precious and permanent.  Whenever we conjure up the memory, we cannot help but picture ourselves in the surroundings where that memory was born.

My husband and I went to Cyrus. And we fell in love. With the food, with the decor, with the people who run it, and a little bit more with each other.  And now it will be gone.

Powdered Creme Fraiche
Rick: Don't you sometimes wonder if it's worth all this? I mean what you're fighting for.
Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we'll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Rick: Well, what of it? It'll be out of its misery. 
Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart. 


Douglas Keane and Company have been fighting a battle with their landlord for years, almost since they opened the doors to this intimate little jewel in the sleepy California town of Healdsburg.  For reasons known only to them, they have finally given up that battle against the forces that have for so long wanted them gone. They have decided that it is no longer worth the soul-sucking battle and sleepless nights to remain in a location that is hostile, though they had over a decade remaining on their lease. This saddens me, both because these people are delightful, and what they made of the place was remarkable, and also because in my own small way, I felt I was part of the battle.  A cheerleader on the sidelines, but invested in their continued success.  It was their destiny to continue, as it was mine to enjoy the fruit of their labors.  So I am left with what feels like a destiny thwarted.

Egg & Noodles
Rick: [scoffs] You understand how I feel. How long was it we had, honey? 
Ilsa: [on the verge of tears] I didn't count the days. 
Rick: Well, I did. Every one of 'em. Mostly I remember the last one. The wow finish. A guy standing on a station platform in the rain with a comical look on his face because his insides have been kicked out.
Ilsa: Can I tell you a story, Rick? 
Rick: Has it got a wow finish? 
Ilsa: I don't know the finish yet. 


It’s never easy to accept an ending. I’ve never been good at it, and though I have lost my share of beloved eateries in my day, this is a particularly hard one to take.  I know that when one lives long enough this is going to happen occasionally, but it has never happened to a place as vital as Cyrus.  It feels as though it would have been easier to accept if they were at the end of their journey instead of so close to the beginning.  But as much trouble as I’m having, I have to assume it has been a much more challenging journey for the staff who have poured their lifeblood and creativity into the fruition of this magnificent establishment.  But I also know them to be passionate people, who have to have thought a lot about this decision before choosing to pack up their kitchen.  I don’t know how they are handling it internally, but I’m sure it’s with the grace and aplomb with which they do everything else.  As for me, I’m still stuck in one of the early stages of grief.  Denial.  And I’m acting out by returning in October for a last meal.

Certainly our most recent meal was enough to inspire anyone’s life-long dedication.  We began with the caviar tasting. Mounds of tiny little briny eggs atop these incredible house baked blinis.  Amuse after amuse, follow by an incredible salmon (for my husband the fish lover) and a chicken for me.  By the time the chicken rolled around I’d eaten so much that for the first (and I hope last) time ever I couldn’t finish my main course. It was so good I didn’t want to stop but there comes a point when a girl knows she’s met her match.  Another reason to go back.  Well, that and the amazing flavors.  Douglas Keane’s menus are a thing of wonder and beauty.

Cold Soup "Salad"
Rick: Tell me, who was it you left me for? Was it Laszlo, or were there others in between? Or - aren't you the kind that tells? 


In spite of the news of the imminent extinction of this magnificent place (or maybe because of it), I decided to write about our most recent meal at Cyrus.  To celebrate the perfect night.  It will be perfect in my memory, no matter what comes afterwards, because when we ate there that blissful June night, we had no idea of what was to come.  Anything was still possible.  We could imagine returning year after year to celebrate our special day with these wonderful people in those beautiful surroundings.  I will continue to imagine it until they make a return.

I believe in the culinary skills of Chef Keane and Company.  And because I do, I don’t believe this will be the final chapter in their story.  Maybe you’ll think I’m in denial, but I think they will be back, and they will be better than ever.  In October, after the final diners have finished their meals and paid their checks, I imagine Doug and Nick walking off into the fog together.  They will figure it out.  And while they do, I will continue to dream of my next meal at their table.  I will wait, if not patiently, for a reunion.  I’m guessing I won’t be alone.  From my perspective, this has been, and will continue to be, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  So check it out, if you can, before October brings the run of this magnificent establishment to a close.  And don’t forget to ask Nick to pour the good brandy.

CYRUS Healdsburg
(until 10/31/12): 29 North Street, Healdsburg

Moist roast chicken, skin crisped to perfection
sits atop a bed of greens

(after 11/1/12) coming to a theater near you...*
 *the Cyrus name and brand have retained by Douglas Keane & Nick Peyton