Another Saturday at work, another dinner at Lark. Although this time I am done early enough to go home and comb my hair and change into something a little less scruffy and grab a handbag instead of my usual backpack before I head out to dinner. It's a beautiful evening, the flowers in bloom everywhere, sunny and only lightly cool. As usual, it is quiet in the dining room; as usual, I am greeted as a regular. (I am glad that none of my friends or family is here to raise an eyebrow when my new haircut is immediately noted by two people). K. comes by, and tells me about their annual Whole Beast dinner next month. I'm in!, I tell her. There are two specials tonight, and when I hear the word "elk" I know that it will be my dinner tonight. I add a salad, and sit back with my bread and butter.
My salad arrives, and I find that it is impossible to eat a watercress salad gracefully, the stalks going every which way. It is very tasty, though, the watercress leaves tossed with delicate curls of frisée, tiny florets of cauliflower, crunchy bits of toasted pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and chewy little lardons. I eat it slowly, enjoying the contrasts of all the flavors and textures on my plate, as more and more diners filter into the room. A large party takes over the big table nearest the kitchen; a birthday party, it looks like. There is nearly always a birthday party here, just as there is always a "fun" table, happy and almost boisterous, chatting enthusiastically with the owner and the servers and amongst themselves.
Then comes the elk loin, over roasted chestnuts and what appear to be parsnips, scattered with huckleberries and a deep fuschia berry sauce. The meat is surprisingly tender, intense rather than gamy, offset by the sweetness of the chestnuts and parsnips and the berries. I regret that I did not order some pommes de terre Robüchon, that puree of potatoes that is really more butter than potato (or so it seems). Spring has come; winter is at an end, and sooner than I can imagine it will be summer, time to turn to lighter dishes instead of the warm earthiness of roasted and braised meats that have sustained me through winter. Time to put away the pork belly and elk and turn to fish and fresh vegetables. But that comes later.
I want something more, but not something sweet. I don't want dessert, not the lemon parfait or the brown-sugar-date cake or the pineapple tarte tatin. The cheese list is a mystery to me, but finally (with a little help from my server) I order some clochette, a goat cheese from the Loire Valley. A fat little wedge of the cheese comes with a tiny dish of what turns out to be heather honey. The honey comes from Italy, and it is like warm sunlight, with a slightly crystalline texture that contrasts perfectly against the creamy smoothness of the cheese and the nutty bread. I slice the cheese and lay it on a piece of walnut bread with a smear of honey, and it is better than any tarte tatin or brown-sugar-date cake. At least for tonight.