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Piperade – Some train wrecks, as loud as they are, sneak up on you. This is one.

I’ve been on the phone with Piperade for weeks, trying to organize a dinner with one winemaker who may or may not be getting grapes earlier than he’d ever expected (Steve Edmunds), possibly his wife Cornelia St. John, and maybe his harvest intern; another (Mike Dashe), mired in the insanity of finishing a new facility before his grapes start arriving, and maybe his wife Anne; and Stuart Yaniger. Add to that a series of failed attempts to get Piperade to offer a lower corkage fee than is their norm, and I’ve spent a lot more time talking to the owner than I’d like.

So, Stuart backs out at the last minute, as he usually does. Anne Dashe is still in France with the kids. Cornelia St. John has other plans. Steve Edmunds’ intern is on the road, while Steve himself has to be at the winery to receive grapes. And Theresa wants dinner to be earlier. Taking a deep breath, I call Piperade to change our reservation.

…only they don’t have it. Despite a dozen conversations about a table for eight I’ve allegedly had reserved for several weeks now, they’ve no record of it anywhere. Worse, they can’t even provide a table for three at the original time, and so we’re moved a half-hour later than we’d originally wanted to dine. And so, while the dinner we do have ends up being quite good, the situation leading up to it leaves an exceedingly bad taste in my mouth.

The food at Piperade is really quite nice (much better than at another of SF’s Basque outposts, Fringale), showing a countrified intensity one doesn’t always get from U.S. interpretations of regional French dining. A ham and sheep cheese terrine lives up to its exalted billing, and a plate of braised veal sweetbreads is pure comfort food, though it lacks any identifiably signature Basque touches. The wine list appears to be quite interesting, but with Mike’s supply we don’t feel the need (or the capacity) to order anything else. Service is, aside from the problems with our reservation, friendly, and gets friendlier when our waitress realizes that Mike has made one of the wines on their list. At long last, we get the reduced corkage I’ve been after. Figures… (8/04)


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