We lived and worked in Napa for 15 years in one form of food venue or another. The one we eventually were most fond of was our warehouse kitchen, way hidden in a quiet nook in central Napa. People came in from all over to pick up their foods, taste a wine or two while glancing through a book from our book exchange or enjoying a quiet conversation. We also sold organic vegetables and eggs, wines for winemaker friends who had no tasting room, and our house condiments as food gifts. It was a social hub, and a little escape from hectic lives. And solid friendships were made.
We wanted to share a profound and moving letter we received years ago from a customer who came in regularly with first his one young son, then pregnant wife, then second child of whom we felt so honored to witness and participate in by feeding this sweet young family.
My heart is forever yearning for and nurtured by this exchange with those who enjoy our foods.
Luce and Bill,
Another great menu tonight. The eggplant was an instant flashback to our first visit to Cafe Lucy years ago. Clean, bright flavors and freshest possible greens. When I think of the Luce food universe this dish is like its center of gravity.
Thank you for your latest email and sharing how you feel about what you have created. We appreciate the deep conviction you feel about the Relish process, and we know from our own lines of work that introspection is inevitable.
We wanted to say to both of you that what you give to us, the community of your consumers,goes far beyond the food. You have created that kind of unique experience people covet. The
stroke of genius to present Relish the way that you do - rhythmic, seasonal, and sparingly - had the effect of compelling us to participate far far more than we ever did when you had the
cafe. The way in which you confer the menu connects all of your consumers to each other.
We come not because we have no plan for dinner on Friday night, but because we have seen the menu and are drawn in, like devotees. At any given restaurant I could walk in and have no
idea why every one else is there that night. But Relish is different. Essentially different. I look forward to the simple act of coming in each week, like a very pleasant ritual. If someone else comes in, like tonight, I do what I NEVER do anywhere else in public - I say hello. I know exactly why they are there. Relish brings out a social side of me that surprises me sometimes. We have had memorable meals in the valley to be sure - La Tocque, Terra, Auberge - but they were special occasions that had nothing to do with those particular
restaurants. What you have created is a blend of 'nourishing tradition' and a community.
In medical school we try to find students who are inspired about medicine. Inspiration is similar to motivation, but the latter can be misguided. We project to applicants that inspiration
is the kind of experience/feeling that never fades, about which you are always glad to share instead of horde. When you are doing something that inspires you you are happy to give it away and help others who want to do the same - affirmation comes to you as a result, people are drawn to you not because of a transaction or exchange but because of how you make them feel. It needs to be singular and personal. This is Relish. This is Luce and Bill.
Walter and Yeun
Saturday, January 17, 2009 America Online: CafeLucy