Eating Authors: Sharon Joss

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Sharon Joss

If you’re reading this when it posts on Monday, then know that for the previous four days I’ve been away in Columbus, Ohio attending the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, which despite more than its share of early trouble turned out to be a really fine event and I take back all the snarky things I may have said or implied about Ohio. Seriously. But having just returned from WFC is as good a segue as I need to introduce this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest, Sharon Joss, who has dropped by to regale you with her most memorable meal, cuz, that’s what we do here.

Sharon’s probably known to you as the author of the Hand of Fate series of fantasy novels, but she also writes science fiction and horror novels, as well as short stories (and won the 2015 Writers of the Future Golden Pen Award).

She resides in Oregon, and I’m beginning to suspect there’s some authorial zeitgeist that is responsible for more and more genre writers taking up resident there. Perhaps I should succumb and move there too. Or at least couch surf from home to home of all the people I know there.

LMS: Welcome, Sharon. We’ll talk later about the couch surfing thing. but for now, please talk about your most memorable meal.

SJ: The best meal I remember having was memorable like a good story is memorable —because it worked on more than just one level, and the experience changed me. And while I have enjoyed many memorable meals in my life, this one stands out.

This was back in 2011 — Saturday, February 19th, as I recall, although I had to look up the date. I was in San Francisco at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in Nob Hill, for the 2011 San Francisco Writers Conference. It was only the second writer’s conference I’d ever attended (I’d attended the same conference the year before), but this year my sister was interested in coming, so we shared a room.

Destiny Blues

The Mark Hopkins is truly a grand old hotel, and everything about it makes you feel special, just by being there. Michele and I checked in, oohed and aahed over our cute and quaint room, and set out to find a restaurant for dinner. The hotel is just blocks from Chinatown and Union Square, so we figured we’d let inspiration be our guide and left the choice of our restaurant up to the fates.

And a good thing, too. My sister happens to be a marine biologist, one of the few on this planet who has spent time as a researcher on the Farallon Islands; a National Wildlife Refuge located some 30 miles off the coast of San Francisco where fur seals, Steller’s sea lion, and elephant seals roam. So when we saw the sign for Farallon, we knew this was kismet.

It’s an upscale place with an amazing underwater vibe that you can only fully appreciate after dark. The lighting is phenomenal; with huge jelly-fish-shaped glass sculptures floating overhead, and soft murals that give the place an inviting feel. To our dismay, they told us that without a reservation, we’d likely not be seated for hours. At that very moment, two seats at the bar opened (as if by magic), and we snagged our seats for the evening.

Steam Dogs

The bar is small — maybe a dozen seats, no more. It’s just inside the door, but a little off to the side, so the hustle and bustle of the restaurant waiting area and servers fade to the background. The bartender — I think his name was Rico — brought us white wine and assured us we could order anything we like off the menu, so we settled in for the evening. Rico was friendly, and to our surprise, everyone else at the bar was too. Interestingly enough, these guys were all regulars. Some, kind of rough-looking and seemingly out of place in such a fancy restaurant, but all unique and interesting characters.

And over that first glass of wine, while Rico chopped up fruit and served drinks, the magic kicked in.

And it was no longer just me and my sister, chatting and enjoying each other’s company, but 13 strangers (Rico and the 10 other regulars, holding court at the bar), enjoying a surreal and unforgettable evening. Together. We started talking about the fresh fruit Rico was cutting up for the tropical drinks. One of the regulars owned a pineapple ranch in Hawaii. Someone else had just returned from sailing around the world and had missed his usual seat at the bar terribly while he was gone — although there was a place in Tahiti that was pretty great. I mentioned I had worked for two landmark Polynesian restaurants in Southern California: Sam’s Seafood (as a waitress), and Tahitian Village, (as a bartender) and in a small world moment, Rico revealed that he knew Sam’s head bartender, Tommy, who had worked there for decades. We talked Polynesian drink recipes.

Aurum: The Golden Planet

We ordered another glass of excellent wine, and our dinners arrived — Michele and I shared an order of fresh raw clams and grilled swordfish. The food was superb. Rico informed us that the gentleman seated two stools down had caught the swordfish that very day. And of course, one of them asked us what had brought us to the Farallon bar, and Michele told them of her connection to the islands, and wouldn’t you know it, one of the men there was a surveyor who had worked out there once, mapping the coastlines.

And on and on it went. And I remember grokking on the idea that all of us sitting at the bar were a metaphor for life; that we are all truly connected in a fundamental and cosmic way. Between the lighting, the ambiance, the company, and the very serendipity of the evening; I bookmarked that dining experience in my mind as something I never wanted to forget, Michele and I often remind each other of that fine, fine dinner, and I know she experienced the same otherworldliness about the encounter I did.

Thanks, Sharon. I am constantly experiencing this same, holistic connectedness wherever I go. And I’ve never been to the Farallon Islands.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

#SFWApro

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