Monday, June 14, 2010

All locked up.

By Jennifer Huffman
Napa Valley Register
Monday, June 14, 2010

Last week I was recruited to work as an assistant to Pierce Carson, our longtime food and wine writer, at Auction Napa Valley.

I’ve been to auctions here and there, but I’ve never been to “the show” as I call it. For one thing, we have three girls that need to eat and need new shoes, not to mention a college education, so shelling out $2,500 a person to go to an upscale wine auction is definitely not in our family budget.

So I was very happy that Pierce and colleague Sasha Paulsen asked me to work with them for the day. The morning of the auction, Pierce handed me my media ID. “Guest Carson” it said. He apologized for the name mix-up. That’s OK, I said. You can call me Guest, or Ms. Carson, or whatever you want. I’m just glad to be invited.

Until that day, my only previous visit to Meadowood resort, host of the auction, consisted of a quick trip to review the bathrooms for the Potty Project, a two-day series Kevin Courtney and I wrote about Napa Valley bathrooms a bunch of years ago. I have clearly moved up in my story assignments.

Dinner at my house usually involves throwing together some kind of quickie pasta, chicken or Costco food special. But at Auction Napa Valley, international chefs had prepared all manner of gourmet delights. I followed Pierce as he schmoozed and sampled. Whatever Pierce ate, I ate. I had smoked squab. I had lobster. I tried caviar sprinkled next to quail eggs. I ate mini “pig burgers.”

The Auberge du Soleil chefs made bite-sized shortcakes with strawberries reportedly picked that morning on Silverado Trail. I’m guessing that means they didn’t come from the guy selling strawberries at the corner. A chef named Jean Joho was dishing out a cold soup. I never truly understood cold soup until I had Jean Joho’s cold Alsatian cabbage soup. Suddenly it became very clear. This was the crème de la crème of cold soups. From now on, it’s Jean Joho’s cold Alsatian cabbage soup for me or nothing.

Thomas Keller of the French Laundry walked around like a gourmet ballpark vendor doling out ice cream sandwiches from a wooden cooler. He personally handed me an ice cream sandwich. As soon as he turned away, I took a picture of it. It’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to Keller or his food, unless you count the time when I reviewed the French Laundry bathrooms for the Potty Project.

During the auction itself waiters brought out more tasty delicousness. One plate featured mini organic radishes with the dirt still on their roots as if they had just been pulled from the garden. Apparently the chefs have exhausted all other radish recipes, and therefore resorted to only the purest, most exquisite form of the food. They have literally gone back to their roots.

I had heard stories of the high-class porta potties at the auction so I was sure to check them out. They’re like a deluxe trailer bathroom with faux wood floors, a regular sink with hot and cold running water and flowers. Nice — and no porta potty smell at all. I stepped inside the stall and locked the door behind me. After noting the wooden toilet seat and framed portrait on the wall, I went to unlock the stall door, only it wouldn’t budge. I twisted the lock back and forth. It was stuck. I tried it again. Still stuck. Am I actually locked in a deluxe porta potty at Auction Napa Valley? This is so not good, I said to myself. What do I do now? Do I shout for help? Do I knock? Scream?

I could just hear my coworkers. Did you hear Jennifer went to the wine auction and got locked in a porta potty?

Would I have to be rescued? I imagined the 911 call I would have to make. “Yes, this is reporter Jennifer Huffman with the Napa Valley Register. I’m locked in a very deluxe porta potty at the wine auction at Meadowood.” Oh the humiliation. Will anyone even notice I’m missing? Will Sasha think I’ve fallen down on my reporting duties? Pierce will never ask me to be his assistant again after this. Those wine auction ladies will surely ban me as “Guest” forever.

Standing in the windowless box, I was feeling more than a little claustrophobic. I don’t care how nice a porta potty is, It is not fun to be held captive inside one. After several sweaty minutes, I tried the lock one more time. Finally it opened, and I was free.

Thank goodness. Just in time for dessert.

For more Surrendering to Motherhood click here.

1 comment:

Beki Hilton said...

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