Sand, Sea and Moule Frites at Le Garage, Sausalito
A weekend lunch with my sweetheart, after a gorgeous drive over the Golden Gate bridge, to the beautiful seaside town of Sausalito… If Le Garage, the popular French bistro in Sausalito, gets any closer to the sea, it will have to be a floating restaurant.
Le Garage’s ambiance is perfect. The place is hip and causal, like a smartly dressed woman you want to be seen with. From the patio, the view of bobbing sail boats and flying sea gulls sets the mood. Our waiter at this particular lunch was a tall, dark and handsome young man, who got down on his knees by the table for our order – makes a girl feel special even if she is with her sweetheart. I was in a lovely mood this far. Our order – moule frite and squash blossoms stuffed with crab.
Next to our table, a pair of Mexican hands was chopping up baguette slices with a fury. Looking at him, we couldn’t stop wondering about the safety of his fingers. But the bread at the table, I am glad to say, didn’t have traces of blood on it.
Our first dish of crab stuffed squash blossoms was deep fried and served over a tomato compote. In the region surrounding Calcutta, there is a variety of squash that grows on rooftops (“chaal kumdo“). I have childhood memories of hopping across the roof of my grandmother’s home between squash vines gathering their flowers, that my mother would then stone grind with mustard oil and spices (“phool bata“) and serve with parboiled rice. This paste is typically made with an armful of flowers and the fragrance is intense in every spoonful. Now, I seek out that aroma from my childhood in every squash blossom so maybe my judgment is forever skewed. While a far cry from phool bata, Le Garage’s dish was light textured, like a puff of sea. The crab wasn’t particularly flavorful but this isn’t peak crab season. The compote was lightly cooked and pleasingly sweet. It was a fine tomato dish even though tomato is not at its summery peak yet.
We could see the ocean through the windows, smell it in the air, and taste it on the plate … sounds perfect, doesn’t it? But not so fast my friend. The mussels of our moule frites were gritty. Joy of Cooking has taught me that there is nothing worse than gritty mussels so I am pretty darn diligent the few times I cook them in a year. That aside, the sauce had too much uncooked wine, raw garlic and overcooked zucchini. Most disappointingly, the fries arrived cold and limp at the table. This entire moule frite business, the classic French bistro food that Le Garage is said to be so good at, went completely wrong. Maybe I can excuse the mussels for not wanting to give up the sand and the ocean they came from but how am I to excuse the fries.
Thankfully, the disappointment over the moule frite was short lived. On the drive back from Sausalito, we marveled at the tourists who were shivering with cold and yet were holding on to their cameras. By the time I was finished with an afternoon of shopping, only the aroma of ocean remained in my head, not the taste of the sand.