The dough master.

February 10th, 2014, 8pm

A new wine bar just opened in my neighborhood. For weeks, I’ve watched it warily, trying to imagine myself inside. A neighborhood wine bar is a curious thing, particularly in a neighborhood like mine. (”We call it the village,” says the waitress, grinning, when I mention that I live just around the corner.) It implies a specific sort of resident, the kind with a palette that appreciates the novelty of a volcanic wine flight. While I can imagine various inhabitants of Cole Valley getting their terroir on, I’m certainly not one of them. It has, however, been a long day.

Just after 6, the train spits me out on the sidewalk and somehow I know it’s time. This place is barely closet sized, just a few tables and a skinny bar crowding a food prep area. One whole wall is lined with wine bottles. Besides three members of the staff, I’m the only person here. Me and my raincoat and my blazer and my laptop bag and my purse and my 800 page novel sidle up to the ledge, hoping to look suave and knowledgeable about varietals. (Shockingly, we do not succeed.)

Never mind: these are not the snooty type. When I profess to know little more than how to identify the color of a wine (”I think I like reds better? But not oranges? That was a thing for a while, right? Orange wine?” Meanwhile, the waitress nods and fails to smother a giggle.) someone points me to a flight I can actually afford and enthusiastically tells me where exactly in Italy each came from, not to mention in which order I should drink each pour. No one seems to mind that I’m clearly planning to camp out with a book for a couple hours.

I soon discover that the cauliflower bruschette is made of magic. Other patrons trickle in, and from time to time I peek over my book to watch through the glass as other, less vegan food is prepared. I have a soft spot for the intimacy of open kitchens like this, the underpinnings of the meal exposed. The chef keeps catching me staring at his labors, and somehow, I don’t mind. Right now, discomfort feels impossible.

Just before I’m about to beg the check, they bring out the dough. The owner, only recently arrived, is to learn how to make pizette. I watch as they measure oil into the well at the center of the flour, then dig in, knuckling the ingredients to smoothness. Carefully, they cut and weigh the dough, each glob painstakingly coaxed into a sphere. The owner is not very good at making dough balls.

Never mind: the dough master is here to mend mistakes. He swoops in when the owner’s attention wanders. He swaddles the dough in plastic wrap when the pan is full. The pizette will be made. The people will eat.

I will be back.

Anne Marie said thanks.

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Zoelle Egner

Digital literature. Alternate reality games. Science fiction. Cocktails. Octopuses. Excessive pondering. By day I do the technology thing. (Sometimes by night, too.)

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