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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Queer Food Capital: Two Very Different Meals at Absinthe

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2009 at 3:10 PM

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Top photo by Laura T, Bottom by Manda Amanda Bear B, via Yelp

In anticipation of Pride on Sunday, SFoodie is presenting daily features celebrating San Francisco's LGBT food and drink culture.

Last year I went to City Hall to be a happy witness to my old college friend David's wedding to his long-term partner Jeffrey. The place was packed, and not only with the many gay couples marrying all over the place (including two women in the rotunda at the top of the stairs who asked my mom to take their picture). It was 08/08/08, and, eight being an auspicious number in Chinese culture, the place was buzzing with many couples taking advantage of the day. The women were in dazzling gowns beyond just lacy, beaded white -- I remember one tight red cheongsam. My friends were married by supervisor Bevan Dufty, friend of a friend of David and Jeffrey's, in the glamorous gilded and baroque Board of Supervisors Chambers. There were only eight of us: the happy couple, dressed in Hawaiian shirts (they'd flown in from a honeymoon they'd taken before the wedding), their friends Howard and me, my parents, the charming and gregarious Dufty, and his assistant, who cheerfully snapped pictures with our assorted cameras. The ceremony was short but extremely moving.

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Afterwards we made our way out through the festive throngs and walked a couple of blocks to Absinthe, where my parents treated us to a long delicious lunch in a window-lit corner of the light and airy bar. We weren't the only table celebrating a marriage in the crowded house, but the staff took care of us beautifully: David and Jeffrey were treated to cocktails, and received an elaborately plated dessert with "Congratulations!" piped around it in chocolate. We couldn't have had a better time.

Less than three months later, I returned to Absinthe for an early dinner with two friends who regularly come up from Montecito to attend the opera. Usually I buy a standing-room ticket and join them, but tonight I was heading back to the East Bay afterwards for a party to celebrate Obama's election.


As I emerged from BART and walked toward the restaurant in the dusk, I saw a large group of protesters holding candles aloft outside City Hall. I hadn't heard anything about it, but I immediately felt sure that it was a protest about the passage of Proposition 8, which had cast my friends' recent marriage in doubt. As I passed them, I saw I was right. The flickering candles looked beautiful in the crepuscular blue light, but suddenly my heart grew heavy.I trudged slowly to the restaurant, where my opera queens awaited.


The velvet upholstered booth enfolded us in the formal dining room, where I'd enjoyed many previous meals, but tonight it felt sepulchral. The conversation was somber, even despairing. I couldn't eat, so I drank my dinner. Our wonderful lunch seemed long ago and far away.

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Meredith Brody

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