Just emerging from a not quite so foody phase, I'm sitting at my local boîte, enjoying an iced tonic. Bean Sprout is with us, happy in his dog tote; not fully tucked inside, but half in the bag. Heh.
(I swear, if it weren't for Bean Sprout, we would never meet new people. He is a social magnet.)
An unfamiliar couple comes onto the patio of our boîte and spots the cute pooch.
"Oh, come on over and give him a pet," we implore.
The Mister obliges. He's got an intelligent, lined face, and one of those huge brass belt buckles that rodeo winners wear, not only to advertise their prowess, but to lure the "buckle bunnies" ... however it's clear this guy is devoted to his wife, whom he introduces, both to us and the puppy.
The buckle says "Cookin' U.S.A."
I can't resist.
I ask what the buckle is all about.
He tells me it was a television cooking show out of Nashville.
"Were you a contestant?" I ask, stupidly.
"Aw, no," he says. "I was the star."
I'm chatting with Merle Ellis, "The Butcher"!
He tells me he has since worked at Mill Valley Market — most likely in their really decent butcher department — and he lives in toney Tiburon.
We tell him we're wild about charming foodie stories like his... and we love Mill Valley Market... and we're — oh, so pleased to meet him.
And he says, "That's why we're here today" ... gesturing to this modest boîte, this place where I've never had a lousy steak... Where I hope to run into Merle again.