40th Birthday Dinner #2: Hong Xi

Sunday, November 6th, 2005 | 40th Birthday, Food, Friends

Hong Xi picked me up at 5:28 and swept me away to the Ferry Building and my second intimate 40th birthday dinner. Hong Xi chose The Slanted Door as the site of our celebration, one of the loudest, and thus most difficult places to be intimate in, but home of some of the best nouveau Vietnamese victuals to be had in the city. Hong Xi, the artist known as Su-Chen Hung, and I screamed at each other affectionately all night over our many courses. We started with a salad of greens, seared beef, and orange; then on to a vermicelli dish topped with halibut and a pineapple anchovy sauce; pan-seared scallops with spinach and a spicy black bean sauce; peppery duck with mushrooms and persimmon; and for dessert a pear tartlet served with pear sorbet and caramel. Given the many flavors and critters that composed our meal, and Hong Xi’s preference for reds, we chose a spicy young aromatic and lightly fruity but deep purpley wine, a mondeuse from the Bugey region of France to accompany our meal.

Su-Chen only recently changed her name, and her close friends and family are now calling her Hong Xi. I continually address her as “Su-Chen I mean Hong Xi.” We met in 1986 in Tokyo, and discovered that we went to the same school and had all the same friends, and quickly became close buddies and frequent collaborators back in SF. After nearly 20 years I finally discovered what her family business is, but it’s been such a mystery for so long that I’m reluctant to discuss it publicly, although it’s certainly not anything to not discuss. Her love life is still a mystery, though. Maybe at my 50th I’ll find out about that. Is it an Eastern thing to compartmentalize so efficiently?

We decided to start up our Dinner Club again. We used to meet once a month, she and some friends, for a unique epicurean adventure, but first Denny and his lover broke up, then Bob and I, and then Nick moved to Taiwan, so our club sort of fizzled out.

She’s working on a project now that involves threading 30,000 needles, by hand, each with 100 feet of red thread. Her work is ephemeral and process oriented, but also sculptural and graphic. And always captivating. It’s just for me and the few people who get to experience it while it’s around. I’m so lucky to have such a friend who has created so much for me to enjoy and ponder for such a long time, and to leave me ever eager for more.

Dinner #3 coming up Wednesday…

Birthday Suit #2 Su-Chen/Hong Xi

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