My parents were booked on my actual birthday, which was Saturday, so they took Andy and I to dinner at Frisson on Friday. I’d been desperate to get to Frisson (pronounced, of course, free-Zon) for some time, having read about it constantly and watched my hippest friends drool when discussing it. I’d religiously peruse the website at work and obsess over every aspect, (particularly loving the incredible free web soundtrack) I found the place the place THAT cool.
They asked one more time. Where did I want my folks to take me for my birthday.
Frisson. Definitely Frisson.
We picked up Andy and headed to the financial district, finding a traffic jam building on the 200 block of Jackson. Like out of a movie, luxury cars and well dressed pedestrians came to a halt in front of a low lit, modern doorway.
“What’s all this?” my mother asked from the front seat.
“What do you think it is? This is Frisson!”
Andy and I leapt out of the car like overly excited unsophisticates as mom switched handbags and dad dealt with valet. I walked down the hallway and up to the hostess. “Hi. We have an 8:15 reservation for four. I’m Beth.”
She looked at her little computer.
“Happy Birthday! You’re table will be ready shortly. Would you like to hang out in the bar? I’ll come find you.”
“Fabulous! Thank you!”
We walked along the circular orange and pink colored dining room, past the DJ and into the bar, marveling at the famous and giant Catherine Wagner photograph of champagne bubbles. Getting the stunning bartender’s attention amidst perfect San Franciscans was challenging, but it didn’t matter. Everyone just stood around acting cooler than the next person. With drinks finally in hand, my mother sipped her Chardonnay and looked around. “My god. I’m the oldest person in here by 30 years.”
She had a point. Even in the dining room, where your stock portfolio dictates your table location, it was the 30-something, perfectly dressed, rich people area. Everyone was way cooler than us and of course, acted like they didn't care. I was so excited, I was practically jumping up and down. I tried to play it cool.
I spotted a woman with gray hair. “Over there, mom! She’s old.”
Mom sighed over the music. “I can’t see that far.”
The hostess found me in the bar. I watched her flawless figure walk towards us, marveling at the drape of her strapless black cocktail dress, the sparkle from her chic vintage rhinestone earrings, even the perfect bounce of her perfect blonde hair. “Hey Beth. I know it’s your birthday and I know you want a fabulous table. So, I’ve saved you the best table in the room, but they’re taking their time leaving. I can seat you right now at a lesser table or you can wait for the perfect table. It’s up to you.”
I looked at my family. “It’s your birthday, Bethy. Let’s wait for the table.”
Ah, my family knows me so well.
We ended up waiting an hour for the table and we couldn’t have cared less. They made us feel good about it, like they were doing us some big favor. And apparently they were. When you go to Frisson, you wait, darling.
Lo and behold, when perfect hair hostess came and got us, we were ushered to THE table, a swank booth with a view of everything and everyone. As we walked into the dining room, mom passed a Prada-suited, serious looking, trendy haired man. He nodded at her. She nodded back. She then looked at me and burst into laughter. “This place is a trip.”
Well, it couldn’t be that much of a trip. Jet-set Joanne follows that with, “It kind of reminds me of the Hudson.”
Oh really? Does it remind you of the Hudson, Manhattan’s fabulous roof-top bar at the fabulous Hudson Hotel?
Dad ordered wine as we perused the menus. “What are you having, Andy?”
“Hmmm. I don’t know. Maybe the mixed field greens and the chicken?”
His dining companions flipped.
“You can’t order that!”
“Look at this menu!”
“Go crazy, Andy! Seriously. You can‘t get field greens.”
He looked at me. “Well, what are you starting with?”
I couldn’t help myself. “The fois gras pb&j.”
“It comes with quince marmalade, dahling.”
The wine arrived, and with it, an adorable wine man. He looked at me and subtly smiled. “Happy Birthday.”
God, I love my birthday.
Dad tested the wine, and deemed it fine. Wine man poured. We sipped.
“Oh my god, this wine is fantastic!”
“Jesus, Dick. This is great wine.”
“Seriously. This is spectacular. What a difference from the Chardonnay at the bar. This is great.”
Suddenly experts, we couldn’t stop talking about this fantastic wine, feeling hip and sophisticated, like we knew what we were talking about. Then, my father made his toasts. As I retold this tale to Alex in Denver today, he responded, “That’s so dad. When dad has something he really wants to say, he’s got to say it in his grandiose way. I dig that.”
We sat in the circular dining room and I watched my father from across the table. He raised his glass. “To Beth. I have been blessed with the best daughter I could ever ask for. Happy Birthday, Bethy. I love you.”
Click glasses. Sip wine.
But he continued.
“And to Andy.” Raise of glasses again. “Andy, I always enjoy myself with you. Whenever Andy comes over, I know we’re going to have a great time. You’re really part of this family. It’s a pleasure, Andy.”
Clink glasses. Sip wine.
Dad spoke up again. “I’m going to the restroom.”
We perused the menu until he returned and saddled into the booth. “So, everyone MUST go to the bathroom.”
“Just trust me. Everyone must go to the bathroom.”
Andy still got his chicken, but started with a complex cheese plate instead of field greens. “They’ve got quince butter. I must have my quince buttah, dahling.”
The food was tiny but spectacular. I actually adored my fois gras pb&j. Andy got up to go the bathroom, as my mother noticed an older gay couple walking in. “Oh, they’re older than me! Thank god!”
We watched them sit down.
“See, see? They’re older than us, Dick.”
“Uh, Joanne. Not only does he have a cane, he’s missing an arm.”
My biggest problem was their outfits, but I kept my mouth shut. Andy returned.
“My god. You girls have to go to the bathroom.”
Our entrees arrived, and they were so appallingly little, my butternut squash risotto looked like Barbie food. But who cares? Every bite was heaven. Mom got up to go to the bathroom.
“God." I whined. "Everyone’s obsessed with the bathroom. Why?”
“We’re not telling you. You have to go.”
Mom returned. “That was really strange. I can’t believe this place! God, that was so weird.”
Dessert came ages later, in the form of huge plates full of apples and chocolate and streudel-y things. Dad sipped his brandy and paid the bill. It was finally my turn to explore this mysterious bathroom. I excused myself. “Just go to the elevator.” They said. “You’ll figure it out.”
I wandered through the dining room, finding an elevator behind a panel of opaque champagne colored glass. My only choice was down, and I rode the single story ride is breathless anticipation. This had better be good, what with my entire table in a frenzy over the magical facilities.
The elevator doors opened.
I emerged into a darkly lit room, a slim, wine colored hallway to my right, and another Prada-suited man to my left. He looked at me. “I believe there’s a free stall right over there.”
It appears the elevator at Frisson goes directly into the bathroom, folks.
The unisex bathroom.
I walked into the stall as directed, closed the door, looked at myself in the door mirror now facing me and laughed. This is insane. An elevator to the unisex bathroom.
I emerged and was guided to the candle-lit, communal washing trough. House music filled the room as an array of us, men and women, stood confused around the sick.
How the hell do you turn the water on?
They’ve got a guy for that, too.
“Just push this lever, ma’am. Right here, sir.”
Oh my god.
I took the huge bathroom elevator back up, and emerged again into the main room of Frisson. A gorgeous man stopped me and inquired, “Is this the elevator to the restroom?”
“Yes it is. And it’s bizarre.”
He looked excited. “Fantastic.”
We gathered our coats and pushed out way past the hordes of people still waiting to get in. Valet had the car ready and we slipped inside, feeling fabulously cool and stuffed. “That was marvelous." I sighed. "Thanks, guys.”
Andy giggled in the backseat and fell onto my shoulder.
“God, that was fabulous. Nothing goes with quince buttah like a unisex bathroom, dahling…”