On the road
Henri goes in search of romance—and finds Granzella’s
Mon père, Etienne Alain Bourride, who died two years ago—a glass of Bordeaux in his hand, two artichokes steaming on the stove—loved road trips. Free during the summer from the demands of his students at the small Midwestern college where he taught French film, he would often, at the drop of a chapeau, announce to my mother and me that we were going on a trip, heading nowhere in particular, allowing only enough time to toss into the back of our blue Citroën station wagon our red-checkered picnic tablecloth, a couple of baguettes, an ice chest—filled with foie gras, three or four decent cheeses and a bowl of Niçoise salad—and, of course, a good bottle of wine.
I have fond memories of sitting in the back seat, watching the Midwestern scenery—barns and silos and endless fields of grain—fly by. Sometimes we’d return home after our lunch, but often he’d want to just keep driving, until late in the afternoon, when we’d check into a small motel. Never mind that we didn’t have toiletries or changes of clothes—I think that actually made him feel even more the vagabond of his fantasies.
Henri was reminded of those days recently when he picked up a back issue of The New Yorker and stumbled upon a wonderfully wistful Roger Angell story called “Romance” about the author’s boyhood road trips during the 1930s and ‘40s. Indeed! The romance of the open road. The romance of an America sadly long gone. Or perhaps not.
A road trip! Pourquoi pas? Henri the vagabond. I gassed up my little Renault, had the nice man at the gas station check my oil and tire pressure, and set out to explore America.
Specifically, the factory stores in Vacaville, where I’d heard they were having a spring sidewalk sale with huge markdowns!
In my haste, I forgot to pack a lunch.
Fortunately, about midway into my trip, just as I was growing weary and, naturally, famished, I spotted the sign for Granzella’s, in Williams, where I’d stopped once before to spend the night on my way back from seeing the Moscow ballet in San Francisco.
Granzella’s is actually several restaurants in one—a bakery/coffee shop, a deli, a beer-and-burger sports bar, and a sit-down Italian restaurant—in addition to an olive-tasting bar and a gift shop, with a huge variety of olives and olive oils, plus pasta, polenta, jellies and other condiments.
The sports bar is definitely not Henri’s cup of Oolong, not only because of the 9-foot-tall stuffed polar bear in the corner by the restrooms, but also because he doesn’t really like to watch car racing and other sportsy things when he dines—particularly in the company of very big men with tank tops and hairy necks. Thankfully, the ristorante is rather more civilized. One can sit down to a green salad, a bowl of minestrone and a pasta dish.
I was terrified that I’d miss the bargains at Famous Brand Footware and the Kitchen Collection, though, so I ordered a sandwich from the deli—pastrami and Swiss on dark rye—and a side of pasta-and-asparagus salad and nibbled on the free olives while I waited, then ate my salad and sandwich at one of the picnic tables on the sidewalk out front. Delicious.
Indeed, the perfect lunch for an afternoon of power shopping—I can’t wait to wear my new Bruno Magli loafers. In fact, it was so good that I stopped back in on my way home and bought a fresh-baked baguette and a quarter-pound of Havarti.
For the road, and mon père.