Goodbyes are hard.
Especially the goodbyes you’re not ready for. There are things you still want to say, memories you want to hold on to, and that stupid, hopeful speck of denial that maaaybe things aren’t over after all.
This weekend, one of my favorite restaurants in Denver will be closing, at least momentarily, and I’ll have to say goodbye to this place that has hugged my soul and kept it warm in so many ways.
To be frank, guys, I’m simply not ready.
Twelve has been my most reliable restaurant – the place I’d go when I needed no-fuss service, a big glass of wine, and food I could really count on. As such, Twelve has seen me through the most maddening breakups, joyful celebrations, and many a long, hard day. In short, this restaurant, with its generous staff and heartwarming food, has become one of my best friends over the years I’ve lived here.
After Saturday night, my friend is moving away for a while, and taking with her the rotating menus I’ve explored month after month, the gorgeous custom wood bar and its matching wine glass rack built for Chef Osaka by one of his staff, and all of the friendly faces that made so many Tuesday nights just plain better.
As I slipped into the bar again this Tuesday, I noticed that Twelve’s staff has already started lining up their next opportunities. Some are going off to new restaurants opening this fall while others will go to some of my current favorites. Others yet are trying to reform some of Denver’s needs-improvement spots – and to be fair, I hope they do. I hope these talented people continue to grow. But there is something about this transition that feels like a graduating class parting and going their separate ways – only, there are so many more people invested in seeing a one-day reunion of this dream team.
The chefs and front-of-house passed around a menu on Tuesday night, signing it like a yearbook with so many memories and bonds forged behind their names. And yet, this one menu could not possibly represent the years that Twelve has been in service, changing its offerings monthly with the seasons.
I actually started following Chef Jeff Osaka’s career before I even knew who he was – I was just a young girl in Santa Monica, lusting after the menu at Mélisse and cringing at its prices. To find a former Mélisse chef making his own menu in Denver at a price point I could afford had to have been a gift from the foodie gods, and one that I embraced whole-heartedly.
Chef Osaka’s prix-fixe format on weekdays reminded me of home, that is, the home I built in Paris in 2009. On the rare occasions I could afford to eat out in those days, I would always opt for prix-fixe 3-course meals as this was the most affordable (and enjoyable) way to dine out in France. Americans don’t typically embrace multi-course eating as much as their French cousins, so it’s much more rare to find the experience offered in the States. A $38 prix-fixe at Twelve, however, will quickly make you a convert.
But as I ran my fork through the deep red berry under Tuesday’s aloe jelly dessert, I was flooded with emotion. It just hit me: the three courses I pick for my dinner tomorrow night will not just be another three courses. They will be the final three – the last supper – the ultimate taste – the goodbye kiss.
This is worth planning, worth calculating, worth enjoying in all its mixed emotions – my sweet and painful last moment in this place is coming faster than I am ready for, but it’s been a beautiful ride and I’m happy to be able to sit at the bar where we first met and give Twelve a proper goodbye. The goodbye it really deserves after such a great journey.
So cheers, my friend – and may Saturday’s dinner just be a “so long for now!”