After the PUBLIC night Kristina told me, wisely, “If you really want to cook, go the the best restaurant in town and tell them you’ll work for free.” So, I did. The best restaurant in Moscow-land happens to be the lovely Nectar. At the south end of Main Street, in a converted travel agents’ office, Nectar seems to watch over the hipsters and regular folk of Moscow wandering about downtown, providing us with little macs and mashed potatoes and lamb chops. Owners Brett and Nikki brought Nectar to Moscow three or so years ago, but it already seems like a North Idaho institution. The menu is just big enough that you never get bored, but just small enough that you never have to read and re-read and agonize. Heavenly mac and cheese, the quintessential nectar burger, ever-changing flatbread pizza, and the only meatloaf in the world that I’ve ever liked are constants, while other characters like lamb chops and halibut and pasta show up from season to season. Excellent Chef Eric was my mentor, so to speak, for my Nectar days. The first day I showed up we made choux pastry dough, then made that into profiteroles, gruyeres, and beignets. Needless to say, nervousness was quickly turned into excitement for the whole Nectar internship deal. I started coming two-ish times a week, and to my great delight and surprise, Eric let me cook! Like, cook food! For the restaurant! So very exciting and marvelous and kind of scary and great. He was very patient through all my “Wait, now, what?” “How many whats?” “Where’s the tomatoes!?” and taught me a LOT.

After a month or so I did a lot of the grill thangs; lamb chops, burgers, meatloaf, filets and the like. The Nectar kitchen is very unique, and I think perfect. Tiny and open to the restaurant. (…Isn’t the real purpose of making food to feed other people, to give them something delicious that makes you both feel all warm and full and cuddly? So, wouldn’t you want to see them? Plus it’s fun to wave at people from the kitchen.) And the kitchen has red walls. A tiny thing that makes a big difference. It doesn’t feel all creepy and institutional like some kitchens do, with white linoleum-y walls and silver everything else. And in the tiny little lovely kitchen was usually me, Eric, and either Porter or Conrad, dishwashers/mashed potato masters/rad radlingtons. And coming in and out of the kitchen are all the waitresses, a charming posse of the possibly the most hip and nice people in town.

Doing Nectar time really solidified the cooking thing for me. I like it. I like hiding back in a kitchen, makin’ stuff. I like when it gets busy and you have all your items just dialed. And then after, everything done perfectly (…near-perfectly) and sent out and wanting to do a small victory lap around the kitchen. (Or maybe just a victory piece of warm toasty bread.) I like knowing you made something kind of creative but really productive. Art with a purpose I suppose? And not only did I really figure out that I really like the whole deal, I actually began to learn to really cook like a real kid. Eric explained everything, why things caramelize, why things need water, why they don’t, how to cook fish, meat, vegetables. How to fix sauces and how to get a burger ready in a hurry. How to make pretty potato paves and pick perfect halibut. I feel like a non-fool in the kitchen now, whether at home or in a restaurant.

…fire is exciting.

(Wise master and young cricket.)

Nowadays I crave Nectar stuff all the time. The sauce on the meatloaf (…oh gawd), the creamy creamy brussel sprout pasta, the salad with candied walnuts. I miss them, my favorite carb-y friends. I think I had that pasta at least twenty times. Heaven, heaven. More than the food though, I just miss the whole Nectar deal a whole lot. It’s a wonderful wonderful place full of excellent people, marvelous food. It’s cozy and tasty and feels a little like home. I’ll be back soon.