Tuesday, October 14, 2008

from Anni and Jarion

Sheer indulgence - Anni and Robert at the 2002 Whiskey Expo at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco

Single malt Scotch whiskey and Sharffen Berger chocolate together? Jarion is in Heaven with his dear friend!

In loving tribute to Robert

Robert Steinberg: a dear friend, a great inspiration.

Jarion has known Robert since the 1970s, when he had the rare experience of sharing the stage with Robert at the Ukiah Playhouse in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." I met Robert after Jarion and I married in 1989, and I remember sadly digesting the news of his lymphoma diagnosis, and visiting him in his San Francisco medical office just before he sold the practice.

Sure, I remember his apartment and the roof view and the kitchen remodeling project, and the great cooking tips he shared, and the fine meals and deep discussions there and at our house in Mill Valley. But most of my memories of Robert come from his post diagnosis chocolate fervor. He met us for lunch in downtown Mill Valley one day and said "don't order dessert," whereupon he produced two foil wrapped packets from his pocket. He said he had been "experimenting" in his kitchen, and offered up a smooth slab of homemade conched chocolate, with a complex, intense flavor that made our eyes grow wide with pleasure. The contents of the second packet looked more like something regurgitated by one's pet, brown and lumpy with bits of cocoa nibs in crunchy evidence. However, upon savoring it, Jarion, a fellow fine chocolate lover, immediately pronounced that it should be a commercially available confection - as is. Much to our delight, a few years later and with some refinement, the Nibby Bar was born.

Jarion loved to visit the first Sharffen Berger factory in South San Francisco, because Robert gave him bags of cocoa bean hulls to use as garden mulch. He would empty those big burlap bags around the garden and when the sun warmed up the hulls, our entire property would be wrapped in the warm aroma of chocolate.

Robert designed the cake for Jarion's 50th birthday party in January of 1998, and brought it to the event along with the final decorations, big flat shards of chocolate and bits of edible gold leaf. He later took the microphone onstage to roast Jarion up a bit, lovingly tweaking the youthful narcissim of his actor buddy. The 100 or so guests were thrilled to discover Scharffen Berger chocolate that night, and many fans were born.

We also tried a bit of matchmaking at times, but Robert did just fine in his relationships with women without our efforts. With his intelligence and wit, his humor and energy and his great heart, why not?

So many times when our calls were not returned, or our messages were unanswered in the past few years, we thought... is this it? Is Robert in the hospital, has he succumbed to the cancer, is he unable to communicate with us? And then a flood of joy and relief would follow when he finally called back, or showed up at one of Jarion's performances, with a quick update on his latest brush with mortality, but as he had many times before, he had once again bounced back. He once called from a hospital in Boston during a medical struggle, once from an airport in Miami after his latest treatment had worked so well he was off to an international conference. He sometimes rested and recuperated - but he usually jumped right back into the fray as soon as he was barely on his feet again.

These fond photos are from the Whisky Expo at the Nikko Hotel in March of 2002. Jarion is passionate about single malt whiskey AND chocolate, so when we found out Robert would be there representing Scharffen Berger, we were delighted! Robert left his table with its huge pile of chocolate pieces chopped up on a giant slab of a cutting board, to wander around with us, sampling the food and information and history, (while Jarion and I sampled a LOT of whiskey).

Passion and commitment fueled the final years of Robert's rich life, and is a lesson to all of us to care deeply, live vigorously, and love wholeheartedly. We will miss you greatly Robert,

Anni Long and Jarion Monroe

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