Great Goan Meals

Great Goan Meals

If you were building a list of great places in the world for food, then Goa would have to make it into your top 10. Situated on the west coast of India, and famed for its palm-lined beaches, Goa has been a crossroads for many different cultures dating back for millennia. The Sumerians, Dravidians and Portuguese have all come to Goa over the centuries, with the result that its cuisine is an eclectic mixture of Asian and European influences. One of the things that Goa is most famed for is its seafood, which is both tasty and economical. As with most Goan dishes, seafood is usually served hotly spiced, making it a perfect combination of delicate flesh and fiery extravagance. The fish curry is particularly delicious, made with the local pomfret, which is similar in texture to haddock or turbot. The curry is traditionally hot and sour, with the heat mellowed by the addition of copious coconut. As well as fish, these curries are often made with the local shrimp, which are large and juicy. Another common way of preparing fish in Goa is frying it – the fish is first coated in a deep layer of hot spices and then cooked in sizzling oil. Pork is also a staple Goan food, and gained popularity during the time the Portuguese ruled from the 1600s until as recently as 1961. Perhaps the best-known pork dish from Goa is vindaloo, the name of which actually comes from the Portuguese “carne de vinha d’alhos,” which means meat with wine and garlic. In Goa, the wine was replaced with palm vinegar, and additional...
Homemade provel cheese

Homemade provel cheese

  True story: St. Louis-born in a decidedly un-foodie time, I did not know that provel and provolone were two different cheeses until after I had moved to California and was married with a baby. Really. I had a sudden taste for one of those delicious house salads we used to get from Talayna’s back when there was only one enormous and dirty location in DeBaliviere, before it got all prettied up and moved. The salad was an enormous mound of iceberg lettuce with a few Greek olives, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and delicious gooey tubes of provel cheese, all tossed together with the house dressing, a garlicky creamy Italian that my BFF assured me her mother said was very close to Marie’s. I can’t find a picture of it, but here’s a similar salad from Leo’s Pizza in Kansas City that will give you the idea: I made the salad that night with provolone and was disappointed. Where was that soft, gooey cheese I craved? I confessed to LL being confused that the provolone in California was so – different from my midwestern cheese. “But we called it provel,” I reasoned. “Maybe there’s some difference.” And that’s when I learned they’re two completely different cheeses. “Provel is like Velveeta,” he informed me. It’s processed. It’s not even cheese. I’ve never seen it around here.” To this day, I have no idea how my native California-husband knew about provel 22 years ago when just 2 years ago even Anthony Bourdain hadn’t. He just knows things, it’s his superpower. So I moved on and found other cheeses, and for all these years provel was just...
Midnight in Juneau

Midnight in Juneau

Downtown Tom and Grandma Juju, and my sister’s family just got home from an Alaskan cruise, what sounds like a fabulous, relaxing time during which they waved at grizzly bears on the beach, watched whale flukes on Glacier Bay, hunted for John Brown’s grave, and saw Victoria in a horse-drawn carriage. The ship off from Seattle – a town they all agreed seemed fabulous and worth it’s own trip. They have wanted to revisit their old homes in Sitka and Juneau for as long as I can remember, and my sister’s college graduation along with a couple of significant birthdays was the catalyst to carpe diem. Sitka is where my sister and I went to kindergarten and first grade way before there was tourism or wifi or even much fresh fruit, where we learned to ride bikes while careening down Mt. Edgecumbe, where we picked blueberries while looking fearfully for bears, and where we screamed with delight as we slid around on glaciers and solidified our love for the out-of-doors. So the trip was bittersweet for my parents – their old government homes had been razed, there were coffee shops and that cruise ship port – their memories flowed but the glacier had ebbed. Their daughters are grown and it was all good but  just . . . different. Except for the sunset. Here’s a photo Grandpa Tom took . . sunset doesn’t last all evening, unless you’re in Alaska in the summer:   To end, George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.”   embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube...
Sooty shearwaters feeding in the surf (everything eats)

Sooty shearwaters feeding in the surf (everything eats)

Each summer flocks of sooty shearwaters fly low over the Monterey Bay, diving and squawking as they feed on masses of bait fish – anchovies, sardines, squid, and krill – that school just below the water’s glistening surface. You see them coming in the distance, an impressive mass a mile or more in length; thousands of birds flying low over the water forming a cacophony of feathered missiles plunging headfirst for food.

First fish

First fish

A quick stop at Day’s Market for a bag of ice was the daily de rigueur in the sailboat days of our early marriage. No refrigerator on the Ericson 30 we called home, just a deep insulated box under the speck of formica counter that needed constant replenishment to keep our chardonnay chilled and sundries shivery. It had been a long time since I’d even glanced at that sign – a grow-the-baby-to-the-cusp-of-his-twenties length of time, and stopping there again that Saturday morning for a bag of ice made those memories misty and my nostalgia shivery. It wasn’t the time or place to reminisce, though; I had a date with a salmon. This email, from Fisherman Frank of the Gayle R, came late one Friday, 4 or 5 days after the opening of commercial salmon season: Dear Salmon Fans, Plenty of fish, but the early bird always gets the worm!  (No earlier than 10 o’clock though, please). The cost is $10/lb for the whole fish.  Frank will filet and/or steak the fish for you.  Please remember to bring an ice chest. Cash is preferred, but local checks are OK.  If you don’t think you want a whole fish (average is 11-12 lbs), find a friend to split one with you.  Can’t beat the price!! Thanks ~ see you at E-dock! I was a newbie on his list, the one he sends when he’s on his way back to the harbor with a fresh load of live Dungeness crab, so didn’t realize his repertoire included salmon. Who could resist the lure of the freshest, local-est, line caught fish around? Not me. I was there by 10am after a stop at the bank, the...
Very cool fuzzy cactus

Very cool fuzzy cactus

It was a foggy morning at the Big Sur Garden Gallery, where we stopped to admire their very cool and interesting collection of cactus and pick up a cappuccino and croissant from the Big Sur Bakery right next door. Here’s the star of the show:     Isn’t that so cool? I’ve never seen anything like it before. Here are a few other of the roadside cacti. This artichoke-shaped cactus is enormous, almost four feet tall.     Interesting shapes:     And cactus texture with a single tear:  ...
Santa Cruz’s age of Aquarius

Santa Cruz’s age of Aquarius

There really aren’t that many restaurants in Santa Cruz County that have an excellent ocean view with equally engaging food. And THAT is why I love Aquarius restaurant at the Dream Inn. The Dream Inn is the coastline’s tallest multi-story hotel that had probably gotten to be a little shabby by the time LL proposed to me there all those years ago, but in recent years received an upscale hipster-worthy remodel from new management Joie de Vivre along with a total foodie remake of the restaurant, newly christened Aquarius. I LOVE this place . . .  LL and I go there a few times a year for lunch when schedules permit – are we really that busy?? This Monday, there were only three other tables seated, and we sat watching some hardcore couple in wetsuits playing kettleball in the surf with a couple of sea lions peeking their shiny heads up from the sea. If you ever are traveling along the coast between San Jose and Monterey, this is one restaurant worth stopping for both the food and the view – and it’s even a hotel restaurant. I’ve dug up a few photos for you to see why: Artisan reuben sandwich I say "artisan" because the pastrami came from Santa Cruz's own El Salchichero butcher shop, home of locally raised meats and artistry in the hands of owner Chris LaVeque. Then the sauerkraut isn't just any sauerkraut - it's Farmhouse Culture, also a Santa Cruz creation. Aromatic, spicy, and delicious. The scene of the crime The Dream Inn, now a Joie de Vivre-managed property, houses Aquarius. It's also where...
The mystery of the Humboldt squid

The mystery of the Humboldt squid

6:00 AM. They hadn’t yet beached when my neighbor took Daisy Duke out for her morning constitutional. He noticed something odd, though, what he reported to be an enormous forest of kelp drifting just outside the swells. He assumed it had probably been torn up from the previous week’s rain and was drifting in on the high tide. 8:00 AM. The tide was ebbing when my friend Jen showed up for her beach walk. There was no fresh kelp, only the drying mounds that had been deposited several days several days earlier. But she DID see – piled on top of those briny vines – squid. Fresh, fat, 2-3 foot long squid with the clear black pupils of VERY fresh fish. Some beachgoers tried to drag them back to sea to save their lives, but the squid insisted on wriggling out of the water and breathing their last. Freaky. 2:00 PM. I hadn’t heard any of the above yet. When I showed up with Koah for our own walk, I was shocked to stumble across the enormous calamari littering the sand for miles. Kid One happened to call me on his break from work, and I described the scene. Beach-raised Kid that he is, he ID’d them as Humboldt squid. Neither dogs nor seagulls knew what to make of them, the fish too fresh and new to nibble on (the gulls) or to roll in (the dogs). We walked along the high tide line from Rio Del Mar to New Brighton and estimated there had to be thousands. People passing by were mildly freaked out. Did I know kind of...
Paradise and Lunch in Big Sur

Paradise and Lunch in Big Sur

The Sierra Mar restaurant at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn occupies one corner of paradise; an expanse of hewn wood and plate glass expertly cantilevered over the crystalline azure Pacific Ocean. It’s the kind of place where you might run into Jon Hamm at dinner or Lucinda Williams and Lucy Wainwright at lunch, as we did, or have afternoon cocktails with the owners of Springfield’s best tattoo and piercing parlor, as we also did. Where you enjoy your meal at a table overlooking whales spouting in in the sea below. Click to see the food.

A Heavenly breakfast

A Heavenly breakfast

There’s a great breakfast place in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, between Scotts Valley and Felton, California – the Heavenly Cafe. It’s filled with roadside country charm and offers something for everyone, from oatmeal to a full bar. It’s good enough to seek out if you ever find yourself, say, driving from the San Jose Airport to Santa Cruz or Monterey for a vacation and want to start out with some good food and local flavor, or if you are like LL and me that day and were headed to buy some cheese-making supplies at the totally awesome Mountain Feed and Farm Supply and thought to make a morning of it. I had their quesadilla con todo, flour tortilla filled with a turkey, mushroom, onion, cheese, and salsa mixture that was delicious but sadly didn’t photograph well. But here is a photo of LL’s eggs benedict. Quite racy, hmmm? Here is the link to their address and map. Be sure to go, if you ever are in the neighborhood. Tell me what you...
Music, memory, and crepes in Santa Cruz

Music, memory, and crepes in Santa Cruz

Back when Kid Two was a tot, I had a gig for several months writing for the food section of our local newspaper. They gave me $50.00 and free rein to eat somewhere and make a  story of it. The editor knew more what he didn’t want – no reviews or recipes, for example – than what he was looking for. This was a fine thing for me, as I had both permission and freedom to experiment with food writing. I took my friend Bridget on the gig I’m sharing with you below, a friend from my midwestern high school whom I followed out here to the Golden State. We went to The Crepe Place, a Santa Cruz institution that serves mostly only enormous, filling crepes in appetizer, entree, and dessert form. The years flew by, and Bridget and I recently ate there again – for only the second time together. The occasion was a quick dinner before a Kasey Chambers show. (Readers, you probably do not live in Santa Cruz and may not have a reason to make crepes, but PLEASE check out Kasey’s music. She’s an Australian country singer-songwriter, a phenomenal talent and an engaging performer.) At the time, I don’t think either one of us remembered eating there together for that writing gig. But we did remember they also serve lovely small loaves of homemade bread with their salads:   Here’s the story, as it appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel – when? 2004? I’ll have to find my hard copy, as it was definitely before they had a digital edition. It’s funny to read this now – our situations...
A pint of gratitude

A pint of gratitude

“What is perfect in your life?” That’s not a question you hear very often, especially not when ordering at a restaurant. But that’s the question posed to me by the server at Santa Cruz’s Cafe Gratitude. How would you answer?