Long Island Road Trip

 

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I’ve been a road tripper for literally as long as I can remember. Literally, because the first memories that I can specifically tie to a date and time are from a road trip my parents took me on from Atlanta to LA and back about a month after I turned 3. The colors of the Painted Desert, the scenery, prairie dogs outside the tent one morning,  big horn sheep crossing the highway at dusk, wet-suited surfers and the cold of the Pacific (one foot in and I ran screaming- some things never change). My first conception of scale that was much bigger than I had known before- my mom saying “see the big hole, Christine?” from the windy observation deck at the meteor crater in New Mexico, my scanning the landscape for a hole such that you might plant a tomato in and then realizing that the landscape dipping vastly in front of me was “the big hole.” Road tripping the US from end to end and top to bottom and zig-zagging in between has continued to open my eyes to new things.

We celebrated out wedding anniversary this weekend. My ankle and my continuing inability to walk very far or very well caused a last-minute change of plans. We rented a car and drove out to the east end of Long Island for a couple of days. At its eastern end, the island forks around a wide bay and several islands. The South Fork, home to The Hamptons and Montauk, is the better known of the two, while the North Fork has been an agricultural area with a growing wine industry. Quieter, less glitzy, the North Fork reminded me of the more laid back Sonoma County wine country in California where you were less likely to find yourself in a limo traffic jam than in neighboring Napa Valley.

Silver Sands Motel, Greenport, NY

Silver Sands Motel, Greenport, NY

We stayed at The Silver Sands just outside Greenport, NY,  a retro shabby (but very comfortable) U-shaped motel and a sprinkling of cottages beside a curl of gold beach. When we checked in, Elle magazine was doing a photo shoot in front of our cottage, a model in a glittery dress on a spit of rocks that reached into the clear, smooth bay. Oysters washed up into the shallows from the oyster farm next door, “so you know the water is perfect, because they have to test every week,” said the hotel manager. It felt incredible that we had driven through midtown Manhattan on our way here just an hour or two before.

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Our plan was to relax, try to eat as much seafood as we could, do some unhurried driving through the scenery, and taste some locally brewed beer and wine.

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After driving up to the tip of the North Fork where Orient Point slices the Atlantic from Long Island Sound and watching the Cross Sound car ferry dock, we had dinner at a nice restaurant in Greenport, known for its locally sourced seafood and produce. I’ll confess, the downside to being me is that I not infrequently have the frustration of being underwhelemed by the food that restaurants serve me. I dislike paying a lot for food that I have made (better) at home. This was my experience: nothing I disliked or found objectionable, but I wished the food had been a little more memorable. The highlight of the meal was a pair of locally brewed beers that the restaurant had on draught: Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s Harbor Ale and Montauk Brewing’s Driftwood Ale. We noticed something that we had been discussing-the distinct regionality of beer.

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I really started learning and appreciating beer on the west coast. The dry climate, cool nights, the hops with their intense resinous flavor, the grapefruit and apricot and  pine, all worked for me. I loved hoppy intense beers. After moving to Hoboken, I continued to look for similar styles but found that even the hoppier beer brewed around here (like Ithaca Flower Power for example) had a subtle shift in accent from what I was accustomed to in California. And when I started paying attention to the subtle variations, I began to appreciate and even look for beer that was a good east coast version of those types. I like the subtle hints of English hops that tended to be overwhelmed by the boldness of California styles, the subtle uptick in the flavor of malts; the flavor and body of the good beer I was finding here was working for me in the climate in a new way. Beer that I had not enjoyed as much when I tasted it in other parts of the world was becoming more what I craved.

I started thinking about beer in terms of accents (as in “how y’all dewin’?” and “fuhgeddaboudit” accents). The subtle shifts in accent from city to city, region to region, the shift in vernacular and colloquialism is one of the things I love about travel and living all over the country. It adds a richness to discourse, the subtle hints and clues to be gathered about where someone (and their ancestors) came from. And I am beginning to find the same to be true in food and drink. The whole accent of the beer changes (as it should) based on the region in which it is made and drunk. Maybe less specifically about the earth or terrior than wine, the flavor “accent” of the brewer should come through, even if it is as subtle as my accent usually is.

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So back to the North Fork and our beer: we tasted two beers at dinner that night, same type of ale, different brewers. They were both hoppy, but with different hops emphasized. The Montauk had a little more of a caramel flavor to balance the hops. But the interesting thing to us was that they tasted like beer that belonged here. The briny air, the humidity, the hint of the winter cold to come, the beer had a far eastern Long Island accent.

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With this on our minds, we visited a biodynamic winery that a friend in the wine business had recommended. I was curious about Long Island wine, especially one with a reputation for being very carefully crafted like that at Shinn Estate Vineyard. Again, my familiarity with wine was cultivated in Northern California but working with wine in the New york area with a heavy emphasis on wine from Europe as well as its own reemerging wine culture has tremendously broadened my palate.

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We visited Shinn Estate Vineyard on a quiet afternoon during the beginning of their harvest. A tractor towing loaded bins of Sauvignon Blanc grapes shuttled back and forth from the crusher beside the tasting room to the south block of grapes that were being picked. We split a 6 wine tasting: a steel aged chardonnay and an oak-aged white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Chardonnay, then a Merlot blended and a 100% Merlot, then and a Cabernet Sauvignon  and an unusual 100% Petit Verdot (usually used to add structure to a blend). Tasting the succession of wines gave me the spectrum of the aesthetic of the winemaker; interesting, restrained, sophisticated.

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Again, the thing that struck me, especially with the Merlot, was the dramatic difference between the grapes grown and wine made in California and what we were tasting. Wine has more of a reputation for reflecting its terroir, so while the differences between grapes were less of a revelation that my observations about beer, the difference between the Merlot we tasted and many of the Merlot we had in California was incredible. I have tended to avoid Merlot, often finding it very flabby and dense, like a down comforter for your tongue. This Merlot, while still lush with the fragrance of fruit, had a little crackle of herbs and structure and a burr of tannin that lifted the wine from stodgy to vibrant and thought-provoking. My take away: don’t dismiss a grape varietal because the way it is grown and treated in one region displeases you; give it a second and third chance from other regions. You may be as pleasantly surprised as I was. I bought two bottles to take home!

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Back to the beer. We were able to visit the tasting rooms for both of the local breweries over the next two days. Tasting a flight of beer by a brewery is a great way to get the same sense of the brewer we got from our wine tasting. One of Greenport’s brewers just happens to be a local hops farmer, so their beer was more aggressively hopped than many I’ve tasted in the north-east but still with a distinctive bass note of toastier malts that I think of as having English beer roots than a comparably hopped west coast beer. They don’t bottle their beer yet, so we had to forgo bringing any home with us but Montauk Driftwood Ale was for sale in the  7-11 so we got a six-pack to bring home.

The thing about road tripping is all the stuff in-between where you start and where you end up the add the tones and highlights and shading to the big picture. Flying from one big city in America to another is great but I’ve picked up so much of those little bits of accents, the subtle variations that tell you you’ve entered a new place. I remember my last cross-country drive, getting out of the car to switch drivers, taking a breath, and realizing I wasn’t in the West anymore. I love when I run across a favorite beer or bottle of wine from back in California, but I’m also loving that I’m starting to pick up on the accent of the things I’m tasting here too.

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Anyone ever feel like your vacations don’t last long enough?

I do.

This is how I made my vacation last into the weekend (at least on my plate).

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That octopus dish I had at the shore was preying on my mind, haunting me with memories of lemony deliciousness. I was combing the web for recipes and techniques for cooking octopus, thinking about how to recreate a similar dish at home. The octopus info was quite frankly, a little daunting. Then Saturday morning, I noticed a new seafood vendor at the Uptown Hoboken Farmers Market. He had lovely fresh calamari from Long Island, and I thought “hey, they’re both Cephalopods, I can cook calamari!” and grabbed a pound. Cooked with lemon butter, a shaved fennel and parsley salad tumbled on top, and juicy fried lemon on the side and I’m right back, salty breeze in my hair, sand between my toes.

What I ended up with was more a reminder than a faithful recreation of the octopus dish. That’s the point- re-entering real life is inevitable but the reminder of a fun relaxing trip can make even a mundane workweek in the kitchen feel more celebratory.

What’s a memory of a great trip or a great meal you can tug out and use to make your daily grind a little more like a day at the beach?

Creole Gumbo-Southern Food Challenge 6

Calvin came into town this past weekend to hang out, spend time in NYC, and celebrate his birthday with us.  Of all the things we miss about our life in California, spending time with Calvin is near the top of the list. So, as usual when we do see him, we took the opportunity and crammed about a month’s worth of hanging out into one long weekend. I think we may have crammed about a month’s worth of eating into one weekend too. I had my first ShackBurger in Madison Square Park and my first John’s Pizza on Bleeker Street. Eataly was a culinary mosh pit; we got espresso and dodged elbows. We drank beer at the Blind Tiger and the Ginger Man. We got cannolis and lobster tails at Georgio’s across the street. For Calvin’s birthday, we took him to a little Japanese “soul food” restaurant we tried for Scott’s birthday called Hakata Tonton.  The three of us shared their signature hot-pot, full of vegetables, pork belly and feet, dumplings and goji berries in an amazingly unctuous broth. And before we put him on the train back out to JFK, we had lunch at  Ippudo, the best bowl of ramen I have ever eaten. I had tonkotsu ramen in Hong Kong for the first time last year; the creamy white pork broth and dark garlic oil with chewy ramen noodles, so lip-smacking and savory and have been craving it since……I ate so much I felt like a pork belly myself.

It made me think about the nitty-gritty of what it is that makes great soup really great. I think it is unarguably the broth. It’s the bones and cartilage and collagen and meat that slowly infuse their essence into water, creating something that tastes incredibly rich without fat. In beauty, one hears about having “good bones”; stock is literally the “good bones” of beautiful flavor.  I’m not asserting that good soup can’t be made with bottled chicken broth or water and aromatics, but every once in a while, it’s worth it to go the extra mile to make a rich, collagen filled stock, full of the most intense essential flavors and make a special meal superlative.

The easiest entry point for stock has to be fish (or seafood) stock. Using the shells, heads, and bones of the seafood going into this gumbo to make a simple stock creates a layer of flavor that deepens and echoes the sweetness of the shrimp and fish in every rich, spicy bite.

Creole Seafood Gumbo

1 pound of head-on shell-on shrimp

1-2 pound fish, fileted, bones and head reserved (I used red snapper)

about 1 cup bay scallops

1/3 to ½ pound of andouille

roux

1 medium white or yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery diced (celery leaves have lots of flavor, chop them up too!)

½ green bell pepper, diced

2 fat cloves garlic, minced or micro-planed

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 bay leaf

salt

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 cups sliced okra (frozen works well off-season)

1 ½ quarts fish stock*

hot rice

hot sauce

Rinse the shrimp and fish. De-head and peel the shrimp. If you’re hard-core like me, filet the fish, slicing the filets into bite-sized pieces. Keep all the bones and shells for the stock. If you get a whole fish from a market and have the fishmongers do the dirty work of fileting, specify that you want to keep the bones and head. Some stores will sell packages of fish trimmings for stock; get a white-fleshed fish for this recipe.

Make a roux

I use less roux for seafood gumbo than for meatier gumbos. For this recipe, I used about ¼ cup each of flour and oil.

After the roux is dark enough, add the Trinity of diced onion, celery, and bell pepper (similar to mirepoix, onion, celery, carrot) to the roux and stir until the vegetables are softened.

Slice and quarter about a link’s worth of smoked andouille (maybe 1/3 pound). The only brand I could find here in town this week was D’ Artagnan; I don’t prefer their seasoning though. Stir it into the roux in the pan, getting it to brown a little on the edges.

When the sausage begins to render a little of it’s fat, add the garlic and spices; I usually gently toast spices for a moment before I add any liquid. When I began learning about Indian cooking and their treatment of spices, I started assimilating the technique of dry toasting or frying spices and herbs often along with the aromatic vegetables and it really seems to bloom and infuse their flavor and fragrance better.

Add the tomatoes, okra and stock. Bring to a simmer and stir until the roux is smoothly incorporated into the stock and cook it until the okra is tender. It shouldn’t take too long, maybe 20 minutes, but cook it slowly and gently so that the assembled throng has time to mingle their flavors. Taste for salt.

Finally- and I mean finally so as not to overcook- stir the scallops, shrimp and fish into the soup. Heat just to a simmer, very gently stirring the seafood into the broth so that it is just opaque and barely cooked through. Be gentle with the fish so the pieces don’t get too broken up

When the seafood is cooked, scoop some hot rice into a bowl and pour the gumbo over. Shake a bit of hot sauce on top.

*Make this basic seafood stock with the fish bones and head and shrimp shells and heads, a little onion and celery. I used the shells and heads of 1 pound of shrimp and the bones and head of a 2 pound red snapper, a stalk of celery and ¼ onion and two quarts of water. Bring it all to a simmer, covered and let it burble away for about 20 -30 minutes. Strain out the solids and reduce the stock to about 1 ½ quarts.

Celebrating sisters

I just got back to New Jersey last night from a fabulous weekend trip to Atlanta and points south for some pre-wedding celebrations with my sisters. Grace is getting married next week! I flew down Wednesday and Grace picked me up at the airport. The four of  us piled into Joy’s car, turned the air-conditioner on High and drove south through Alabama to a cottage on the Gulf coast.

It’s high summer in the South and produce stands are burgeoning along the highways. I find it nearly impossible to ignore a hand-lettered sign on the roadside offering watermelons or corn (picked today!) or peaches, but add “hot-boiled peanuts” to the signs and it’s like the car drives itself off onto the dirt verge and stops in front of the stand of its own volition. We got a watermelon, a bag of tomatoes, a bag of boiled peanuts, and a half sack of peaches. The gentleman who sold them to us said that the only problem was we’d wish we’d bought a whole sack. He had photos on the stand of the project his produce was funding – corrugated metal homes in Guatemala. When he asked is we were going to the beach, we said yes, to celebrate our sister’s upcoming wedding, and he said to Grace, “Well, I’ll give you some of my wife’s peach cake for a wedding present.” Moist yellow cake with nuggets of tangy Alabama peaches; pretty sweet wedding gift if you ask me! The cake and peanuts were fallen upon like a swarm of locusts.

The next couple of days went by too fast, sitting on the dock at night watching the lightning out over the Gulf and shooting stars overhead and talking, catching up on our lives, floating around in the blissfully warm buoyant Gulf water, getting a little sunburned, eating watermelon on the dock and spitting the seeds into the water, laughing, watching the fish and porpoises and shrimp boats and barges on the Intercoastal Waterway.  When the beach got a little too hot, we went shopping and found a sophisticated blue dress for Michal, who looked incredibly beautiful and also impossibly grown-up in it. We cooked together in the evenings, grilling corn and steaks which we ate with blue cheese butter and juicy wedges of  tomato, and made ceviche, fresh and cold with chunks of mango and avocado on crisp tostadas after that hot day at the beach.

Friday evening, we headed back through a couple of rainstorms which left the air feeling as if it had already been breathed. This humidity is taking some getting used to. I felt like I was submerged in water, even when I wasn’t. After the rain, the air had that soft, fragrant quality that I think of as so evocative of the South I grew up in. I think back, thinking about  the girls when they were my “little” sisters, and am so happy to have had this time to spend with the truly lovely women they have all become. I’m looking forward to this weekend, the wedding, spending more time with my family, grabbing a few more of these great, fun moments as they whip by.

Bay Ceviche

6 white fish filets, minced

or

1 pound bay scallops, quartered

1 tomato, diced

1 avocado, diced

1/2 large red onion, minced small

1 jalapeno pepper, minced small

1 mango, diced

about 1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

juice of 3-4 limes

Goya Bitter Orange seasoning to taste

or a splash of orange juice and salt to taste

Mix everything together in a glass bowl once everything is cut up and prepped. Toss to saturate with the lime juice. I lightly dusted the top of the bowl with the seasoning, mixed it in, and then tasted and added a little more just before serving. After everything is mixed, allow it to sit for at least 1/2 hour until the seafood looks white and opaque- which means it is “cooked”. Serve on crisp tostadas with a splash of Tapatio sauce.

Alma’s ceviche

My neighbor Alma sent her son across the way with a container of  her ceviche, a bag of tostadas, and a bottle of Tapatio sauce for us to eat while we pack. She had made a big batch for a July 4th picnic she and her family went to at a park in Antioch. We ate it from plates on our laps, stopping for a few minutes from the ceaseless rush of last minute tasks to what may have been the perfect meal for the occasion.

It was bright and tangy and chewy and soft and crisp and spicy. It was, of course, cold, which is ideal for a hot July afternoon. It had a couple of tantalizing notes of flavor that didn’t immediately come forward and introduce themselves, but just a hint of intrigue to keep the tongue guessing. The crispy tostadas and hot sauce made it a completely balanced in flavor and texture.

The other thing that I really noticed was the careful attention to preparation which made each element become a part of the whole dish without either dominating the flavor of the whole or disappearing into a mush. The onion was minced just so, the tomato was diced large enough to give a distinct sweet flavor, and the cilantro leaves were beautifully ribboned into the whole, bright green and fresh. It was a carefully made dish, the ability of the cook apparent in the beautiful balance of flavor and texture.

When I went to thank her, Alma told me how she makes her ceviche and said she’d write the recipe down for me. I hope I have time to get it before I leave; I know Scott would love to have it again. He ate four tostadas with a teetering mound of ceviche on each for lunch and asked me to get the recipe at least that many times. It was a kind and thoughtful parting gift. Thanks, Alma.

Alma’s Ceviche

6 tilapia filets minced
1 tomato, diced
1/2 large red onion, minced small
1 jalapeno pepper, minced small
about 1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
juice of 2-3 lemons
Goya Adobo with Bitter Orange seasoning to taste

Mix everything together once everything is prepped. I lightly covered the top of the bowl with the seasoning, mixed it in, and then tasted and added a little more just before serving. After everything is mixed, allow it to sit for at least 1/2 hour until the fish looks white and opaque- which means it is “cooked”. Serve on tostadas with Tapatio sauce.

Pinch me

After dropping the Mister off at SFO’s International terminal, I headed south through the hills and past the flower fields to Half Moon Bay. There is a nice old main street with a couple of book stores and coffee shops and a kitchen ware store where the owner asked where I was from having perceived an accent. He was an “ex-pat” Southerner himself and told me about the cazuela type clay pots he had there, beautiful black casseroles and paella pans of unglazed clay. I got a cup of coffee and went to look at the beautiful green sea, watching the white horses come thundering in. It’s incredibly beautiful today, warm and clear.

I headed north to the top of the gold crescent of the bay, just inside the curve that protects the bay from the giant winter swells that make the Mavericks the legendary big-wave surf spot, to the harbour in search of Dungeness crabs. I’ve never actually cooked a live one myself, and a solitary evening is a good time to allow myself the option of spectacular failure. The first place I stop is a warehouse with a sign advertising fresh fish; they have whole filets of smoked salmon curing in a walk in fridge but no live crabs. Next stop, the harbour and fishing pier where boats are docked. “Jimbo” has live crabs, according to his sign, so I holler over the rail to find out how much and how do I get down there. He had a tub full of lively crabs, two of which made a break for it as soon as he took the lid off.

I was worried about my crab making a break for it all the way home- I kept anticipating an “Annie Hall” moment and honestly, if that crab had gotten out of the bag and out into the car, I may have just let it have the car. This is a big, tough, intimidating crustacean. I’m thinking it could lop of a finger, no problem. But great meals are not accomplished by cowards and I remind myself that someone had to eat that first oyster.

Some Taiwanese friends with lots of crab cooking experience told me that the most humane way to cook a crab is to  put it into a cold pot with some salt, water and seasoning and then slowly bring it up to steam. Having read David Foster Wallace’s essay “Consider the Lobster”, I’m not completely confident about this, but it’s the best idea I’ve heard so far.

Twenty minutes later, out it came,  it’s purple shell now vermillion. I gloved up and cracked off the top shell, pulled out the gills, the mandibles and the apron and cracked the whole thing in half. It’s surprisingly straightforward once you grasp the concept. I don’t have a cracker, so I used a small cast iron skillet to crack the legs. I’ve got a baguette, an herb salad and a glass of wine. I decided it was a good idea to change out of any potentially “dry clean only” clothes, armed myself with paper towels, rolled up my machine-washable sleeves and got crackin’. The reward for my risk? Sweet, fresh chunks of crab – oh, and I found a new use for that clarified butter I was talking about.

Pad Thai

I have travel envy. My sister Grace is on an island in Thailand. She met a friend in Bangkok, arriving just in time for things to heat up politically, and they migrated south to Kho Chang where it’s a little more chill, in temperament if not temperature. She says it is really hot and the food is hotter. Apparently, when she’s not island hopping to find good snorkeling spots or lounging on the beach overlooking the Sea of Siam, she’s eating food on sticks from hawker stalls, fish cakes, fiery green curry, and sweet strong Thai coffee.

I guess if I can’t go to Thailand, then Thailand must come to me. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you

Pad Thai

Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredient list; some items may be a little exotic, but they keep well and I use fish sauce and mirin in enough recipes not to begrudge the space it takes in my pantry.

Ingredients:

1/2 package of dry rice noodles, soaked and drained

The sauce:

4 teaspoons fish sauce

2 teaspoons mirin

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 minced red chili

½ grated piloncillo or 2 teaspoons palm or brown sugar

2 tablespoons tamarind sauce

Everything else:

1/3 cup finely ground roast cashews or peanuts

oil

large handfuls of mung bean sprouts

3 scallions, sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium hot red chili

1/3 block firm tofu (sliced into strips and pressed between paper towels to remove water)

6 ounces peeled and tailed shrimp

1 egg

handful cilantro leaves, chilis, and coarsely chopped cashews or peanuts

The sauce, I mixed up earlier in the day. I have used a couple of different types of tamarind paste- one the blocks of tamarind that still have all of the seeds and fiber that you have to soak and strain to a ketchup consistency, and TamiCon, a little pot of what looks like tar but is actually  Tamarind Concentrate. Clever name, no? I got it at an Indian grocery store and it will stay good practically forever in my pantry. The pulpy stuff had the nicest sharp tangy molassesy flavor, but made me feel like I was squelching my hands around in the bottom of a swamp. TamiCon is convenient and easy to keep on hand, but with a flatter  more cooked flavor and less texture. So, I’m still looking for my happy tamarind medium.

My brother Israel gave me a great wok for Christmas. The only other wok I’ve owned was basically like cooking in aluminum foil in the shape of a wok which resulted in many bitter tears being shed on my part over scorched food at the bottom and raw food up the sides.  I’m enjoying the process of learning how to really use this great piece of equipment. This recipe is perfect for wok cooking because the vessel’s shape helps keep everything moving and cooking evenly. I’m also discovering what happens when you don’t get the wrist flip right. Fortunately, I keep a lot of paper towels handy.

 

Before you heat the oil in your wok or pan, make sure you have everything rinsed, diced, chopped, ready to go. The cooking moves quickly once you get started so best not to have to stop midway through to rummage through the fridge for something.  Sauté the  scallions, chili, and garlic in hot oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds until their fragrance is released. Then add a handful of mung bean sprouts and about 4 ounces of firm tofu . A big spoonful of the sauce goes in now to infuse the tofu, then add the shrimp and more of the sauce. Stir or flip (if you dare) to keep everything moving so that it is cooking evenly. Add the noodles. After a couple of seconds, test a noodle for lightly chewy doneness and add a little water if they feel too firm. Pour in any remaining sauce. Rice noodles can get really gummy if they are overcooked, so stay vigilant. Make a little empty space in the bottom of the pan and  crack the egg into the empty spot, quickly scrambling it and then stirring it into the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle the finely ground cashews or peanuts over and toss to coat. Take the pan off the heat and tumble on the cilantro, remaining sprouts, and dust with chopped nuts.

 

 

Road tripping

After griping about the weather, what could be nicer on a Saturday than a short road trip through the green and pearly-skied Sonoma County countryside.

What could be better? Maybe arriving in Bodega Bay conveniently around lunch time. And knowing that the best fried seafood you’ve had in a long time is (surprise!) right there in Bodega Bay! We’ve made the round trip before just for the calamari- it’s really swell.

If you drive up Highway 1 through town and look for the shop with the flags and kites on the shore side, pull into the parking lot just past it. The Boat House parking lot is reassuringly lined with piles of oyster shells and management has clearly been spending more money on the ingredients than the decor- it’s wood panelling and formica tables all the way. Order at the counter- everything that I’ve had is fresh and crisp, cooked perfectly, but I especially recommend the calamari, scallops and bbqed oysters. Grab a beer while you’re at the counter. A hoppy Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale compliments very well and find a sunny table. If they don’t bring cocktail sauce with your order, ask for it. It’s homemade and has a good not-too-sweet flavor.

It’s probably best not to talk for a while. There are better things to be doing with your mouth and fried seafood waits for no man. All it takes is a little perserverance and dedication and you’ll end up in the clean plate club.

The shop next door with all of the kites sells salt water taffy and retro candy like Pop Rocks and Boston baked beans. We got Zotz for the road.

We meandered back down Highway 1 through Valley Ford, Olema, and Point Reyes Station, stopped and watched the surfers in Bolinas for a minute. Is there anything like fried food and beautiful scenery to refresh the winter-weary soul?