As I have been known to do, I ate my way through vacation. My stepson taught me to love Brussels sprouts, roasted, in a penne pasta. He showed me how to make Italian bread, baked in a bread “trough” specially made by a welder friend from a piece of iron pipe, cut lengthwise. He said made properly, after baking, bread will sing as it cools. It sang to me in crackling chirps. I ate it anyway. Several pieces. On two separate occasions.
In the spirit of after Christmas cheer we took the news of a rock slide on California Highway 1 as an excuse to pull off at Lucia’s Lodge for the “fifth best fish and chips in the world” and joined an eclectic and international crowd huddling on a balcony over the Pacific sheltered from the wind and rain. I don’t know how fish and chips are rated, but eating seafood on the edge of a cliff over the ocean improves everything.
We made Carmel that night, a place were we could afford nothing but the food and conversation with the server at the pizza place. We were the only customers. We discussed Clint as actor, mayor, political commentator and addressed empty chairs. She said she once served James Franco. He tipped her ten percent. By the time we left, I thought about asking her to join us for a beer. Later, we tried the Irish Pub. Since the Irish stew was steeped in Guinness, continuing with an international theme, I balanced it with a Belgian Chimay, while my husband remained consistent with Irish coffee. Correcting my error with dessert, I discovered something I plan to replicate at home – mint chocolate chip ice cream smothered in Bailey’s and topped with whipped cream.
On the way back south, having forgotten the name of the delightful beach side cafe we once lunched at in Santa Barbara, we took a blind stab and arrived at the right place, wrong time, too late for lunch, too early for dinner. We had popcorn and drinks. I, on my quest to try as many permutations of the martini as possible in my lifetime, tried the coconut. My husband, who was driving, had a small glass of wine. We were fortunately able to order crab cakes from the bar, as well.
Our last California meal, that evening, was arguably the best. Fabio, who my stepson tells me was a contender on America’s Top Chef, runs Cafe Firenza in Moorpark. We were asked did we want to sit at a small table, the bar or the kitchen counter. Knowing my husband would say a small table, I, of course, said the kitchen counter. I love watching the preparation of Italian food. We split the fish special. Later, my stepson demanded details of the menu and preparation. I felt like a witness under cross examination who badly failed. It was some whitefish with capers and blood oranges with a something-something that was reduced, certainly not my waistline. I had a Lavender Lychee martini. What can I say. Two martinis in five hours. How do I know what I’ve eaten. It was all delicious. Everything there was ordered in Italian, loud and lively. I recommend it.