Archive for April, 2013

A Springtime Visit With My Sister

My sister was here for a week. It was a wonderful 8 days of togetherness. We joked that we walked and ate, and walked and ate more, but really the highlight as Astrid would say was just the company we kept with one another.

It was perfect spring time here in New York, and the perfect time to have a leisurely week of reconnecting in person with one of the most important people in my life. We strolled through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and marveled at nature’s spectacular show of color. I made my sister pose and take pictures and we giggled with silliness.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, down Canal Street, and up through the Lower East Side. When I first moved to New York my mother took me down to this part of town and recalled stories of her mother taking her out as a child on these very same streets; it was the only time in my life that my mother ever talked about her mother in a tender or loving way. I have a soft spot for this part of town which always felt like a place for generations of mother’s and daughters in my family. We went into The Pickle Guys and inhaled deeply the garlicky briny smell that always makes me think of a long line of family who came before me. We had lunch at Katz’s.

We saw friends of mine and friends of my sisters. We took naps. We talked and laughed and cried. We made our mom’s famous chocolate mousse and it tasted so much like her. We shared the void that has chasmed in each of our lives since her death. We told stories and laughed and sometimes wept with how much we miss those days that seem to exist in an alternate universe one before September 13, 2009. Bari, Matthew, Asher, and their new family addition Rory had a pre-Birthday dinner complete with candles and cake.

Our plans for this visit all started over 4 months ago when we learned that Cheryl Strayed was speaking at the Woodstock Writers Festival on my birthday; I sent a half serious who wants to join me e-mail. Well my sister wasted no time and that day said I do, had flight options a few days later, and then had taken off of work. With my friend Gina we drove up to Woodstock and spent a weekend out of the city and completely out of our minds with excitement. We walked along streams, stopped into small stores, laughed a whole lot more, ate of course. To me it seemed our mom was both everywhere that weekend and no where, as it often seems she is, just out of reach but on this weekend in a nice way. The crystals and purple and pictures of Janis Joplin reminded me of her but didn’t yell out. The time together felt more like a new relationship for my sister and I one in which only we exist. My mother and sister used to visit me every summer and after she died it seemed so hard to be with my sister like a tripod that suddenly lost one of its legs. This trip felt like the perfect balance to me of a two legged toddler just learning to stand on its own, not needing anyone else for support but our mother ever there with her arms outstretched  encouraging us on.

Oh and yes Cheryl Strayed said the most amazing things and graced us with a birthday photo.

To my nugget, my sister, I love you so much, more and more with each passing day and year. Thank you for an amazing visit.



04 2013

A Moveable Feast In A Hidden Valley

We drove up, up, up the narrow switchback roads to the top of green peaks as the sun slipped off along the Salinas Valley below and then dipped into the Pacific Ocean beyond. We drove up and then along narrow backbones of tall cliffs with land cascading below us, hawks were eye to eye with us and then at the other side of the mountain’s narrow spine we descended. We went down, down, down the narrow switchbacks but this time deeper into valleys between the giant shadows of mountains and only miles from the coast it felt a distance further. Moss and lichen grew on trees and hung from branches creating a canopy above the car. We had driven for 45 minutes into a small and remote area, to a local store that sold little more than milk and beer. The long drive was for an unlikely and much antipated hidden feast.

This was the scene a little over a month ago after my work in Utah when I visited my dear friends Anne and Beth in Salinas, and they took me to a special dinner they had been oohing and awing about for the past year. It was a dinner that took place only on Monday nights in a pop-up community center in the Cachagua Valley. Hidden 25 miles from Carmel is a small and unassuming stop one has to seek out to find and one is greatly rewarded when they do. Served to locals from Cachagua Valley and those fortunate enough to be in the know, every Monday night a magic of sorts takes over in a small dining room of a general store. Food as local as possible even naming at times the very farm the “Faurot Ranch” Lettuces or “Borba Farms” Roasted Baby Cauliflowers came from. It was unassuming with folding chairs and post it notes to mark the tables (reservations are a must) in a room where they also have AA meetings or quilting circles on other nights. A band of two who looked to be good counterparts for Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart set the ambience. The menus were printed just as we walked in on paper in the back room. Then the food arrived, roasted beets with coconut Chevre, Crab Cakes from the bay 25 miles away, Goofy Ass Pumpkin Ebelskivers with greens and reds, sorrel and maitakes, red Chile honey.

It was a magical experience, a single night in the week from out of nowhere a meal like a person dreams of in a setting one could hardly imagine existed. We drove back up, up, up, along mountain spines, and then down again but it was dark with stars and we were full of the finest food and the night had seemed a stunning secret much like the restaurant. I have held onto the memories of our meal here for weeks; an experience too fine not to share. If you find yourself in one of the most beautiful and magical places on earth – the Big Sur/Carmel/Salinas area on a Monday night and you are an adventurous spirit (read don’t get car sick and like scenic drives) and love fine culinary experiences—The Moveable Feast at Cachagua Valley General Store is a meal not to be missed.


04 2013