Last Night and then…the Rest of the World

Chapter One: Dinner at Juniper and Ivy
Juniper ad Ivy is apparently the restaurant of the moment in San Diego, self-described as offering “…refined american food with left coast edge.” The chef, Richard Blais, won a top chef award on Bravo which leads to Juniper and Ivy being “the newest destination restaurant to hit the west coast.” All of which makes me to want to say ‘well, aren’t we special,’ but they are. Sort of. I just throw in the ‘sort of’ because the descriptive language of foodie culture is so…precious! Whatever the language, the food is excellent.

The dishes we ordered could best be described as conservatively eclectic, none were scarily different but all were certainly a step out of the ordinary, either through an unusual juxtaposition of flavors or because, as in the case of the biscuit, the seemingly ordinary turned out to be the most delicious thing of its kind you had ever tasted.

The restaurant occupies a huge high-ceilinged industrial-chic space. It’s attractive and best of all the acoustics contribute to civilized dinner conversation. The service was just the right amount of attentive and we never felt crowded or rushed as the place filled.

Sandra and me with our very potent girly drinks.

Sandra and me with our very potent girly drinks.

The dishes we tried included:
The Buttermilk Biscuit (with smoked butter) from Heaven. Think of every warm tender fat fluffy biscuit you’ve ever had and add a few plus signs.
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Carlsbad Oysters and Pearls with tomatillo sauce with nitrogen-frozen horseradish pearls. Scott says “Briny meets tangy meets pearls of heat.” It wins the prize for most artful in addition to being delicious.
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Charred Black Grape Toast with Ricotta/Ice Wine/*Hyssop. I particularly loved this appetizer. Somehow the big fat charred grapes with the slightly nippy but creamy sauce left me with the sense of having eaten something very rich, almost fatty (in a good way), without it being either of the two in reality. *You probably knew what hyssop was? Thanks to Google I now do too. An herb used as an aromatic condiment with a slightly bitter taste and intense minty aroma. Also, according to Methow Valley Herbs “An aromatic and medicinal herb, Hyssop is a good expectorant and antiviral commonly used to treat respiratory conditions such as influenza, sinus infections…” I did not know that. Not only were we eating something absolutely delicious, but we would spit better as a result.

Kale and Seaweed Caesar with Smoked Garlic/Anchovy/Crispy Rye: Scott and Sandra liked this better than I did. At heart, I am just not a Kale person which ends any chances I had as a beginner-foodie. The dish was quite beautiful with glistening bright green ribbons of Kale and threads of seaweed and fat golden croutons, and the flavor was bright and fresh (just too Kale-chewy for me). Whoops, forgot your Kale photo.

Monterey Sardine with Pea/Mint/Coconut: This was Sandra’s favorite; she described it as the freshest of sardines like her dad used to bring back from Oceanside with just the right taste enhancements to bring it out of the already-delicious ordinary.
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Squid Ink Rigatoni with Octopus/Eggplant/Chili/Lamb Ragu: My favorite but Scott is doing the describing; deep sea meets Italian hillside, he says. This is a fascinating looking dish, all black and white with quick sightings of red and green. Hard for me to describe because none of the ingredients are part of my regular food repertoire. Can I settle for exotic smoky richness of, as Scott already said, sea and sunny hillside?
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Halibut with Beet Jus/Charred Squash Puree/Squid Ink: This fish was the mild rich flaky best—so good. Garden sweet beet and squash in the creamiest of accompaniments. Nice. Even better than nice. How about exquisite?

I had such a very elegant luscious wine but, given my total lack of fine wine sensibility, I had our waiter select for me and cannot remember what it was. Almost forgot, Sandra and I each had colorful inventive and rather powerful cocktails before the meal but their clever names escape me now.

Our desserts are almost too pretty as you can see. Also tasty but I wish we had ordered the many-chocolated cake plate instead. After the brilliant mixes of colors and textures and tastes we had already enjoyed, adding three or four bites of sugary diversity really got lost in the big picture. They were the prettiest sweet bits I’ve ever had though, of that I am quite sure.
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Happy birthday to me. Thank you Scott and Sandra. And thank you, Juniper and Ivy. What a lovely treat it all was.

Do we look properly satiated?

Do we look properly satiated?

Chapter Two: All those damn countries in the world-Continued from yesterday
Here’s what the next years of my impossible quest might look like. Remember yesterday I only made it through 2015.

2016. Steven (son Steven) and I are going to India, Nepal and Bhutan but while in the neighborhood we could hit Sri Lanka, the Maldives and … and what? There’s still Pakistan and Afghanistan hanging out there but maybe a few more years between them and us (Americans) would be good. I could stay on after Steven goes home and visit Iraq and Iran possibly. You see if I am actually serious I must think and plan like this.

The other 2016 trip is substantially easier to do—Norway, Lapland, Greenland and Russia. Of course Norway and the countries that comprise Lapland (Norway, Sweden and Finland) won’t be new, but Greenland will probably be its own country by then and Russia will certainly be new—if Americans can even get visas by then.

The problem with this plan is that it’s not even close to my annual quota. That’s only seven countries if I don’t count Iraq and Iran which seem iffy destinations, or at least Iraq does.

You see how difficult this is. Should I just give up now before I’ve spent all my money on atlases and all Scott’s money finding the perfect backpack?

Ten more countries in 2016? West Africa: Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, only seven but a very hard seven I think. SIXTEEN total for 2016.

2017. This is as far as I’m going today. 2017 is the year Scott goes with me to all of the Stan countries. He’s not quite as thrilled with this prospect as he could be; he’s worried about all of the sheep parts he will have to eat in Mongolia. This trip might include me going to Korea (South only I suppose) and Mongolia before I meet Scott in Tashkent, Kazakhstan and journey on to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Another hard year already and I must get these seriously exhausting places out of the way before I’m much older. So another trip to Africa perhaps. This time starting from Johannesburg so I can have some time in my favorite country of all. I’ve pretty much been to all of Southern Africa so I guess Zambia, Malawi and Angola (another country for which it’s almost impossible to get a visa) and then up to the Central African Republic if there’s even a country left there by then. This might cover all of Africa for me except the islands which will be very costly to reach. The Comoros, Seychelles, Sao Tome and Principe and Mauritius. FIFTEEN possible. Yeah, right.

If I follow the grueling schedule proposed in today’s posts I could be up to 147 by the end of 2017. My sons said they would go with me to the rest of the Caribbean (8) and Islands of Oceania (12) after I retire so that just leaves 28 countries in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. Piece of cake? Well not exactly since that would include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and some other difficult or apparently impenetrable places. I’m thinking that if I’m on my last leg so to speak maybe some of them will relent and give me visas thinking what possible harm I be?

Just writing all of this has pretty much killed my interest in traveling. That’s not really true. I hope. Although I had Scott take back my travel gear from REI and I picked out an assortment of IKEA house things for my apartment instead. That is not a good sign. Will I be forever happy with my IKEA meatballs instead of sampling all the world?
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About mneset

Writer, Traveler, Director/North Fourth Art Center

Posted on April 5, 2014, in Living LIFE. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow, what a great birthday celebration. I am so overwhelmed by this food, thanks for the pictures. Your description of what countries you are going to each year just made me so damn tired. Go for it…but only if you really want to. A promise is not always a promise if you make it to yourself because you can adjust it. A promise to someone else is something else indeed.


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