Whether it's the lunch buffet or a selection from the extensive menu, Royal Taj offers vegetarians and carnivores exotic flavors
Mintel Market Research calls Indian food the fastest-growing ethnic cuisine, and those of us who have enjoyed the world of spices at Royal Taj for almost 20 years know why. For those who are not familiar with Indian food, the daily lunch buffet ($8.95) provides a broad introduction. Alternatively, at both lunch and dinner, the menu offers main course specialties both à la carte and served as a meal with rice, flatbread, yogurt sauce and salad.
Dal refers to the family of pulses from lentils to garbanzo beans, which are stewed in vegetarian curries and ground into high protein flour for breads and batters. Dal Makhni ($7.50/$10.50) is primarily urad dal, a small black-skinned bean with a white interior. This thick curry, the color of Texas chili beans, was flavored with whole and ground spices, and mildly piquant.
For a New Year's Resolution this year, I challenged myself to be increasingly adventurous, culinarily speaking. But as I planned my undertakings, I did not expect them to include sitting at the tip of the Municipal Wharf as a powerful storm moved in. But it was cold and dreary, and the previous deluge had overwhelmed my sump pump, extinguishing the water heater. I needed some hot clam chowder, and I needed it immediately.
The Dolphin Restaurant has served seafood for two decades in a tiny building, as well as through a take-out window. Since its purchase two years ago by Mark Gilbert Ventures, which also owns a large seafood grill as well as a gift shop on the wharf, a glass-walled patio has increased the seating dramatically.
It was odd that the wharf's toll booth was closed, as well as many businesses. I would learn later of a power outage. Colorful flags waved wildly and seagulls with wings extended hung motionless in the strong wind. A flock of feathery grebes and families of sea lions bobbed on brown and grey waves, which rolled by in rapid succession. A crack of lightning split the sky farther south.
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It took me ages to choose a bottle of Syrah for one of Ma Maison’s Brown Bag dinners. The choices from our local wineries are many. Finally, I plumped for a bottle of Savannah-Chanelle 2006 Monterey County—Coast View Vineyard ($21). I have visited Savannah-Chanelle dozens of times and have always been impressed with their wines. They do a splendid job of turning out excellent varietals—in large part thanks to their winemaker Tony Craig. Also, as a judge for the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers commercial wine competition last year, I know that this particular wine won a well-deserved silver medal with 86 points.
It’s that wonderful time of year when wildly crashing waves put on an energetic winter show. There is also no wait for a table at favorite beachfront restaurants, including Beach Street Cafe, where you can enjoy champagne brunch any day of the week.
In this century-old stucco structure with worn wood floors, an extensive collection of art prints by Maxfield Parrish hang from paneled walls. His illustrations advertised products, graced the covers of magazines such as Hearst and Harpers, and brought life to children’s storybooks. Turning from the art, I looked out large windows to see the tips of the Main Beach waves.
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A couple of friends from Barcelona invited me and my husband and some other people over for paella. They are here for a few weeks and promised they would cook this delicious Spanish dish for me a few times during their stay. Since they were preparing two different kinds of paella—a typical shellfish one and another of chicken and sausage—I knew I would be safe taking a bottle of Zayante Vineyard Zinfandel for us to share. Zayante’s beautiful wines are all estate grown and bottled—and reasonably priced as well. This particular Zin is a mere $13.99 at New Leaf.
When I need a quick bite, a little spice, and nicely cooked greens, I stop by Charlie Hong Kong. Modeled after an Asian street food stand, the little kitchen which served hot dogs for years, dishes up noodle, and rice bowls, soups, and Vietnamese sandwiches using organic ingredients.
I like to sit on the patio under the arched green cover and eat with matching green chopsticks. The large varnished picnic tables are often shared by strangers—cafeteria-style. I helped myself to a cup of filtered water while waiting briefly for my order to be announced at the window.
The Salad Wrap ($2.75) was like a large fresh spring roll served with sweet-tart-salty Hoisin sauce. Crunchy, thin strips of carrot and daikon radish joined thin, white rice noodles, lettuce and a sliver of avocado in a thick, transparent rice paper wrap.
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Although I had a huge dose of jet lag, having been back home from a month in Europe for a matter of hours, I hightailed it out to Roudon-Smith Winery on a cold and rainy Saturday in December. After all, it was their annual holiday event of wine and chocolate tasting, and—chocoholic that I am—I did not want to miss out on some delicious chocolaty samplings with some of my favorite wines.
My husband was already at the winery when I arrived—going straight there from a meeting—and standing under the redwoods to save me a parking space. Roudon-Smith is in a bucolic setting a couple of miles down Bean Creek Road in Scotts Valley. It’s owned and operated by Annette and David Hunt and their partner Al Drewke. All of them were there to greet us and chat about wine— and the inclement weather.