The irony doesn’t escape me. I’d gone from the suburbs of Philadelphia to, well, the suburbs of Monterey to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. At least it seems ironic to me. Perhaps I’m just ignorant of the depth of Judaic culture in the Monterey bay area. In any event, it was pure coincidence that my trip happened to coincide with the beginning of the Jewish New Year. I’d gone for vacation, to relax, drink and eat of course, and, more importantly, to visit friends, some of whom just happen to take their high holidays pretty seriously.
While most of our day on Friday would be spent shopping and prepping for the evening’s feast, we did manage to keep the morning free to explore some of the natural beauty in the environs of Monterey. Images of the breathtaking vistas and windy roads of the California coastline tend to be conjured first when thinking of this part of the world, but there’s a different kind of beauty, perhaps even more pacific (yes, the pun’s intended), to the arid interior of the northern Central Coast. During a loping, two-hour hike that criss-crossed Fort Ord and adjoining acreage overseen by the US Bureau of Land Management, only a bobcat (far too quick for my camera yet very cool to spot), the occasional jay and scampering lizard, and a few other nature lovers shared the landscape with us.
Smart enough, at least I’d like to think so, not to shop hungry, we sated our hike-driven hunger with a lunch of fish tacos and shrimp burritos in downtown Monterey, followed by a stroll around the marina.
A classic local scene: California sea lions have made a permanent sun worshipping station of the breakwater along the Monterey pier. Less common were the swarms of jellyfish, not little guys, mind you, but big suckers, the size of basketballs and sporting waist-length dreadlocks of potential nastiness.
Lunching and tourism done for the day, we finally buckled down to the biz of preparing din-din. Dinner would start with a loaf of round challah (not raisin, all sold-out) served with honey, the shape of the loaf and sweetness of the accompaniment both symbolic of health and happiness in the new year to come. The rest of the meal would be less traditional, perhaps, but still very much in keeping with the spirit of the holiday and the observance of culinary customs.
My pals had gone off to visit Dashe Cellars after reading my interview with Michael Dashe a while back and had come back with a cache of 2008 L'Enfant Terrible, a bottle of which we happily dispatched while working in the kitchen.
So, happy belated new year to those of you who observe. And stay tuned for more CA adventures to come.