Cibo, Monterey

When I moved back from Spain I was nostalgic for everything Galician—I lived in the small town of Ourense in Galicia, the Northwestern corner of Spain, above Portugal. (You can read about my adventures in Spain here.) One of the things I thought I would miss the most was the live music, it felt like the old alleys incessantly reverberated with the piercing hum of violin music or echoed with the bellow of a cello. But as I re-settled into my hometown, I found that Monterey was rich with live music, too.

One such place is Cibo Ristorante Italiano (pronounced chee-bo), offering live music six nights a week. I often walk by on Alvarado and am drawn in by the music—it’s so lively and welcoming.

A friend invited me out there the other night and it was a nice reminder of what a fun place Cibo is. It’s wonderful to meet those friends that you see only once every few months and get to catch up on everything over a long, leisurely meal.

We sat in a booth and, having just driven back from the Bay Area, my friend suggested I order a glass of wine. The waiter recommended a nice Cabernet. We started with the polenta and sun-dried tomato appetizer. And talked and talked. My parents used to say when I was a kid that I talked more than I ate which I think is true during meal times—well not only meal times but especially meal times because I have a captive (read, stuck) audience.

The waiter brought us this incredible, warm, crunchy-crusted ciabatta bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I always ask for butter as well because butter is perfect. More on that another time.

Eventually we ordered more appetizers: arancinette (crispy fried rice balls) and calamari. The calamari tentacles were crispy on the ends and meaty at the core, just the way I like them while the rice balls with tomato sauce were a tangy complement to the hearty squid. I think it’s important to have diversity in your life. Not just with the foods you eat but with your friends, too. Having friends with different backgrounds, ages, jobs, etc. really gives you a perspective on life and can often help you navigate your own life with a broader point of view. This particular friend is a generation older than me and has been wildly successful in her career in public relations. She says things to me about my just-beginning writing career as though they were so obvious and I have to remind myself that I am pursuing writing because I like to write, not because I’m a brilliant marketing specialist or PR person.

She’s also commanding which I love. She would give me a piece of advice and say, “write it down.” I diligently pulled my notebook out, for the fifteenth time and wrote down some brilliant piece of advice she had just casually passed along. “Don’t put it away, you’re going to need it again.” Another flippant, brilliant comment.

For dinner I ordered the gnocchi trio. If you’re not familiar with gnocchi I have to say it’s the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to tasting clouds. Well, my imagination’s idea of what clouds might taste like. They are light, fluffy potato dumplings that melt in your mouth. The trio were: spinach & ricotta filled with a Bolognese sauce, truffle-filled with brown-utter sage (who was the genius who thought to fry sage leaves, please thank her), and traditional potato with pesto cream shrimp. The nice thing about the trio is that it’s enough of each to taste a little bit of each very different flavor.

We wrapped the evening up with dessert, the only civilized way to eat a meal, and we had the pear almond tartlet that was nicely served with whipped cream, mango sauce, and crunchy, caramelized almonds.

Calamari & arancinette

The next time you’re looking for a place to liven up your evening, I really recommend that you check out Cibo in Monterey. Check their website to find out who is playing, one of my local favorites is Andrea’s Fault who play jazz there every Wednesday evening. Or, you could try all night happy hour on Thursday nights in the bar.

Plato said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” So add a little music to your life, or more music because most of us could probably use more music.

*a shorter version of this story was published in the Cedar Street Times on 19 October 2018

The beauty of making someone’s day

We don’t know the power we possess to brighten someone else’s day.  Not only that, but how easy it is and how important it is.

Today, I found a single bougainvillea tucked in the window of my driver’s side door while my car was parked outside of my gym.  Clearly the person who left this there knows what car I drive and intended (I think, I hope) to make me smile.  Well did it ever!  What an amazing way to start a Monday, a week, any day for that matter.  What’s even more beautiful about doing something kind or thoughtful for someone is that we don’t know what that action means to them or what happened to them that day.

Let me explain.

I love flowers, specifically I love flowers that grow on vines: jasmine, passion flower, bougainvillea, etc. I have a running list of the flowers I will have in my future home and bougainvillea is a resident member of that list (assuming I live somewhere where bougainvillea can thrive, I don’t worry about that, I will).  In Arabic, bougainvillea’s name is majnounay, meaning crazy lady (it is the feminine form of crazy).  I read once in a book that it has that name because the vine blossoms and grows wild like a woman in love.  If you have never seen a bougainvillea in full bloom, it is intoxicating, her beauty knocks the breath out of me every time.

Thank you.

Bougainvillea outside a church on a Greek island – taken while I was visiting with mama & papa B, September 2014

 

What are you passionate about?

After yoga this morning, I went to meet a friend for coffee on my way to work.  I click-clicked on my way in front of the Monterey Post Office as my eyes caught the gaze of a slender, tall gentleman.  He was wearing several layers of clothes and was smoking a cigarette.  “Good morning, Miss,” he called out to me, revealing his one protruding tooth.  “Good morning!” I replied.  “There’s just one thing I want from you today,” he said rather seriously.  “And what is that?” I stopped in front of him.  “Would you please give me a hug?” he asked.  I let my head fall back in laughter and gave him a big bear hug, he held me tightly and whispered “thank you” in my ear.

The yoga instructor had asked us today in class, “What are you passionate about?”  She repeated the question numerous times in the hour-long class and really urged us to think about it, to consider it, to embrace it.  I didn’t have to think too much to know that I am passionate about people.  Put aside allegations of extroversion, introversion, socialitism, etc. – I simply love people.  I love interacting with people, I love emotions, I love when people are passionate, I love opinions, character, feelings, human creation, art.  My interaction with the gentleman this morning was a great practical example of my passion for people.

What are you passionate about?  I hope your passion is attainable in your daily life and that you receive the gift of it today.

Unaware

I’ve often heard people say that we don’t have seasons here in Monterey.  If by “seasons” they mean it doesn’t snow, then yes, we don’t have snow.  But nature is cyclical and even in tropical places or regions of the world with “Mediterranean climates,” like lovely Monterey, there are seasons.  The most obvious way to see the difference in the seasons is to note the changes, leaves on tree, no leaves on tree; long sunny days, short less-sunny days.  Nature needs a break, it needs to grow, to create to bear, to rest – so although we don’t have as drastic changes from season to season, they are there – you just have to be aware. The season changes in every region of the world are fitting to that region’s ecology and environment, or maybe it’s the other way around, the ecology and environment make the seasons change in the way they need.  Or maybe it’s a compromise of both, or something entirely different…

We often walk through life blind to our surroundings.  For years and years I lived in Monterey and was so absorbed with my life (whatever that means) that I didn’t pay attention to the season changes, the differences in the visibility of the stars and the moon in the summer versus the winter, the abundance of fruit in the summer and the baron shrubs and bushes of late-fall.  I have started noticing, however.  I notice the subtle changes daily in the autumn: less day light, a lower hanging sun, a definite change in weather – namely, less fog but more crisp, cool air.  I see squirrels putting away acorns.  It’s amazing! The other day as I was laying out in the midday sun of my driveway, I kept hearing something rustling in the oak tree above me and the sound of things dropping on the ground around me.  I looked up and watched as a squirrel was intentionally knocking acorns from the tree onto the ground. It made me think of something a co-worker had mentioned the week prior, that is, when squirrels put away a lot of acorns in the Fall that means (according to the Farmer’s Almanac) that it’s going to be a wet winter.  Well that makes logical sense!  Plants (seeds) need water to grow and the winter is the wet season, so squirrels act as the oak tree farmers, encouraging the seeds (acorns) to fall on the ground in the Fall and hopefully when the wind and rain comes, they will get some soil (nutrients) and be able to sprout and bring about more oak trees come Spring!  Nature is amazing.  How do the squirrels know?  We don’t need to get too philosophical here…

So I guess all I’m saying here is that if we intentionally make ourselves more aware, there is so much to discover in our surroundings.  I wonder what else I’ve been missing all these years…?

The Sound of Silence

The title of this post is not a reference to the Simon and Garfunkel song, although it is a good song, this post is about the beauty of silence.  What do you think of when you think silence?  I personally think of nature and early mornings but that is probably because I am a morning person.  

Today after my morning walk, I came home and rather than turn on my music (albeit classical) I decided to just make tea and sit outside in silence.  It’s the beginning of autumn and the weather is markedly colder than it has been.  (Colder is a relative term, it was colder for my Monterey.)  I can also tell that the season is changing because coming home from my walk, when I reached the normal landmark that I associate with daylight, it was still dark.  It was so beautiful!  I sat outside with my tea and took in the air crisp – I listened to the sea lions barking off in the distance and I heard birds chirping in the garden next door.  As beautiful as classical music is, I ought not drown out these beautiful, natural sounds that inspire musicians and composers.  I would like to just be in them, be part of them.  I don’t know that we take much time to appreciate the sound of silence in our hyper-connected buzzing and beeping world with text and e-mail notifications, constant blaring music, etc. but I did today and I appreciated it, it calmed me down and reminded me that there is more to life than my iPhone.  I think I want to try to do it more.  I suggest you do, too. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium Sip & Sea

Last night was the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sip & Sea Event.  A member’s (and members’ guests) event for the 21+.  The Aquarium was open after hours so that attendees could explore the exhibits, enjoy a drink and listen to live music.  I went with some friends and had a blast!  We enjoyed local beers and wines while admiring the jellyfish, fish, sharks, sea turtles, sea horses, otters, star fish, etc.  Did you know that sea horses dance while courting and before mating (see video)?

Jelly fish!

Sardines

Sandra, me and Shandy with a sea turtle in the background! (#MontereyBayAquarium)

The “Bang” outside the Aquarium

Made in Monterey

The best way to thank someone for something is to cook them dinner, in my humble opinion.  It’s more personal that way, I think.  Also, cooking is a creative art and relaxing, you get to be alone with yourself in the kitchen creating something, something that someone else (or you, yourself) will savor.  I don’t know about you but I find peace in cooking, I relax (especially when I drink a glass of wine and listen to good music while I’m cooking, jejeje).  I had a “Thank you” dinner scheduled last night for a friend who did a huge favor for me…so I decided to try to go local… 

Yesterday on my way home from work I stopped at the Monterey Fish Company (at Wharf #2) to see what was fresh.  They had recently caught Monterey Bay Rock Cod, among other fish, but that looked good to me.  I bought a couple fish and the nice young guy scaled the fish and gutted them.  I asked if I could watch and he showed me how to swiftly and cleanly gut a fish, something I have never done before.  It will take several poorly gutted fish before I can do it with his grace.  I also bought squid but did not prepare it last night, I’ll keep that for another post.  

Thank you fishies, for letting me eat you 

I went with simple: extra virgin olive oil (grown and pressed in Watsonville), Crane Lake Sauvignon Blanc (from Napa Valley), rosemary (that I picked at work), thyme (that I picked in my aunt’s garden), Meyer lemon slices (that were given to me from my friend’s tree), salt (oops, Himalayan salt that I bought at the store) and garlic (that I found in my parents’ kitchen which surprisingly enough CAME FROM CHINA!).  Well, I try to do local.  

I put 2 super long pieces of foil on a baking sheet, perpendicular to one another, laid the fish on the foil and generously poured olive oil, salt and the herbs over and in it.  I had cut some slits in the fish and stuffed the slits with herbs and chopped up garlic and inside the fish I placed thin slices of the lemon and more garlic and herbs.  At the end I drizzled the fish with some white wine and sealed the foil, making a tent like structure.  I put it in a preheated oven (at 375˚ F) and baked it for 20 minutes. 

seasoned Monterey Rock Cod 

 The green beans (from the Farmer’s Market) were blanched then tossed in olive oil and butter that had thyme and almonds frying in it. 

green beans from the Farmer’s Market

Voilà

Yum!

Dessert was honeydew (farmer’s market) with lime  (farmer’s market) squeezed on it and fresh mint (aunt’s yard)…refreshing!

Monterey bike path

Why one oughtn’t have headphones/earphones on while running or walking on the bike path:
  1. The barking of the seals and sea lions is missed
  2. AND the sound of the otters crunching abalone 
  3. AND the sound of birds chirping 
  4. AND the sound of waves crashing or kayakers paddling 
  5. you are unaware of your surroundings 
  6. you don’t get to say good morning/good day/good afternoon/good evening to your fellow runners/walkers/bikers

Good morning, Monterey, view from my commute to work 
the Wharf 

Once you blow open a mind, there’s so much that mind can absorb

I happened upon a panel discussion of students from MIIS’ spring break trips yesterday evening.  (MIIS = Monterey Institute of International Studies) A couple of students had visited Washington DC, others Taiwan and China, another to the UN in New York and another to Cuba.  The facilitator asked them questions about their experiences, things they had learned, “ah-ha” moments and advice they had for students.  It was very inspiring to listen to what these students from modest Monterey had witnessed, experienced and lived.  

A woman sitting near me in the audience raised her hand and added to what the student who had visited Cuba had commented about perspective (he had said that visiting Cuba blew his mind).  This woman, who turned out to be Professor Jan Knippers Black, said, “Once you blow open a mind, there’s so much that mind can absorb.”  That stuck with me.  We go through life with our pre-conceived notions, we all do whether we want to admit it or not.  In doing so, we inhibit ourselves from seeing things differently.  Something may not necessarily be right or wrong but we can learn from it, we can adopt in our lives small changes simply from observing how other people live and behave.

Conflicts are started because we assume that those people are doing things the wrong way, they are vehemently anti-“our way” and therefore we must change them or isolate ourselves from them, etc.  How much of life do we miss out on that way?  Imagine if we withheld judgement and looked at other people, cultures, political systems, you name it, as simply different and something from which we can learn.  This is where our mind can absorb things at face value, rather than be muddied by a pall of judgement and preconception.  So next time you watch the news or see something that is different to you, try to assess it with an open mind.  There will be things that even after open-mindedly assessing, you will be opposed to (FGM or slavery, for example), that is alright, but there will be many things that if inspected from another angle, can teach you something (i.e. governments investing in human capital).  

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money”

For those of you who are not familiar with TED, you ought to be.  The notion is “ideas worth spreading.”  People come together for TED talks and give a short blurb about just that, an idea worth spreading.  It can be anything from coping with an ill partner to an innovative business design.  There are conferences and all the TED talks are available online.  I recently attended an independently organized TEDx event, TEDx Monterey – it was so inspiring.  A fantastic reminder that there are people in our community doing super cool things, you just have to be willing to hear about it.   

At TEDx Monterey, they played this TED talk about gardening.  You know, growing your own food.  Have a look and see what you think.  Maybe you’ll plant a garden?  Even if it’s just a container garden – plants in old milk jugs or cleaned out paint buckets.  Plants are a form of life and life wants to live.  Give it the bare minimum to survive and it will thrive…