Lint-Trap 1/22/01: Cioppino!



Well, the first thing about cioppino day went wrong the night before. My small alarm clock's setting knob broke off when I tried to set the alarm. Since I was scheduled to meet Sam at 7:15, I wanted to get up no later than 6:30. Well, I found a little travel alarm, got a battery for it, got the time set and the alarm set, and fell into bed.

I woke up at 6:34 am with absolutely no sense that I had heard the alarm. When I tried it out, it beeped anemically. With my hearing loss, I need something more the pitch and intensity of a foghorn to wake me up, and that little guy was like using a flyswatter on an elephant. But I did wake up, so perhaps there was not real harm done...

As I was staggering toward the door, the phone rang--it was Sam. She overslept. Pushed the time back to 7:45. I had a chance to do a couple of last minute 'wipe this' and 'neaten that' tasks before leaving.

As I pulled in to the parking area off of Rte. 17, it was a beehive of activity--to put it mildly, this was unexpected. Turns out that a rather large group of birdwatchers was meeting there as well. Found Sam, and we took off over the hill and down along Monterey Bay to Moss Landing. We arrived at Phil's Fish Market at 8:40, to find that they were really not ready to sell us what we needed until 9AM. So it's just as well that Sam was late. We went to the beach and hung out, watching an otter vamp shamelessly, and two kayakers pretending they were surfers in the waves, which were good size.

Returning to Phil's, I could see why Sam felt a trip down there was a necessary part of Cioppino. Huge tanks of live lobster and crabs. Smaller tanks with clams and mussels--self service. We got 'green lipped' mussels, clams, red snapper, shrimp, and three monster live crabs, cleaned and cracked. We also got a couple of containers of clam chowder for breakfast. I don't believe I have ever had chowder for breakfast before, but it's a good custom when the chowder is as good as Phil's is. We were buying for 10 people, and the bill was a skootch under $100. And worth every penny, as it turns out...

By 10:30 we had the fish, picked up my car, and were back at my place, moving in the large pot and cans of tomato by-products. Sam had scheduled noon as the cooking time. We sat and gathered our strength, doing occasional 'get ready' type tasks. Around noon, I called Diana to learn that she had caught her son's flu and was suffering 101.5 fever. So she was out. I took away one chair, so there were 9 places at the table. Sam needed more olive oil, and Diana's salad had gone missing, so I ran to the store. When I returned the place was already smelling good.

People started arriving around 2. Funny thing was, it wasn't quite the same set of people we were expecting. One of Sam's housemates never showed up and never called. Another person who had not been able to come called and was shuffled into Diana's place. And so when all was said and done, we had 9 people. And just as well, because we would have had trouble stretching to 10.

It was outstandingly good. I don't think I can say too much more than that. Except that it was good when you ate it, when you licked it off your fingers (cioppino is very messy! Sam had provided bibs), and especially when you sopped up the end of it with your garlic toast. Nine very happy people waddled away from the table.

For the rest of the afternoon, we digested. Several of us would have purred had we been able. But we did rather act like cats. We did a little sunning on the deck, some sitting in the living room, and then all trooped outside to watch the sun set into the Pacific.

I don't think I mentioned it, but the people we had invited were smart, articulate, and fun to spend the afternoon with. We all had a ball.

When finally the last guest left about 8:30, I grabbed my digicam and dove for the computer, convinced that I would finally be able to make an entry with a photo. Only to discover that Sam and I had swapped cameras at some point in the afternoon (we both have the same brand). So I had a lot of pictures, but they weren't mine. I'll try to get it straightened out in the next couple of days, so watch this space. And I'll go back to ruminations on color, oh boy.

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2001 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.