Slanted Door, Kayaking
We had yet another good weekend in a long line of good weekends this summer (how'd I get so lucky?).
Patrick and I received a gift card to the Slanted Door for our birthdays, so we took the train up to the city yesterday and had dinner there. We'd had lunch at Out the Door (their takeout place, also in the Ferry Building), and we'd enjoyed that very much.
We got there a little before they opened and decided to sit outside. When we finally went in, there was a huge line of people waiting to either be seated or put their name on the waiting list. Luckily, we had a reservation and the line moved pretty quickly, so there was no problem getting a table. We were seated next to a window, so I got to watch people walking by along the waterfront, and Patrick got to watch the chefs.
The restaurant decor was interesting. The tables and chairs were simple, made of light wood and metal--like something you'd get from IKEA. In that respect, it didn't seem very fancy. But there were other details, like the stacked plate glass accents under the lights and behind the bar, that looked cool and upscale. They used pretty earthenware plates made by a local potter. I guess they were going for simple and modern.
Patrick ordered a Ginger Limeade (kaffir lime vodka, ginger, lime juice) to start, and then a Tinted Gimlet (raspberry-infused vodka, fresh lime) later on. The Ginger Limeade was pretty good, but not as good as the Ecstatic Traveller (a similarly gingery and limey drink) we had when we went to Millennium. The Tinted Gimlet was too tart for me. Patrick liked both drinks though, which is good. I had a Summer Spritzer (Seltzer Sisters' soda water with Nikolaihof biodynamic elderflower syrup--it sounds like a made up fancy drink, right?). It was tart and tasted very fresh and summery. I liked it, though it would've been even better on a slightly hotter day.
We didn't realize that food is served family-style at Slanted Door and started out ordering way too much food, but our stylishly-bespectacled waiter set us straight. We started by sharing the grapefruit and jicama salad with candied pecans, which was more like a red cabbage and jicama slaw accented with grapefruit and pecans. It was dressed simply (probably sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and a few other things) and was nice and light. Good stuff.
Next, we split a Vietnamese crepe, which was not at all what we were expecting. It was a cross between a crepe and an omelet and was filled mostly with bean sprouts, with a little bit of meat. We were directed to cut it into pieces and place each piece on a lettuce leaf with a little mint, roll it up, and dip it in the provided dipping sauce. It was a messy procedure. The crepe was actually pretty good, but I don't know if we'd order it again. I think you could get a similar effect by ordering spring rolls.
Next came the Dungeness crab and sweet corn soup. I was expecting it to be a bisque, but it was a clear broth; not heavy at all. The ingredients were high enough quality that they could get away with the simple presentation. I wouldn't have minded if they'd dressed it up with a little cream and bacon though :)
We shared two entrees--the caramelized tiger prawns and the shaking beef--and had bok choy with shiitake mushrooms on the side. All three items were really good. The shaking beef was super tender, but I think I liked the tiger prawns even more. They were accompanied by oodles of caramelized onions in a tasty sauce. Mmm. The bok choy was very simply prepared, but delicious.
For dessert, I had the bittersweet chocolate bread pudding with fresh berries and vanilla-mandarin blossom ice cream. Patrick had the vanilla bean creme brulee (which was accompanied by tiny little muffin-ettes that were almond-lemon flavored, if I had to guess). Both desserts were awesome, but I think the creme brulee was slightly better. When we go again, I'd like to try the warm fig and walnut goat cheese pound cake. Sounds interesting!
It was a delicious and satisfying dinner, and we'd happily go there again. But we might wait until somebody else is buying or we have another gift card!
This morning, we woke up bright and early and drove down to Moss Landing to have our first kayaking experience. Based on Sahana's recommendation, we signed up for Kayak Connection's three hour guided tour of Elkhorn Slough. It sounded like an easy introduction to kayaking.
We made it down there faster than expected and sat around in our car for awhile, which was pretty boring. But once 9:30 rolled around, things got more exciting. There were only two other people signed up for the tour, so we got a lot of personal attention from our guide, a very friendly and cheerful woman named Jessie. First she showed us how to put on our splash skirts and life jackets and instructed us in some kayaking basics (how to paddle, mostly).
We walked down to the dock, and Jessie helped us into our two-person kayaks. We decided Patrick should be in back so he could control the steering (I had enough on my mind concentrating on paddling and looking at all the awesome stuff. We would've totally run into something if I'd been steering). I was impressed by the whole kayak setup. The splash skirt keeps water from entering the boat (theoretically; I think mine was leaky, as I was pretty soggy by the end of the tour), and there was a place to tuck a water bottle or small bag in front of each seat, so you didn't have to undo the splash skirt to get at stuff.
We had some steering troubles at first (not Patrick's fault), but once we got out of the harbor, things went smoothly. It was more of a workout than I'd expected; my arms, shoulders and back got sore. But luckily I had my powerhouse of a husband paddling too, so I could take breaks when needed. I felt much stronger paddling back, which is weird because we were paddling against the tide.
We paddled in a loop around the slough, stopping periodically so Jessie could tell us about the various birds and mammals around us. It was really awesome. We saw a bunch of different birds--most notably a majestic blue heron and a huge flock of terns that flew right over our heads making tons of noise. There were seals and sea otters all over the place. We had to keep our distance from the resting seals and otters, but there were a few playful ones who came really close to us.
Patrick and I came upon two young seals playing in the water, and we had to back paddle to avoid running into them, since they weren't inclined to move. There was also a really friendly sea otter who kept following kayaks around and would apparently climb onto kayaks if you weren't careful (we were warned of this by two friendly slough docents). The otter in question followed us pretty closely toward the end of our paddle. It was pretty damn cute, but also a little scary, as our guide said that otters, though normally not aggressive, could seriously hurt us with their shell-crushing powers were they so inclined. Not so cuddly after all! But still, awww, sea otter!
I think we were on the water for about 2 hours total. It was overcast the whole time, which was nice because it didn't get too hot. It was a really beautiful and peaceful experience. We'd definitely like to do it again. I think we'll try for a kayak tour of Tomales Bay next.
After landing and returning our gear, we changed into dry clothes and drove a little further down Hwy 1 to the main street in Moss Landing, in search of fish tacos. Apparently there was some big antique fair going on today, and the town (all one street of it) was packed. We had to drive around for awhile looking for parking, but luckily the place we chose for lunch was able to seat us right away.
We ended up going to The Whole Enchilada for lunch because they had bathrooms (in which we made our best attempts to wash off all the slough salt from our hands and faces) and fish tacos. Next time, we might try Phil's, as they also appear to have fish tacos.
You may be wondering why we were so intent on having fish tacos at Moss Landing. I don't have a good reason; I saw a sign for fish tacos when we drove through town on one of our many wedding-related trips to Big Sur/Monterey last year, and the idea stuck in my head that I'd like to have fish tacos in Moss Landing someday. That day was today.
Funnily enough, once we were seated I decided not to order the fish tacos (I was expecting them to have cabbage and a mayonnaise-based dressing, but instead they had lettuce and ranch dressing), but Patrick did and shared them with me. They were very good. I had the seafood enchiladas, one crab and one shrimp, with rice and beans. It all tasted so good. I'm not sure if it was because we were starving from all the kayaking or if it was actually really good food or both, but we sure enjoyed that meal!
Our drive back home took longer than expected because of the amount of traffic on Hwy 1 around Moss Landing. Patrick guessed that the traffic might be due to the Gilroy Garlic festival, and I bet he's right, as it was held this weekend.
Upon arriving at home, there was some napping and some doing of laundry (to get the salt and invisible slough grime off our clothes). We opted for a simple dinner of tomato, basil and mozzarella sandwiches with mayo and homemade pesto. The tomatoes and basil were from our garden (I love that!). We also had some storebought nectarines on the side. We ate outside, next to our garden. Patrick worried that we may have traumatized our plants by showing them just what happens to their babies after they're picked.
I'm afraid the sandwiches didn't live up to the mythical Flour sandwich that resides in my memories of Boston, but they were still pretty darn good, and it was satisfying to make a meal featuring food that we'd grown ourselves. Summer's so great!