Posted By bbinns on November 23, 2009In case anyone has a doubt about this, I’ll just go on record and say that a two-month separation is not good for any couple. One month apart, or a couple of weeks, can be invigorating. Any longer, and the culture of the partnership begins to sound and feel different. Having said that, we had both agreed that in this one-off case, the cause—ie, a good, long mom-time—was a good one. And lo and behold, the woman who would “never work again” as of last summer has written an entire book, plus half a book proposal, and cemented a third book deal since we two last broke bread and lifted glasses unto one another (sounds kinda religious, huh?). So when C finally gets off the plane from NY, here early for the Thanksgiving festivities (interestingly—or not—by way of both Ft Lauderdale and Austin), There is a great deal to celebrate. We waste no time on familial niceties and instead head straight up the glorious Pacific Coast, backdrop of my birth and permanent home of my soul. Now, I get to add my soul-mate to the mix! It just doesn’t get any better than this.
When I was seventeen, the Beach Boys were de rigeur for this glittering drive, but now it’s all about catching up. Stella’s head is out the window, backlit by the sun, and she is safe in daddy’s lap again. First stop is Malibu, for a dinner that’s worthy of one of Dutch’s special bottles, a Chateauneuf from the village right next door to Vaison, where he and Andrea used to live and make wine. I’m supplying supper, and need a menu that’s super-quick to execute but complex enough for the wine. The new-ish Whole Foods in Venice (the largest in the country) provides everything I need: 2 pounds of 15%-fat ground beef, a loaf of rustic bread, cultured organic butter, and a pot of their cilantro-scallion hummus. I arrive at the meat counter just in time to grab the last mound of beef, a mere heartbeat ahead of a woman who seems genuinely pissed off to have missed out. I half-heartedly indicate the generous pile of 7%-fat beef, but, she scoffs, and I simply apologize once again. An estimable burger is made with fatty meat. End of recipe.
Up in Malibu, C and I dance around the patio with a glass of Chalone in one hand (Dutch and Andrea have put on our wedding CD from Italy for the occasion). Then I mince a large shallot and fold it, along with a large pinch of both French sea salt and smoked paprika, into the meat, which I have pulled apart with a fork. Now I form it into four relatively equal patties, with a very light hand, and press them into disks. Some minced garlic and a drift of snipped chives have been folded in my new favorite butter, and the bread is toasted until golden, then slathered with this manna. The burgers are now golden from the griddle, and they go onto the bread; I top them with a limpid puddle of the bright green hummus, and the very fine wine is poured. It’s a truly fine how-do-you-do.
I’ll skip over the details of our first night together in two months. This is a travel, wine, and dine forum. But I have lost eight pounds in two months, despite the one hundred slow cooker recipes (can you say “stress”?), and am told that I “feel like a different woman.” Which has got to be fun.
In the morning, we three head north—together again, and driving, as we should always be—towards Paso Robles, but no drive up this coast is complete without a stop at the taco stand of every southern Californian’s dreams: La Super Rica, in Santa Barbara. (Translated: The Really Rich Place; Take the Milpas exit off 101 and head away from the ocean until you spot the little blue and white building on your right; it’s closed on Wednesday, so beware. And try to arrive before noon or after 1;45, or allow for a substantial wait.) I order Queso Especial, melty cheese which comes studded with oily chunks of chorizo and lazy dark threads of cilantro; C has the impossibly toothsome and crisp pork tacos, and we split a mound of bright, freshly smashed guacamole. The tortilla lady shares a crowded stove with the grill man, and she’s like an mean machine, grabbing hunks of snow-white masa, rolling them between two padded palms, then quick-smart pressing them in the tortilla press before they fly onto the griddle.
On the road again, we both do a bit of Friday afternoon business from the traveling office that is the Highlander, just so it seems like we’re not completely hors de combat. Up in Paso, and a few miles east, there’s a little table bathed in magic hour sunshine, a bottle beaded with condensation like a hundred diamond tennis-bracelets, and a lot more catching up to do. I’d forgotten what our life together was like. It’s a language I am fluent in; I pick it up and hold it close, like a cat that’s been lost in the rain.