Just for the record, my cup of tea tonight is Choice Rooibos Chai. It was a Christmas gift from my wonderful wife, and it is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. I am big fan of the more common black tea chai, but this red tea variety has a character all its own.
I spent the day in Sarasota. Sarasota is an exercise in contrasts. It has the very rich, the very poor and everything in between. The town was once a sleepy little artist community. It once garnered a mention in Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. Grace Kelly’s character says she once won a water skiing competition here. Over the last 20 years though, Sarasota has been “found” by the rich and famous, and as usually happens, the town has been transformed. The downtown which was once a quaint collection of shops and restaurants with some affordable houses and apartments has become seriously gentrified. Most if not all of the affordable housing has been replaced with high-rise condos with even higher-rising prices. The shops and restaurants downtown have been made over as well with a corresponding increase in prices. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that much of downtown is out of reach for median income America, but it still retains some of the character and quaintness I fell in love with when I first came here. That is only part of the story.
Back in the early 70’s a group called Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah sang a song called “Lake Shore Drive” about their hometown of Chicago. There is a line that says, “From rats on up to riches, 15 minutes you can fly.” It described how quickly you could drive from a poor section of town to the wealthy. In Sarasota, it isn’t 15 minutes, it is closer to 15 seconds. Just north of downtown is a much more modest area. It is heavily ethnic, mostly Hispanic and Asian if the names on the business are anything to go by. It has not had the facelift that downtown has, but there is something about it that draws me to it.
Part of what draws me is the ethnic identity. I have a tropism for ethnic markets. I love all kinds. I can get lost in wonder wandering the aisles looking at all the foods and spices. It doesn’t matter that even after all my reading and cooking, I don’t know what half of them are for. I love to look and read containers and imagine what I could do with them in the kitchen. I have been going to ethnic markets for decades now and the joy never wanes.
That is what I did today. I left early for my doctor appointment so I could stop at a Mexican market I have had my eye on for the last few months. It did not disappoint. It is mere blocks from downtown, but to call this place modest would be kind. It it just a few aisles of groceries and some household items. It was clear from the signs and the clientele that this wasn’t a store for the gentry. This was where the locals come, and that is just how I like it. I looked at everything. If I had a kitchen here, I would have bought a lot more. As it is, I bought five bags of dried chiles, New Mexico, California, guajillo. pasilla, and mulato. I also bought two bottles of El Yucateco hot sauce, jalapeno and chipotle. I have had their habanero sauce, so I am looking forward to these. This alone would have made for a successful day, but there was more.
The doctor visit went well, but this isn’t a medical blog, so I will spare the details.
Dinner tonight was at Sakura Hibachi Grill. I am not a big fan of Chinese buffets but this one looked interesting, and it was. Aside from the teppan-grilled meat and veggies (which were spectacular by the way), the selection of food was the largest I have ever seen in a buffet. Some of the more unusual items included frog legs, raw oysters, steamed mussels, steamed buns, shumai, salmon, and a large selection of sushi including rolls and nigiri. I did what any good foodie would do. I had a little bit of almost everything. That and a couple of Tsing Tao’s made for a fine meal.
One take away I have from this, I could become a serious fan of raw oysters. I have been wanting to try them for some time, but now that I have, I am sold. I can see how they could really become an obsession.
Today was a good day. I hope your day was as well.