I received a message in my inbox today from a restaurant asking me to please not contact them anymore.
For the past five years, I have been contacting a restaurant in Spain requesting a reservation for dinner for two. I have emailed about once every other month for the past five years, so that is perhaps 30 attempts at a dinner reservation.
I’m known to be persistent when trying to make dinner reservations. One time I telephoned every day as I travelled from the South of France to Paris in hopes of a reservation at restaurant Jöel Robuchon. The reservationist came to recognize my voice as I called in each day and we developed something of an over-the-phone friendship. “No, sorry Madame Dixon, not today”, she said regretfully. Finally, the reservationist answered and asked me excitedly, “Can you be here tomorrow?” I zoomed to Paris rapidement in my little rented Citroen.
Another time, I sat on my hotel bed in Barcelona for several days, peering into my laptop with a poor connection. I needed to log in using a username and password at exactly 10 o’clock in the morning New York City time for a reservation to the tiny twelve-seat Momofuku Ko restaurant.
Last year, I hired a stiletto-wearing taxi driver in Lake Garda, Italy who could work a cell phone, drive a hundred miles and hour, and negotiate for me a reservation to Dal Pescatore in Northern Italy.
These efforts have all been successful except my attempts at a reservation to El Bulli in Roses, Spain. I don’t feel so bad. I only had a 0.4% chance of obtaining one of the annual 8,000 available reservations. According to the restaurant, that means a purported 2 million people emailed El Bulli for reservations in 2010. The restaurant is closing this July to reinvent itself into a learning center, hence the email asking me to stop bothering them. In some ways, I’m relieved – no more hopeful emails followed by absent or disappointing responses. As far as my love affair with Spanish chefs, my new fascination is with female chef Carme Ruscalleda and her unique Catalan cuisine prepared in the small village of Sant Pol de Mer.
Why should I care about fine dining chefs in faraway places such as Spain or France? I don’t necessarily try to replicate their efforts in my tiny Alaska kitchen. They matter to me because I can learn from them and discover the possibilities within my own cuisine. I can look at Alaskan ingredients and think about them from a different perspective.
In reality, I don’t have to travel far for culinary inspiration. Here in my seaside kitchen, as I look out over Tutka Bay, I am reminded of the many remarkable chefs preparing world-class cuisine right here at home. Two of my favorite culinary destinations in Kachemak Bay are The Saltry Restaurant in Halibut Cove and Maura’s Cafe in Old Town Homer.
- 3 medium papayas, very ripe, cut into small chunks
- 4 juicy limes (plus grated zest from the peel)
- ½ cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 cup cilantro, diced
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons roasted chili sauce
- 3 tablespoons frozen orange juice
- 4 cups fresh halibut, skin removed and flesh cut into bite sized pieces
- This recipe is compliments of Marion Beck and The Saltry Restaurant in Halibut Cove, Alaska.
- Feel free to modify the portions for smaller servings.
- This makes a large party-size batch.
- Dice all the ingredients and mix them together.
- Let the seviche sit chilled for about thirty minutes so the lime “cooks” the halibut.
Try the Saltry Restaurant’s recipe for seviche. Watch for owner Marion Beck’s new cookbook coming out soon – and, don’t forget to make reservations.