Monday, January 30, 2006

Finding Comfort Near the Sea

I find January to be an unsettling month; a time of in-betweens, of anxious pauses and long moments of melancholy. The holidays are over, and spring is still just a dream. The rains come down, and people hunker inside their houses. I hunker inside, too, but I pace the floors, feeling strangely restless and cross. This is the season of waiting, of seeds burrowing deep within the ground, slumbering patiently.

If only I could relax into it with greater ease. I feel a sense of shifting, of undefined changes swirling in the not-too-distant future. I toss; I turn; I wonder.

Around noon today, on my way back over the bridge from the restaurant where I spent the morning taking inventory and placing orders, I impulsively turned off at the Alexander Avenue exit. The wind was blustery, and the driving rain made a mockery of my windshield wipers. I had a distinct urge to be in view of the ocean.

I remembered reading a review about a restaurant in Sausalito called Fish, and decided to stop by. When I dialed 411, the man who picked up the phone told me to drive to the far end of the yacht dock area on Harbor Drive. Sure enough, there it was, tucked into a rather obscure corner.

The space is open and bright, with high ceilings and polished wood tables. Chalkboards on the wall display the specials. There is much on the menu that begs to be sampled, but as I was by myself, I couldn’t order with my usual abandon.

I settled on a cup of New England style clam chowder and a salad made with grilled calamari. “Fresh from Monterey Bay,” the man at the counter told me. “Small and delicious.”

While I waited, I sat near a crackling fireplace and looked out at the ocean, taking solace in its vastness.

The clam chowder was warm and full of potato chunks. The clams were pink and bouncy. I dumped the whole packet of oyster crackers inside and happily munched away.

My salad arrived just as I was finishing the soup. It was served in a deep bowl, a pile of baby greens tossed with shredded carrots and pomegranate seeds, all dressed in a perfectly balanced vinaigrette. The calamari lay across the top, purplish-red cone-shaped bodies with tangled tentacles like miniature fountains. They bore tiny black flecks of char from the grill. They were tender, with the slightest bit of chewy edge. They tasted of deep, dark water and the mysteries of the sea. I finished the entire bowl. I nearly picked it up and licked it at the end.

And drove the rest of the way back to Novato feeling the slightest bit more hopeful.


At 11:52 AM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Good one!
January is a hard month, and it draws me to the ocean, too (or the bay, in your case).
Fish is a good place. Cranky and I tried it a couple of weeks ago (and it was really hopping at lunch).
Keep your hope up.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger michelle said...

The ocean always makes me feel soothes my soul...Maybe that's why I became a marine biologist! Great food has a similar effect. January is always a hard're coming down off of the holidays and trying to deal with the change of beginning a new year. As cookiecrumb says: Keep your hope up...we'll be here when you need a little lift, too!

At 5:18 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Chowda sounds great. It might even warm up my disposition of late.Thans for sharing.

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous kudzu said...

You were lucky! FISH was closed for much too long and just reopened. It doesn't hurt that the owner was once executive chef at Masa's. I appreciate his use of the best (almost always local) products. Glad you found the place.

A great story: the month that FISH opened, there was a powderful storm and power was off in Sausalito for days. Chad released the live crabs in his inventory into the water just beyond the restaurant.

At 12:35 PM, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

What a great anecdote, kudzu! Of course, you would know all the local stories.
Yes, I noticed how hard they try to use local foods, but the day I ate there, I got PEI oysters (Hog Island hadn't delivered).

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

That IS a great story, Kudzu. Can't believe it took me so long to find the place. I can imagine that it would also be a great place to take out of town guests, too, for that "by the bay" feeling.

I'm still dreaming about those calamari...

At 10:44 AM, Blogger Joy said...

I, too, detest January and adore Fish. Next time, try the Saigon Salmon sandwich or the fish and chips...mmmmm....

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Lori said...

Hi, I found your blog by a Blogger search on Novato and just have to laugh. I grew up there and as much as I didn't like it when I was growing up; particularly a teenager, I'd rather stick a hot poker in my eye than live there again. My folks still do. It's like you said - some small towns get it (like Petaluma - lived there for 8 years), but Novato seems even more dead than when I lived there.

It must be challenging, especially for a foodie.

It's also sad - my mom has told me how they're closing schools because the population is aging and younger people and those with families oftentimes can't afford it.

I do remember one good Italian restaurant on Redwood Blvd. about a block or so up on the right from Grant. I think it starts with a C. But can't remember the name.

At 12:47 PM, Anonymous Marge Arin said...

I had a Bumblebee Chunk White Tuna sandwich on Franz white bread the other day. I understand what you are talking about. I just love seafood!

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