Too much food! Like persimmon and fennel salad, brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, roasted potatoes, ham, gravy…so much more. And two lovely homemade pies.
Another awesome thing about thanksgiving – the traditional swim and hot tub time afterwards.
This was my second visit to Karim’s since word went out he’ll be retiring his restaurant at the end of March.
This time, it was two of us, which is what I prefer over a large group. Karim’s is a great place for a party and group environment, but when I want to concentrate on the Moroccan food, an early evening with just one friend is the way to go.
Many others are coming to Karim’s in the last days of the restaurant, hoping for a final feast; this is the only Moroccan food to be had in Santa Barbara. Other diners included Sonny and his family, who run Spice Avenue just around the corner on State Street. His family also owns Naan Stop, where I’d eaten lunch just earlier in the day. Sonny always remembers me, from over six years ago, when I first ate at Spice Avenue. After paying my bill, he came out to ask who in my group was from England. It was just me, an American, and Brett an Australian, sitting there. Sonny clarified: the bill was paid using an English bank card, whose was it? Well, that was me, from when I lived and worked in London. Sonny smiled and said he was from east London and was happy to meet someone from the area. In future visits, he would always say hi.
It starts with hand washing from the host, before diving into menus and appetizers.
Fifth course: Couscous with vegetables. Most don’t realize the couscous can be a completely stand-alone dish. It’s served just moments after the main dish comes to the table, and most think it’s just a side accompaniment, but in Morocco, this is a very traditional meal on its own. Generally served Fridays, the day of worship in Islam, and people have extra time during the mid-day break for prayers and a meal with the family. Couscous, when properly done, is a lengthy preparation with repeated steamings of the couscous, laying it out, mixing it, adding broth, adding the vegetables to the couscouserie throughout the process to ensure they finish cooking at the same time. I was lucky enough to spend a Friday afternoon in Morocco with a woman while she made the couscous. Wow, the time and care that went into it. It even has its own clay serving platter. So when the couscous comes out, don’t relagate it to the side as something worth dabbling into if there’s not enough other food to sate the appetite, it’s something to savor as well. And this time, it’s okay to use a spoon. Couscous is small!
Sixth course: assorted desserts and tea. The syrup cookies are good, but I am so full at this time I rarely eat more than half of one. Instead, I concentrate on the fruit basket piled high with apples, banana, strawberries, oranges and whole nuts. More often than not, this was how I wrapped up meals in Morocco. A little fruit and fiber feels better, too, than more cooked food after such an overwhelming feast. Karim’s normally serves the tea at this time, but really, you can have it any time. Tonight, I started having tea with the first course, and got a top up at the end as well. The tea is a combination of black gunpowder tea, fresh mint leaves and lots of sugar. LOTS of sugar. The tea here seems to be about half the amount of sugar of the tea drank in Morocco (which is also served with sugar on the side, that many use to make it even sweeter). No matter your tolerance level for sugar, the tea comes from a silver teapot and pour high above the cup, to areate the tea as it pours out.
Depending on timing, you may be pulled up to join the bellydancer. Early diners sometimes get away without dancing. Like us!
The frank and flashy Rooster struts through life with abundant self-confidence. They are headstrong, with a self-belief that can make even the most idealistic plans succeed. Roosters can be blunt and seem boastful, but their extravagance makes them excellent company. Roosters make ideal restaurant owners, publicists, soldiers and travellers.
The table was first laid with an assortment of little bowls full of things. Almonds, chilled marinated slivers of turnip and black sesame, ginger slices, sweet dried mango slices. Tea in the front room with AW and her mother. AW is one of the chefs at Mimosa restaurant.
First course: poor man’s roast duck, i.e. chicken. A paste of ginger and soy was rubbed under the skin and roasted in the oven. It came out very sweet and tender, even the breast. Eaten with hoisen, slivered spring onions and rolled up in cos lettuce.
Second course: Stir-fried tofu with garden mustard greens.
Third course: Stir-fried snowpeas and guylian, both from the garden.
Fourth course: Whole blue fish from Morro Bay (I caught these), fried then broiled to crisp the skin with ginger and soy, stuffed with spring onions. The fish had very firm flesh, much to my delight. My favorite part of the meal.
Fifth course: sweet and tangy slow-cooked pork and eggs, in heaps of succulent juice, served over rice.
To finish: slices of orange and kumquats.
The red packets are under my pillow, waiting until morning. Happy new year!