As reliable as the tides and more delicious than Instagram is the Mission Street landmark Sabieng, home of Thai cuisine at its most nurturing. Â We like to head there in between turkey-intensive holidays, seeking culinary comfort and great handfuls of spice. And once again, we found what we needed. I always have my mouth set for curry, and Jack enjoyed discovering a new appetizer.
Iâ€™m always game for classic chicken satayâ€”love those skewers of grilled chicken with peanut sauce. But Jack saw the Mieng Kome ($6.95) â€œThai snackâ€ and was intrigued when we were presented with a quintet of oak leaf lettuce leaves, each topped with little mounds of crunchy ingredients. The deal is to wrap up the dice of ginger, shallots, peanuts, tart lime cubes, and toasted coconut shreds into bundles. Then dip into a tangy/sweet palm sauce. Fabulous! Jack agreed that Thai food is a natural with beer (he chose a non-alcoholic Kaliber that evening), but I contend that it is equally delicious partnered with a citrusy glass of Sauvignon Blanc, like the one from Clos du Bois ($5.95) I chose from Sabiengâ€™s wine list.
And, of course, I did get my green curry ($9.95) deeply tinged with a sweet bite of basil and extra firepower since I requested it â€œmedium.â€ I also requested the addition of tofu to the spicy coconut milk-based sauce, which was laced with flower-shaped carrots, green beans and zucchini, plus a lavish expanse of delicious Japanese eggplant. Every ingredient soaked up the basil-perfumed curry sauce, as did Sabiengâ€™s spectacular brown rice. No, seriously. Sabiengâ€™s brown rice is simultaneously crunchy and chewy, loaded with layers of flavor depths and capable of transporting sauce nuances without getting in the way. Jack nodded in agreement with his mouth full of garlicky Pad King ($9.95), a delicious creation long on shredded fresh ginger, onions, more of those beautifully cut carrots, and in this case a generous addition of tender ribbons of pork. Several shimmering black mushrooms added intrigue to this beautifully balanced dish, another natural partner for Sabiengâ€™s addictive brown rice. Service was, as always, friendly and swift. The vibes are great, although I would love it if Sabieng considered wall sconces or perhaps votive candles at the tables during dinner hours.
Sabieng, 1218 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 425-1020. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., and dinner 5-9:30 p.m., and until 10 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
New Yearâ€™s Pastry
One bite was all it took to succumb to a seasonal gluten-free pastry (from Manresa Bread) now on the shelves at Verve. Consider a round cake of polenta and almond flour topped with slices of glazed quinceâ€”rather like a tarte tatin, but without the wheat pastry. Arguably the best $5 I spent last week, it is worth a drive-by for inquiring foodies who donâ€™t want gluten and refuse to consume ordinary pastry. On a chilly day, join the polenta cake with a glass pot of chamomile tea and contemplate a happy new year.
Stock up for 2017 with a few required pantry items. You can keep the wolf from the door (or any other appropriate metaphor) if youâ€™ve got the following in your larder: cans of tuna and sardines; spaghetti or other favorite pasta; jars of organic marinara, ready to bump up with a bit of garlic and oregano; black beans; cannellini beans; pinto beans; chicken stock; hot mango chutney; pink Himalayan salt; Assam black tea; BASE peanut butter chocolate protein bars; organic ketchup; dijon mustard; Muir Glen organic whole tomatoes; almond milk; granola; Pamelaâ€™s gluten-free cornbread mix; capers; Worcestershire sauce; tamarind sauce. Half case of wine, gin, Jameson, Fernet Branca, and a decent single malt. There you have it!