I was so excited when I stepped out in the garden the other day and saw Jack Daniels laying in the sun on our fence. It had been almost 8 months since I last saw the free living nomad and I wrestled with my mind to not let the thoughts of his demise reach my consciousness. Jack Daniels is “The Neighborhood Cat” and he has graced our backyard for over 10 years basking in the sun on our fence, porch or snuggled up in one of our chairs for a nap. I learned of Jack Daniels beginnings at a party several years ago. The girls that lived in the apartment adopted him and since they were in the midst of their early 20’s party faze they named him after one of their regular party drinks, Jack Daniels. Being young and wild owners led to Jack adopting the same tendency’s and he was always stepping out for an adventure only to return a few days later. Neighbors would feed and shelter Jack as he prowled the streets of Leucadia hopefully eating up all the rats and mice in the area. Eventually the girls moved and they decided since Jack was so independent and seemed to like the neighborhood they just left him. Kind of harsh for sure, not something I would do but Jack seems to be handling life on his own. From his size he’s obviously well fed whether it’s by his own hands or teeth I should say or from the generosity of the neighborhood. Regardless he can spend time in my yard whenever he wants and meow to his hearts content!
As I headed out from my garage an eerie chill that ran though my entire body. As I rode my bike up the street I was alarmed by the dark and luminous sky above me. The “clouds” were an unnatural black color and the air felt thick, hot and choked. An orange glow backlit the horizon. I thought how strange it was that the effects of the wildfire burning in Malibu were being seen so far down south. As I arrived to a relatively empty parking lot at Beacons Beach I assumed the waves must be bad. I was still just getting my feet wet with the whole surfing thing back then. I regularly went out when the conditions sucked. Partly because I didn’t know any better and partly because I just wanted to learn so bad to surf. I figured the best way was to practice, practice, practice! There was only one other person out at my regular spot. As I paddled out two things struck me. The water was really dirty, there were black flecks all aver the ocean surface and they clung to the top of my surfboard. The second thing that struck me that day was…… the other person out there was….a GIRL……..and she was ….RIPPING! The waves that day were above my level at the time and the dark sky and ominous conditions had me feeling extremely uneasy being out there but watching this tiny blond haired girl ripping waves after waves I was enthralled. As I sat there watching her I realized that the reason the ocean was so dirty and the sky was so dark was that it was raining…that is raining ash. What was going on!?!?! It didn’t seem to bother this girl though and I asked her if it was bad that we were out there. “No I don’t think so” she replied as she preceded to drop in and rip another wave apart. I caught a couple waves and didn’t die so I figured it was ok to call it. I came home and my neighbor informed me that areas of Solana Beach about 2 miles away had been evacuated due to wildfires. This was back in 2007 and no our house did not burn down that day but a spark was born none the less. An inspirational surfing spark and the spark of a new friendship. 6 years later I am proud to say that “that girl” is Devon Demint and I am inspired by her surfing and her genuine caring personality regularly as she is now one of my very good friends. Today is her birthday and I know she is out there ripping up “Richards.”
Since I’m normally not here in the winter months I was surprised to see that our aloe trees flower! Multiple beautiful orange and red flowers that extended 2 - 3 feet had bloomed from each of our trees. Stunning!
I love going to the annual Taste of Leucadia. It’s such a great community event that everyone can attend. I mean who doesn’t like to eat!?!?! Better yet you get to sample a wide variety of dishes from some Leucadia’s best restaurants. I loved seeing the addition of Peace Pies to this year’s Taste. I have to confess I actually can’t eat a lot of the dishes served at a lot of the restaurants but I just love being out on my bike cruising the Coast Highway, running into friends, listening to live music, and checking out local art. My favorite taste stops had to be Fish 101, Coffee Coffee, Peace Pieces, Micro Juicery, and Pannikin. The cool thing about this year was that I was there in a official capacity as Supervisor Dave Roberts Encinitas Community Representative showing support for local businesses and Leucadia 101. I have some big shoes to fill, my predecessor, Evan Bollinger has been working for the Supervisor for almost 3 years and besides the experience and knowledge he has everyone just loves Evan! Hard not to, he’s a great guy and I’m lucky to have him show me the ropes. Along with his girlfriend Mariah we had a fabulous night in Leucadia!
While doing some weekend yard work I realized that some of our banana leaves were hanging into our neighbors back porch. We had to trim off a couple perfectly good leaves and as I saw perfectly nice leaves laying on the ground I had a thought. What about using the leaves to wrap up and grill fish!? I made a Cilantro Chutney from some coconut meat and we topped some white fish, wrapped it up with the leaves and and JP grilled it on the BBQ. Wow, I could not believe the flavor and how moist the fish turned out. Yum!
Grilled Fish with Cilantro Chutney in Banana Leaves
For chutney • 1 (1- by 1 ½-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled • 5 garlic cloves • 1 fresh hot green chile such as jalapeño, cherry bomb or serrano, trimmed • ½ cup chopped fresh coconut (see how to crack and peel fresh coconut ) • 3 cups fresh cilantro sprigs • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves • ¼ cup white-wine vinegar • 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste For fish • 1 (1-pound) package frozen banana leaves, thawed • 6 (6-ounce) pieces white fish fillet (1 inch thick) such as wahoo, cod, or halibut • Special equipment: kitchen string
Finely chop ginger, garlic, chile, and coconut in a food processor. Add cilantro and mint and process until chopped. Add vinegar, sugar, and salt and blend chutney well.
Cut banana leaves into 6 sheets (12 by 10 inches each). Arrange in a stack with a short side nearest you. Season fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Spread 1 slightly rounded tablespoon cilantro chutney on top of a fillet, then invert onto center of a banana leaf, arranging fillet crosswise. Spread another slightly rounded tablespoon of chutney on top of fish. Fold bottom edge of leaf over fish and fold in sides over fish, then fold package away from you, enclosing fish. Tie package (in both directions) with a 24-inch piece of kitchen string. Repeat with remaining fillets, chutney, and banana leaves. Grill fish, turning over once, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes (untie 1 package to check doneness). Cut string before serving and transfer packages to 6 plates. The banana leaves are inedible, but we think they make a nice presentation.