Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Figs, Fish & Cafe Besalu

My figs ripened. And they were gorgeous. I thought I would fry them with honey and pour some cream on them, or have them with chevre and bacon, but sometimes, there's no improving on a piece of perfectly ripe fruit.

But I also have to confess... three of the figs I did not eat the first day, such were my plans for them. And I didn't get to them yesterday. And now... well, now. Um. They're looking a little nasty, but I felt obliged, as I typed, to taste one and check and WOW. They are not nasty. They may look nasty, but that will handily serve to keep other people from eating my ridiculously nectar-y perfect figs. Holy crap. I just had a hockey game, and I was having a frequent salt-lick of a post-hockey snack, chorizo and olives, and the fig was a perfect, sensual contrast of sweet, softness. Wow. Sometimes being feckless yields completely undeserved benefits. If I'd been an organized woman, those figs would have been cooked up with cream and honey a couple nights ago, and they probably would have been pretty excellent. But this... was sublime.

And, speaking of things that feckless people like myself shouldn't just happen upon, because I can see that to someone who's a good planner, it would just seem kind of unfair, I took my babes and one of my visiting nephews to Ballard after swim lessons, for two reasons. 1) Cafe Besalu and their pain au chocolat, and 2) the locks and fish ladder. My nephew took a bite of his pain au chocolat, and his eyes widened, and then he just about inhaled the thing. My boy, also, did mighty fine rapid work (I authorized more, although right now, my bakery bill is out of hand). It was really hard for me not to order a pain au chocolat for myself. Because Cafe Besalu may well make my favorite pain au chocolat in town. And it's in Ballard, for crying out loud, so it's not like we work our way over there all the time. But, I had the nectarine danish, which was painfully good. And of course, it would have been rude not to bring home some snacks (checkerboard shortbread, onion pastry, croissant, blueberry coffeecake). I would have taken a not blurry picture of the shortbread... but it had all been devoured by the time I realized I needed a retake. Three minutes later. If I lived in walking distance of that bakery, I would either be twenty pounds heavier or in absurdly good shape from diligently working it off my butt.
I picked Cafe Besalu partly because it's sensational, but also because it's near the locks and fish ladder, which are sure-fire hits with the kids. And I find the locks and the fish ladder fascinating, too. They're so cool. We go a couple of times each summer, partly to squire around out-of-towners, but also because, as I said, they're cool. Last summer, one of my favorite days of the entire summer was when my boy and I had a morning, just the two of us. We got pain au chocolat from Cafe Besalu and took it down to the locks. It was sunny, but cool and breezy, so we sat in a sheltered bit of sun and watched the boats in the locks, eating our pain au chocolat and chatting. Probably about the Battle of Midway. I can still feel the spot, sitting on the sun-warmed concrete, watching the fish skitter and jump across the surface of the water, the boats tying up and casting off, and my sweet, skinny boy close against me, snugly keeping company and chattering away.

At any rate, the fish were busy today. It's late July, so we're in the prime window for fish running through, but in the years that I've visited the locks, I have never, ever seen a swarm of fish at the base of the fish ladder like we saw today. It was incredible. Click on the left picture, that looks like water surface, just to get the faintest idea of the way that the water was teeming with fish. It was awesome, in the sense of awe-inducing, incredible.
And it made me think that we should have salmon for dinner soon.

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