Thai Caf& %s;
Thai Caf& %s; saves brain-drained writer from missing his deadline.
Thursday, June 28, 2001
I try to concentrate on Thai sweet basil and chili, my favorite ingredients in Thai cooking and easily two of my favorite ingredients in life, but that Open rough, those narrow fairways... you know. Trying to focus on Mixed Seafood Soup, with its prawns, calamari, mussels, fish filets and spicy broth with lime juice, mushrooms and tomatoes, served in a firepot--normally simple to do, especially the way Thai Café makes it--is proving to be difficult as Goosen sinks clutch putt after clutch putt.
If only I could get some Vietnam hand rolls--shrimp, tofu, rice vermicelli and lettuce, held together by rice paper skins, and a couple of Thai Doughnuts--Golden fluffy dough with condensed milk and ground peanuts--to go along with my morning coffee, I might be able to stay on task. As it is, my simple dark German rye toast with cream cheese, sliced jalapeños and bits of smoked Gouda and Canadian Cheddar, drizzled with good olive oil, is not fulfilling its usual morning function. I need to suck it up and get back in the game. (So does Mark Brooks).
As the morning rolls on and the computer screen stays as bare as the third green at Southern Hills, pangs of lunch and guilt inspire a plan to kill two birds with one stone--or, more fittingly, score two birdies with one ball. I could dispatch Sweet Thing (dispatch being perhaps a dangerous term) to collect a beautiful Thai lunch from the good and loving folks at Thai Café. Ahh, I could eat my rice cake and have it too.
The last time we had been there for dinner, I learned an interesting thing from our waiter. I like to order my food at the same spice level that Thai people eat it. When he saw me sweating and convulsing from the heat of my entrée--beef with a Thai sweet basil, chili and garlic sauce--he clued me in to the correct way to handle spicy food. He patiently explained that they usually have a few different dishes going on at one time, with some of them mild. What you do is eat a little spicy, then to cool it down, eat a little mild. Spicy... Mild... Spicy... Mild. I felt as foolish as Stewart Cink blowing the three-footer on #18 Sunday--the putt that would have landed him in the playoff on Monday.
This time, remembering the lesson about the spicy/mild tango, we order up a nice combination of mixed green salad with peanut dressing, Vietnam hand rolls, fish and basil, plus green curry chicken. The salad, always light and cool, along with the hand rolls provided the perfect foils to the intensely flavored and spiced curry chicken and the fish. When ordering at Thai Café, they ask you whether you want mild, medium or spicy. If you want spicy, they ask you how many stars--one, two or three. We usually get two stars. The chilies are omnipresent.
While Brooks and Goosen battle mano a mano (more accurately, club a club,) to decide the 2001 U.S. Open Champion, Sweet Thing and I battle boca a boca to determine the Thai Café Invitational Eating Championship. Since we are technically in two different weight divisions, I blow her doors off.
As the Open winds down and the food steadily disappears, a funny thing starts to happen: the blank screen beckons me. Our living room has become a Thai palace sitting room, where privileged royal family members (who are also avid golfing fans) have to put aside fun and games to fulfill their responsibilities. Just as I would do in the palace, I command my Queen (who proceeds to whack me with a partially eaten Vietnam Hand Roll) to clean up the mess while I plunge into writing this story.
After washing the dishes and groveling for a few minutes, I return to the keyboard to tackle this assignment. Fortunately, we both like Thai Café, so I don''t have to worry about differences of opinion interfering with the process. It''s a good spot to drop in for a casual meal at dinner, or a quick buffet lunch during the week, plus the takeout possibilities are always a great option.
The restaurant, which is tucked away on that little estuary of Munras Avenue down by Casa Munras Hotel, is simple in its décor, yet comfortable and welcoming. The staff displays warmth, love and true hospitality.
Thai food in general has to be one of the most nutritious of the world''s cuisines. Here at Thai Café, fresh, lively ingredients are used in traditional, intensely flavored dishes that close the lid on your cravings.
Thai Café will satisfy a yearning for Pa-Nang--beef or chicken, cooked in spicy chili paste and thick coconut milk with shredded kafir leaves;or a craving for Cashew Chicken--diced chicken sautéed with dried chili pepper and cashew nuts; or a hankerin'' for Hong Kong Lad Nah--rice noodles with carrots, green cabbage and black mushrooms with your choice of beef, chicken or pork.
As usual, my brain, which was probably stimulated by those great chilies, somehow spews forth this deadline-beating bushel of blather. Meanwhile, Retief Goosen goes on to win the Open Championship, drubbing Mark Brooks. Too bad they couldn''t have ended in a Thai.
731A Munras, Monterey. 655-9787.
Open seven days, lunch and dinner.
Dinner for two, including tax and tip: About $25 if you''re on a budget; $45-55 if you really like to get into it.
Share after-dinner banter with Ray: firstname.lastname@example.org