Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lunch on the silk Road

]A rainy day in downtown Santa Cruz brought my partner in crime GIRL ON THE VINE and myself at the doorstep of the self titled Silk Road Eatery(Afgahni) on Cooper Street across from the Big Red Ball. A nice large space with great arched windows facing the tree lined street. An open kitchen to the rear and the cooks working at a quick skip and doing it with clean organization. I was so happy to see one of the cooks, another of the many who have worked under me over the years so I had to stop by the kitchen ledge to say Hello and get the latest kitchen gossip. I knew we were in for a thoughtful well seasoned meal.

Now first, acoustics in the space was a little echoey and big. The very high ceilings , stone floors and bare walls (except for an awesome large painting on a side wall). Noise was bouncing everywhere and was anything but a calm lunch hour vibe. Easy fix not that big of a deal but worth mentioning. The enviroment is almost as important as the food itself. We sat at a nice comfy booth on a far wall and tables and chairs were throughout the space and a banquet by the open kitchen. A very nice server came to say hello as soon after we sat down. She was quite helpful and definatly knew the menu and had great suggestions as well descriptions of the items on the limited lunch menu. Girl on the Vine will go over wine list and servers good job on the wine list selections. She has waited tables before.

I am not going to bore you with every finite detail of the menu, but talk about our order. An over view of the menu was a touch limited and a bit out of season. pomegranate , pumpkin and WILD arugula(so the chef went foraging for a wild arugula patch that thrives in late spring and summer in SC?) Still nice Persian flavours and selections from Kabob to flatbreads or a hummus starter. A warm fold of house made flat bread came to the table with a square monkey dish with chopped cucumber,tomato, parsley and shredded aged (sheeps milk?) cheese and nice olive oil and vinegar. Great beginning while pondering the menu and talking a mile a minute with my friend. Nom Nom Nom . Oh before we tuck in lets go over what the heck the Silk road is and how it is represented through the cuisine of LAILI..

Silk Road, ancient overland trade route linking Asia and Europe, consisting of a network of caravan routes running from China across central Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean. Its starting point was the ancient Chinese capital of Chang'an (modern Xi'an), in N central China; the endpoints were a number of cities on the E Mediterranean. Some of its branches ran into S Asia; others ended at Caspian and Black Sea ports. Among the modern countries traversed by the various routes are China, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It flourished from the 2d cent. B.C. to the 15th cent. A.D., when sea routes between Europe and Asia were established, though caravan trade continued along the Silk Road into the 17th cent. and later. At different times the Silk Road was under the control of the Chinese, Turks, and Mongols, and the collapse of the Mongol Empire was also a factor in the route's lessening usage.

Traders usually traversed only a section of route, transferring their goods to other caravans at various points along the way, and silk was only one of the commodities traded. Goods from China included gold, silver, iron, weapons, porcelain, lacquerware, tea, paper, gunpowder, and medicines; from India, slaves, animals, furs, fabrics, woods, jade and other precious stones; and from Persia, incense, foodstuffs, dyes, and silver goods. Other commodities that originated in Asia and were traded included spices, ivory, flowers, horses, jewelry, minerals, and men and women with special skills. From the West, traders brought wool and linen, vessels of bronze and glass, amber, coral, glass beads, coins and bullion, wine, and ambergris.

The Silk Road also led to the exchange of knowledge, culture, religion, and technology between the East and West. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Zoroastrianism were among the faiths that spread along the route. Algebra, astronomy, Arabic numerals, medical techniques, architectural styles, and a host of primarily Chinese techniques and inventions, e.g., printing and papermaking, spread from East to West, while various construction techniques, seafaring methods, medicinal plants and poisons, cotton cultivation, and horse-related items such as saddles .well alrighty then lets begin.

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