Friday, April 3, 2009


Provisions. It's such a good word yet we seldom use it. It's a word more often associated with spending a month camping in a remote wilderness than jumping in the car and scooting down to the grocery store. But I like that word. It has a homey feel to it. You've got to make stuff with provisions. They don't come all tied up in a bow on a silver platter. 

Frankly, it's not even a word that I can remember ever using in normal conversation. But last weekend, Russ and I were driving back from the East Bay and we stopped in Shell Beach. Although often when on a road trip we get a free pass to dine on junk food all day (i.e. Egg McMuffin for breakfast, In-and-Out burger for lunch. . . you get the grease-laden picture), we both were really in the mood for something fresh and tasty to help right us of our wrong eating over the weekend (like the three enormous pieces of fully loaded Everest pizza from Mountain Mike's and the half pitcher of beer for dinner the previous night--and that was just what I consumed!). Much to our delight, we spied the Spyglass Deli. But much to my delight was their sign, which read "Provisions. Spirits. Fine Wines." 

Dazzled by the rows of high-end wines, olive oils, cheeses and chocolates, we wandered through the shop ooh-ing and ahh-ing. Should I ever find myself miles away from civilization, those are precisely the kind of provisions I want with me. We walked into the back room and, like an oasis, a glorious deli offered so many delicious looking options we were both rendered speechless as we ogled the case. Excuse me but I just realized that I do need to pause and paint a bit more context to this picture. The Spyglass Deli is the metaphorical diamond in the rough amongst gas stations and greasy fried seafood shacks. It's a kin to the time I was in Salt Lake City on a business trip and was desperate for an adult beverage. I could hardly contain the squeals of my good fortune when I saw a bottle of 2002 Caymus Special Select Cabernet on the menu for a measly $60 (which retails for more than $125!). I guess there weren't a lot of wine drinkers who frequented that restaurant — much to my advantage and appreciation. The Spyglass Deli is like finding a $60 bottle of Caymus.

After much mouth-watering deliberation, we decided on the veggie sandwich. I know that may seem like a letdown to some people, but trust me, it was a thing of beauty. Soft, fresh squaw bread. Thick slices of brie. Cream cheese spiked with bright basil and oregano. Juicy red tomatoes. Crisp cucumbers. Crunchy sprouts. A drizzle of sweet balsamic vinegar. Yum. It definitely rated very high on my fine provision index. 
As you might have guessed, I've heartily adopted "provision" into my lexicon, and a little smile forms on my lips whenever I say the word. I've started to reassure Russ that I've got "some fine provisions for dinner." Like tonight. I'm making steamed clams with spicy sausage and fragrant fennel. With a hunk of crusty bread at the ready, I can hardly wait to sop up all the glorious broth.

Steamed Clams with Fennel and Spicy Italian Sausage

2 Tbsp stick butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped fennel
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 lb spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 lbs Manilla or littleneck clams, scrubbed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, chopped fennel and fennel seeds; saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and cook until browed, breaking up lumps with back of spoon and stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in oregano, tomatoes with juice, and wine; increase heat and bring to a boil. Add clams, cover skillet and cook until clams open, about 5 minutes. Discard any clams that don't open. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve. Yields 4 servings.  


  1. I think I may have been on that business trip with you in Salt Lake when you came across that wine steal. And I vaguely recall a night of karaoke after that......

  2. Right you are, my friend! I think i made everyone get their own bottle. It was the perfect warm up for "Leaving on a Jet Plane."