KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Even though you can book Aeroplan flight reward tickets up to a year in advance, we had a tough time finding business class tickets to Croatia, flying out of Vancouver or Seattle. At last, I had the idea to try Los Angeles. Bingo! Not only did we find a routing that was ‘all business’; but the leg from Los Angeles to Zurich was on Swiss Air, a terrific airline. It did include a five-hour stopover in Zurich before two quick flights on to Zagreb (the capital of Croatia) and Dubrovnik, but we didn’t mind because the lounge in Zurich is world-class.
The fantastic upside of this itinerary was that we could squeeze in a visit to our nephew Puneet, his wife Komal and their daughter Anya. We had made a point to visit them they lived across the Hudson River from Manhattan. We were usually on our way to travel in Europe and it was great to break up the journey and spend some time getting to know them better. We especially enjoyed visiting after they had their daughter Anya.
A few years later they moved to the Los Angeles area and we’ve tried to keep up the visits; they are always so welcoming. I was delighted with the opportunity to see them again, and to make it every more special, the dates happened to include Puneet’s birthday. He seemed pretty pleased when we sprung the news on him!
However, when we arrived we were the ones to be surprised. It turned out that another nephew, Ashutosh, was going to be in town to visit his wife Amrita; she is currently working on her PhD at University of California, Irvine. We hadn’t seen Ashu since our first year of retirement travels when he was studying for his own Masters degree in India in 2007. He earned a PhD after coming the US, and is now working as an engineer in biotechnology in Minneapolis. Ashu and Amrita have been married for several years already but this was our first opportunity to meet her. She’s delightful! They’re a terrific couple.
We tossed around several options for celebrating Puneet and Ashu’s September birthdays, but settled on ordering in some home-cooked Indian food from a local woman who often cooks for Puneet, Komal and Anya. I was thrilled because she whipped up one of my favourite Gujarati snacks, dokla. I’ve tried making it myself, with limited success, but this ‘Aunty’s’ was perfection.
We had a great evening sitting outside in the garden, eating terrific food, catching up on each other’s busy lives, drinking wine and not having to drive home from a restaurant. Komal went out of her way to find cupcakes without gluten, egg or soy to accommodate the various dietary restrictions our group presented. It was a relaxing family gathering, just our cup of tea.
We heard all about the outdoor party held in August when our daughter Adia and her husband were down to celebrate Anya’s birthday. It was a very different group, and things got so out of hand that the neighbours called the police to put a lid on the festivities. It seems Manhattan Beach is a pretty staid community and couldn’t handle a younger, livelier crowd.
Puneet presented some ideas for things to entertain us Saturday afternoon, but none of us were too keen to spend a lot of time driving to distant venues, and then it was suggested that we just go to the beach, in Manhattan Beach. I pointed out that Anil and I had never been there in the past, that we’d just driven by, and the destination seemed to appeal to everyone. We started off at the lovely pier, visiting the aquarium at the far end, and then posing for photos on the way back to shore. We deputized another family man to take photos of our entire group, and he pulled off some great pics.
The weather was not cooperating, it fact the sky was so dark and it was threatening to rain, so we headed off to the Los Angeles Ale Works brewery. It’s a great place, where children are allowed to join in with family members, and there’s an array of board games to play while sampling the brewery’s various offerings.
We ordered a flight with six different beers. Two were along the lines of stout, one very chocolaty. That appealed to Ashutosh. Amrita preferred a rather fragrant wheat beer, and each made their selection. I decided to give the beer a try, hoping that it wouldn’t trouble me – I have issues with preservatives, but was assured that none were added to the brewery’s product line.
I like a slightly dark beer and loved the taste of ‘Dead Cowboy’. It seemed appropriate for a former Albertan, and I had a great laugh when we brought over a four-pack of the cans and I saw the Dead Cowboy logo for the first time. It was a hilarious fusion of a Mexican Day of the Dead skeleton head adorned with a cowboy hat and a handlebar moustache!
Not long after we cleaned out the flight samples, the skies began to spray us with a fine mist and we huddled under the patio umbrellas to stay dry. Before we were done, Anil and I had more or less convinced the others that ‘Dead Cowboy’ was the best of the best. Unfortunately, we turned out attention to where we were going to have lunch, and forgot to buy a few Dead Cowboys to take with us.
Another pleasant experience was in store for us. We headed east across Hwy 10 to the Eatilian Café Restaurant on S. Broadway for Italian food. The restaurant is housed in a former cheese factory and it’s hard to grasp that there’s a popular eatery inside because the building is so non-descript and there’s very little signage. There’s an extensive menu of Italian delights, but everyone ordered pasta except for Ashu, who opted for a thin-crust pizza.
We ended up sampling each other’s dishes and purchasing some Italian cookies that looked pretty tempting at the bakery counter alongside the back wall. The ones I chose were a little like a flattened thimble cookie with apricot filling and I threw in a few ones with chocolate for those who have a sweeter tooth.
Ashu and Amrita said goodbye to us, taking the leftover pizza and the chocolate cookies for good measure. They were heading south to Irvine where they would spend a few days together before Ashu had to fly back to Minneapolis for work. We encouraged them to visit us in Canada whenever possible, and to think about coming to help us celebrate my 70th birthday and our son-in-law’s 50th birthday in the Okanagan region of BC next August. They would get to see Canada for the first time and meet a large number of my extended family.
We spent a quiet evening at home, and managed to impress both Puneet and Komal when they tried the bottle of 1908 Empress Gin we’d brought as a birthday present for Puneet. The gin is brewed in Victoria and is an unusual shade of purple/blue that changes to pink when tonic is added. It was a hit; both the taste and the colour-changing spectacle.
Late the next morning, after we packed our bags, we headed out for an Ethiopian feast. We’d managed to get through the four-day weekend without getting caught up in the kitchen. We have developed a tradition of having an Ethiopian meal with Puneet and Komal wherever we meet up. They always managed to scope out the best places before we arrive.
This time we were surprised to see a real ‘Little Ethiopia’ district near the intersection of San Vincente Blvd. and S. Fairfax Ave. There were so many restaurants there, I’m glad that they had found the best one. I first had Ethiopian food when I arrived in the country, travelling overland from the Sudan in December 1972. I was able to return in 2012 with Anil in tow. Both times, I arrived in Addis Ababa on Christmas Eve, though forty years had passed between my two visits. I’ve loved the food even since I first tasted injera.