Friday, September 23, 2011

The Cyclisk and the Antojito

“Oh, we have to see this?”

“See what?”

“The Cyclisk in Santa Rosa.”

“OK, what’s a Cyclisk?”

“It says here that it’s ‘...a sixty-foot-high Egyptian-style obelisk demonstrating a series of intersecting rhythms—a visual metaphor for the human experience—technology and the humanities—history and the future—individual and collective. Evoking a world of possibilities, it will be a work communicating to all walks of life—all ages, relevant for years to come....”

“Like I said—what’s a Cyclisk?”

“We have to see it.”

The conversation that preceded our drive to Santa Rosa (CA) went something like that. What wasn’t included was the simple description of the Cyclisk—“a 60-foot obelisk made from …recycled bicycle gears, rims, frames and hoops.”

The City’s Art and Culture Element in the General Plan 2020 calls for creating inspiring places for the residents and visitors of Santa Rosa. Artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector were commissioned to create a dynamic new artwork which will act as a gateway to the Santa Rosa Arts District from the south.

Spector noted, "Collecting unusable parts from the debris piles of nonprofit community bike projects has proven to be a win-win; community bike DIY places are thrilled unusable parts are not becoming land fill and the City is psyched the sculpture will solidify Santa Rosa as bike-friendly."

Well, that took all of five minutes. What to do now? Have lunch, of course.

Santa Rosa is home base for Guy Fieri (star of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that restaurants in wine country are prominently featured on that program. And Santa Rosa is also home to one of his and his family’s favorite restaurants--Antojitos La Texanita. (“An antojito is a Mexican street snack designed to satisfy a craving…It is widely accepted that an antojito does not count as a full meal, but just as an appetizer…” []).

So we find ourselves in an older part of Santa Rosa and suddenly a splash of color blazes like a flare in the middle of an unexceptional street. Not only is the building “sponge painted” in brilliant gold but this vibrant color is combined with purples, yellows, and reds and stencils of green vines. Even the orange cone seemed to coordinate with the building’s colors. And we’re not just talking about the front of the restaurant. This coloring extended around the building and the vine stencils were repeated at the entrance.

Inside, the sponge painting was repeated on the walls which were hung with primitive style art work.

The back wall holds a flat screen playing Diners, Drive-ins and Dives above the obligatory Guy Fieri poster

and a “Guy Ate Here” stencil.

My first comment to Chuck was “It looked a lot bigger on TV.” Later, when I went to find the “facility,” I wondered how they got a sound crew, camera crew, Guy, and the owner in the tiny kitchen.

For the most part, this was a fairly standard California Mexican restaurant menu with burritos, tacos, tostadas, and quesadillas. With many of these, you had your choice of meats--carne asada, pollo asado, al pastor, cabeza (beef cheek), chorizo, carnitas, lengua (beef tongue), or tripa (tripe). But the menu did include one item that I have only seen listed once before--molcajete. A molcajete “is a stone tool, the traditional Mexican version of the mortar and pestle…carved out of a single block of vesicular basalt…typically round in shape and supported by three short legs. They are frequently decorated with the carved head of an animal on the outside edge of the bowl, giving the molcajete the appearance of a short, stout, three-legged animal” ( Here, molcajete refers to a dish made with beef, chicken or shrimp with nopales (cactus), salsa, green onions, panela cheese and served with rice, beans and salad.

Not feeling that adventurous (I have to work up to the idea of eating cactus) and still boycotting rice and beans, I decided to order all a la carte. La Texanita offers too types of taco shells – the standard commercially-made shell and their home made soft corn tortillas. I went with the homemade and ordered one chorizo taco and one al pastor (right). Both came garnished with chopped lettuce and cilantro and topped with a flavorful but mild red sauce. The chorizo was spicy but not harsh. The al pastor came closer to the standard than did that served at Beto’s in Reno with discernable pieces of pineapple. But rather than tasting pineapple, what you sensed was the sweet and tart essence of the fruit.

To the two tacos, I added a seafood tostado. Normally, this tostada contains ceviche, shrimp, octopus, cilantro, tomato, and avocado but they were out of octopus that day. Still, the crisp flat tortilla was piled with minced fish ceviche, large sweet shrimp, and the veggies with all of the flavors enhanced with a spritz of fresh lime juice.

Chuck started with a carne asada soft (home- made) taco and this was the low point of the meal. The grilled beef lacked both seasoning and grill flavor.

He followed this with the Tacos Dorados--three hard shell tacos one each of potato and cheese, shredded beef, and chicken served with rice and beans. This falls under the heading of “Hard to Believe,” but his least favorite was the potato and cheese taco, since it had less flavor than the other two.

Well, this 4.0 Addie spot wasn’t the greatest Mexican food we have eaten over the past three plus years, but it helped justify the drive to photograph the bicycle obelisk.

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