December 2, 2008

Ray's Place at La Hacienda

You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead— your next stop, its Ray’s Place in the Twilight Zone! Do do do do, do do do do—

Imagine you are living in Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur. Twice you have driven an hour away and then down five miles of winding dusty bouncy dirt roads out into the middle of nowhere in a pasture to go eat at Ray’s Place which is closed. It doesn’t look very prepossessing 50 feet away from the chained entrance that your car can’t cross over, you think you are looking at someone’s home with a kind of shabby restaurant on top. You know the owner is Cuban and you think they serve Cuban food, which would be a novelty in this land of milk and honey. You keep hearing rumors about how great it is.

You are invited by your host, Mr. Rolex, to meet him for dinner at Ray’s Place. You arrive 5 minutes early because you are stupid gringos and are always early to everything. But you are just in time for the sunset which is setting the rocky and cactus studded mountains around you on fire with its last glowing rays. Ray is standing at the top of the wooden stairs on the second story welcoming you in with a big Hollywood smile, “Welcome my friends to Ray’s Place, come in, come in.” Suddenly you are a very different place, it is all lit up with white Christmas lights—you are transported to the tropics in a really beautifully constructed cabana with a lovely second story view. You go sit at the bar and find out Mr. Rolex brought a bottle of very expensive Tequila up some time earlier in the day for your evening’s cocktails. So you sit at the bar sipping on this lovely stuff. Then Mr. Rolex shows up and sits and drinks with you while Rays suggests some appetizers of crab baked in scallop shells with Mornay sauce or would you rather have Oysters Rockefeller, and your ears just about fall off your head that anyone in this God forsaken corner of the world ever heard of Mornay sauce, let alone cooking an appetizer in scallop shells. After several shots of Tequila and the aforesaid appetizer you move over to your table for the main course.

Mr. Rolex has also brought a lovely bottle of a fine Mexican cabernet sauvignon that sets your soul to singing. You have not had such a good wine in so long. You savor every sip. Rays sets a chalkboard with the menu in front of you—lobster, steak, scallops, chicken, fish. When your meal is set in front of you, in my case lobster and steak with a beautiful selection of fresh assorted vegetables scattered artistically on the plate, you can’t believe you are experiencing such a magical evening. Then when you have finished eating, to top it all off, there you are presented with Brandy Alexanders which you never would have ordered, but which you are now addicted to—brandy and Kahlua blended with ice and cream and dusted with cocoa. This is now one of the best meals you have ever had in your entire life and you are sure you will probably die from a splitting headache in the morning, but it is so absolutely worth it. Now you are drinking yet more shots Tequila and are pretty certain that this will be your last supper, but no doubt you will die in your bed happy. Did we really ever eat there, was it real, or was it an imaginary feast? We hope to find out soon by trying to go back again.

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