Exploring California Part 3: Roaring Camp + Madras Cafe

The smells of South Indian food make me smile. It’s not naan, it’s not palak paneer, it’s something different. It’s rice, it’s lentils, it’s sambar and rasaam, and memories. It’s memories of my mom making Uttapam at home with coconut chutney. It’s cilantro everywhere. I’ve been disappointed by South Indian food restaurants generally — thick dosas (rice/lentils crepes that should really be paper thin), paste-y Uttapam (it should be light, and delicious), watery sambar (it should be spiced, and thin but robust in flavor) but  Madras Cafe, in Sunnyvale was totally different. My parents came for my birthday and recommended it, and just walking in I knew it was different. It was more of a big hall than a restaurant. You stand in line, quickly order, and wait for them to point you to a table. You get your own pitcher of water, and wait. The food was amazing, and it tasted right. Get a masala dosa, it’s a rice/lentil thin crepe filled with a spiced potato mixture. Get the mini-idlis, small steamed rice/lentil patties with sambar, a spiced lentil-tomato soup. Get the mango lassi, it’s not just sugar-yogurt with some mango flavor. Get the cholee bhature, it’s exquisitely spiced chickpeas in a tomato-based sauce with fried bread. Just go there, you won’t be disappointed.

In addition to exploring the food of (northern) California, we’ve been exploring the area. While my parents were here, I wanted totake them to see something lovely, and different, and Tyler suggested Roaring Camp, a placed in Felton, CA in Santa Cruz County where you could ride a steam train through the Redwood Forest.

It was originally settled in the mid-1800s and was originally used for lumbar, but quickly became a protected area for redwoods to grow and thrive. The railroads through there were then transformed into a attraction that carried people to the beach or through the redwoods. We picked the redwoods adventure and were not disappointed. We were surrounded by gargantuan trees that looked almost magical. There were families of trees as far as you could see while you went around in this steam engine. It was surreal, and reminded me again that I moved to California for the outside world, for the beauty in trees and green, for the quiet magic in old bark. It’s great for all ages, I definitely recommend it. Oh, and you can bring your dogs.

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