Zing goes the palate

New Spice Creek Café offers big flavors from around the world

REBECCA’S PLACE <br>Chef Rebecca Stewart and her husband Brian have added the exotic flavors of East Indian cuisine to Chico’s menu.

Chef Rebecca Stewart and her husband Brian have added the exotic flavors of East Indian cuisine to Chico’s menu.

Photo By Tom Angel

Put some spice in your life: Spice Creek Café is located at 230 W. 3rd St. in downtown Chico. Hours: 11:30-2 and 5:30-9 daily. Phone: 891-9951.by

Just when we were thinking nothing could replace Cory’s, a culinary diva shows up on the Chico scene: Rebecca Stewart, who, along with husband Brian recently opened Spice Creek Cafà on 3rd Street in the space formerly occupied by Cory’s.

This dynamic, creative chef brings an appreciable savoir-faire and spirit of adventure to Chico. Her many impressive credentials include that she worked with Jacques Pepin, French cooking icon, for 10 years, and she has owned and run several of her own restaurants, including the acclaimed Rebecca’s in the Vancouver area of Canada.

Rebecca and Brian had lived in Chico previously, as Brian is a Chico State alum. They decided to come back because they love the ambiance of Chico life, and they wanted to have time to visit with old friends.

Accordingly, they have redecorated the 3rd Street location to reflect their love of East Indian spices and dishes. Saffron walls and drapes create a warm interior, while a wide variety of works by local artists “spice up” the walls. My friend Franki and I “did lunch” there on a Tuesday afternoon, and we were struck by the menu choices, which include items you can’t get anywhere else in Chico: samosas, nan, carmelized Asian pear, sundried tomato pesto pasta, vindaloo curry bowl, Thai basil curry bowl, Vietnamese spring rolls and much, much more.

We settled for a couple of the noodle bowls, which were good but maybe a bit heavy on the noodles for carb-counters like us. When we go back, I might ask Rebecca if I can have the tasty, spicy stir-fry without the noodles—and I’m sure she’ll accommodate me, because when I talked with her she expressed that she loves to interact with customers, and she is open to their suggestions and requests.

Brian said the couple’s love of “exploration” will result in ongoing menu changes, so there will always be new surprises, it seems, at Spice Creek Cafà (and variety is the spice of life, after all).

With her warm and friendly manner, not to mention her notable culinary expertise, Rebecca is sure to win the hearts of discerning Chico diners. Spice Creek Cafà is rapidly becoming the “in” place to go for a meal, as evidenced by the crowd of prom-goers who recently dined there, along with the many celebrants who brunched there on Mother’s Day.

When Franki and I requested to see the dinner menu, we were even more impressed. It offers such mouth-watering dishes as Southwest cioppino, fish masala, Madagascar pasta, scallop pasta, spanakopita and smoked-salmon taquitos. Rebecca explained she especially loves to prepare seafood, including shellfish such as cockles.

One very admirable aspect of the Stewarts’ approach is that they are committed to supporting local growers of organic produce, including Comanche Farms in Durham. Rebecca said she gets ideas for dishes according to what produce is in season; for example, the other day she whipped up a pot of sugar snap pea soup. She said their commitment to organic produce and fresh spices results in “really fresh, deep flavors.”

After Franki and I had eaten our noodle bowls, we asked about the desserts: lemon meringue pie, fresh coconut cake and chocolate espresso torte with raspberry sauce. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough room left to try any of these treats.

Our waitress forgot to bring the drink I ordered when the meal arrived, but I really didn’t mind, as she was very pleasant and helpful with the menu choices.

I predict people will head to Spice Creek Cafà in droves—just to put a little spice into their lives. The cafà will soon offer its specialty spices and sauces for purchase, along with take-out foods.