Manka's was a rugged lodge in Inverness, CA, and my dad cooked there. After school, like all restaurant kids, I would do homework during the food prep. Every afternoon, Manka, who had to be in her eighties at that point, would come in and make the pastries for the evening. I can see her in a sunny corner of the kitchen, piping meringue onto baking trays in her apron. Oh my god, those meringues - cracking on the outside and chewy in the middle.
I got to eat a lot of yummy food in that kitchen - blintzes and schnitzel and buttered potatoes - from orders gone wrong or sent back. But once in awhile, for special occasions, my dad would buy me my favorite thing - a dessert consisting of two meringues with a mocha buttercream center, rolled in toasted almonds. I can still taste it now.
My dad and I moved away, and eventually the Procupek family sold the place. It became an exclusive gourmet retreat, and burned in a fire in 2006. But I remember that dessert. Then I stumbled on a used copy of the cookbook - -which is a charming and well told tale of one family's immigrant experience, as well as a funny and insightful cookbook -- and there it was.
I haven't made it yet. I'm waiting for the right combination of dry weather, a special occasion and enough time to do it right. But here's the recipe. If you make it first, invite me over!
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