In my 30 years, I have never had a real “adult” vacation. Every trip is centered around a cheap weekend to stay with a friend, or is centered around a wedding or family. I have always wanted to drive down the coast of California, and when my best friend Charlie decided to move to New Zealand to work on a vineyard and had a flight leaving from L.A. I knew it was the perfect time. I flew to San Francisco to meet him and we began our journey. If you are planning a trip, or like reading menus as much as I do, read on. This is a round-up of all the great food I ate, and the beautiful places I saw. Note that there won’t be any recipes though. Just inspiration.
In SF, we crashed with my amazing friend Thom, who is a fellow foodie, and he took us to some great places, that unfortunately, I did not get many pictures of, mostly due to being hungover and hungry. Sorry about that. We met our great friend Alex from CT here as well.
The first afternoon, we went to Red’s Java House, which is a well-known yet website-less restaurant on the water known for its burgers. Now while I was disturbed by their strict NO LETTUCE OR TOMATO policy, their massive burgers were served on a big fat wonderful sourdough roll with pickles, mustard and onions, and are reeeal good. After an aquarium trip and a lot of walking, we then ended up at another well-known place, Tommy’s Joynt, which is known for their amazing food as much as being the place Metallica brought Jason Newsted to tell him he was in the band, and to trick him into eating a ball of wasabi.
I had the pastrami plate with green beans and stuffing, it was like the best Thanksgiving ever, and got me REALLY excited to make stuffing again soon.
The next morning we went to one of my favorite places, Kate’s Kitchen. I love Kate’s because they always have a huge chalkboard of all the pancake and french toast varities for the day, and their gluten free pancakes are better than their regular ones somehow, although their cheddar and green onion biscuits are also not to be missed. I got one of the day’s specials; a veggie egg scramble with squash, avocado and green chiles. Doused that baby in Tapatio sauce and went to town. Thom and I also split an order of pumpkin french toast that made my heart melt a little. I’m so happy that it is pumpkin season!
Thom suggested that Charlie and I stop at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero right off the PCH on this trip. They are known for their artichoke soup and fresh made pies. Sign me up for that shit. He also let me in on a secret! They also have a really good green chile soup, and will blend the two for you if you ask nicely.
Now, given it is easy to make something incredible when you have the best ingredients. The artichokes and green chiles used to make this soup were grown right next door. Lucky bastards! And they bring you the warmest, most scrumptious sourdough bread to eat it with. I had mine with a shredded crab sandwich, and it was heavenly.
For dessert, I ordered the day’s special pie…Pear. And turns out the lady at the next table over had gotten the last piece. I was crushed until the waitress said it was a better decision to have the Ollalieberry pie if we had never had it, and neither of us had even heard of an Ollalieberry before, so went for it. I also got myself a nice Mexican coffee with tequila and kahlua. (Charlie was driving)
It was SO good. Like if a blackberry and a cherry had a beautiful berry baby.
We stopped to stay at a beautiful estate on a vineyard about 20 miles off the PCH near Paso Robles. It was on a vineyard and was absolutely beautiful. And only $88 a night on AirBnB. Hell yes. When we woke up in the morning, I sat out on the terrace and read my book and waited for Charlie to be ready, and then we headed in to town and went to
Cowgirl Cafe for breakfast. We both got the breakfast burrito with chorizo and green chiles, and I got mine with roasted jalepenos, it was a VERY good decision. This is the first time I have not needed to add hot sauce to a burrito. The salsa, chiles, and jalepenos were so wonderfully flavorful with the meat and eggs, and stirred in with my hash browns and sour cream, for health reasons…it was damn perfect.
The rest of the day was consumed by vineyards and a TON of wine. Here are the bottles I came home with
The Cypher is the one I most excited to have again, and I am saving it for a special occasion.
We learned a lot about flavors
and we saw some really beautiful landscaping. LOVE it here. Want to move.
But by the time we disco napped and headed out to San Luis Obispo for dinner, we learned that wine country DOES have a downside. Everything closes at 9. It was 9:15. FAIL. We had been told the place to go was Bon Temps Creole Cafe, but alas, we missed it, and the ONLY places open were cheap and crowded college hangouts and one fancy Italian restaurant that sucked and I wont mention in case we just ordered wrong. They DID make a lovely strawberry shortcake with sweet cream ice cream, but that isnt hard when you are right next to a field of strawberries. It was dessert for both of us AND breakfast for me the next morning as we headed down the coast to Long Beach.
Our first stop in Long Beach was our friend Seth’s house. I am convinced that Seth is a time traveler. He dresses like he is, and he eats like he is. He is always feeding me chicory coffee and pickled eggs and drinking mead and rye. This time around he made me a snack of pickled herring with horseradish cheese on some swedish wheat cracker. Not too bad, though Charlie wouldn’t touch it.
Seth is also a grill master, and made us a truly spectacular dinner. It was so nice to have a home-cooked meal after all of our travels, and just relax around the table and talk with a bottle of our Paso wine. he made beautifully cooked steak, mashed potatoes, grilled squash, and grilled corn on the cob.
While everything was incredible, the corn really stood out. it was truly magical. I never thought to char my corn on the cob on a grill, and it is sheer genius. It was crispy and salty on the outside and buttery and soft inside. It deserves an award.
The next morning Seth made us a lovely breakfast, and started us out with drinks, YAY! Tecate with dried smoked chipotle peppers, cayenne, lime and celery. Spicy booze is my favorite warm weather booze!
He then cooked up our leftover steak and made tacos with fresh onions, radishes, cilantro and cotija cheese. A great way to start one’s day!
Later that day our friend Matthew came to pick us up so we could spend a few days with him. Turns out he and his beautiful wife Jamarah only live 4 blocks away! Love when that happens, I like introducing people! Especially ones that can cook. It was a guac off!
Matthew made us red snapper tacos for dinner. I swear, I could live on tacos.
There was SO much fish, we put it in fresh corn tortillas with fresh tomato salsa, shredded cabbage and red onions, homemade guac and Matthew’s secret “white sauce” that was mind-blowing, and if he ever listens to me and starts a food blog of his own, maybe we can all have the recipe. And maybe one day I’ll be an adult and start using a real camera. Sorry about the picture, it does no justice to a flawless dish.
The next morning was yet another “How am I so lucky for this to be my life” moment. I woke up in Matthew’s studio (He’s a painter) and as i was basking in the greatness of being surrounded by paintings and sketches, and the smell of oils and pencil dist, the smell of baking bread, apples and coffee came across my face. I meandered out into the sunny, airy living room, and was greeted with a plate of applesauce bread and a fresh coffee. What an incredible way to start one’s day!!!
This was followed up with a poached egg over a sourdough english muffin with a just made tomatillo salsa and a splash of hot sauce, cilantro and green onions.
We spent the rest of the day hanging around the neighborhood and meeting Matthew and Jamarah’s friends, and then headed back to the house where beef had been marinating in another of Matthew’s secret recipes all day, which he then shredded and made into enchiladas that I kind of wanted to marry, with sumptuous refried beans that he also made. I will admit that we were pretty “overserved” at this point, so you are lucky to get a picture at all. ; )
The next morning was our last, and we met Seth for brunch around the corner at a place called Kafe Neo. We started with an order of “Zeus” fries. Fries mixed with red pepper flakes, feta cheese and garlic sauce.
Then I had the breakfast burrito (shocker) which was stuffed full of eggs, greek sausage, spinach, feta, greek salsa and black olive tapenade. Divine.
After a quick visit to Studio City to see my friend’s new baby, we headed to Venice for Charlie’s final dinner in the states. Matthew chose a great restaurant called Wabi Sabi that has a phenomenal sushi happy hour and a great menu all around.
We dined on mushroom wontons,
a plethora of happy hour rolls including a spicy scallop roll,
a baked crab, cucumber, avocado, and yes, those little discs are baked mayonnaise.
And then finally, Charlie ordered a philly roll, and it was the cutest! They should call it birthday cake sushi! It was decadent and it melted on your tongue.
So much good food. So many amazing memories and inspiring conversations and experiences later, the trip is over. I am back in Brooklyn, Charlie is in his new home in New Zealand, Matthew is painting and Seth is taking pictures on the water in Long Beach, Thom is cruising SF and making pork rinds and turduckens, Alex is tattooing in Connecticut. Food is always what brings everything, and every one, together. And that’s why I love it. Its the experience. This was one of the best weeks of my life, and I am so happy to have gotten to share it with such incredible people that I am lucky enough to call my friends. I hope you can get something out of this post for your life as well, and that everyone continues to share. And If I beg enough, maybe I can coerce Matthew in to starting a food blog of edible paintings. I know he has the talent for it!!
Lots of love from me to you….and to a heart shaped onion ring.