Sunday, May 30, 2010

California Dreamin'

Eureka. Two days into our road trip and we have made it to Eureka, California. Today we will drive across the border into Oregon.

Our two days on the northwest coast of California have been amazing. The rugged, cold Pacific coast has alternated with massive redwood and spruce forests. There has been enough scenery to keep the most diehard photographer busy (some pics here), and best of all, we have benefited from Jaki's knowledge of some great spots to stop.

We weren't very far into our journey when we stopped in Lucerne at Foster's Freeze (I think) - and had soft-serve custard ice cream the way they made it when I was thin enough to not feel guilty about having a soft-serve cone.

But the real treat happened later, when we pulled into Anderson Valley Brewing Company. That's their horned bear behind me in the picture, but the beers were the real show there. They made many good ones, but there was one that I had never had before and I love it. It was called Sour Horn, and it was a "sour barley wine" aged in old whiskey barrels. It was sour; it looked kinda like beer; it was yummy. And, for whatever reason, it wasn't for sale. You could only sample it at their tasting bar.

The first night we stayed at Fort Bragg in a beautiful spot, with only a small meadow separating us from the cliffs of the Pacific. We had cocktails on our back decks while the sun sank into the ocean and enjoyed the view -- even if we didn't enjoy the temperature. I should add at this point that it has been cold here, and when the winds were whipping off the ocean it has been very cold. Let me put it this way, Hobart has been warmer than northern California this week.

We backtracked a couple of miles the next morning to have what Jaki called the "best Bloody Marys ever" at a little bar called Dick's Place in Mendocino. Jaki was soooooo right. I didn't see how you could make Bloody Marys that would be so special they would be worth a special trip. I was wrong.

Quick recipe (from what I could observe): the usual vodka, tomato juice, worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, horseradish, lemon wedge, celery salt, regular salt, pepper. But then there is a vegetable salad that raises this above the normal: two pickled green beans, a pickled pepperoncin, two colossal olives stuffed with pimiento. No celery.

Good enough to have two. (OK, three. Jaki was driving, after all.)

We walked around Mendocino before the bar opened, and it was a beautiful, charming seaside village. And I was really surprised that LK managed to keep the credit card in her handbag as long as she did.

Then we headed north, stopping to pick up sausage and cheese at the smokehouse on 101, bread at a great bakery before we made it to the Pacific Star Winery. In one of the most beautiful settings I have ever been in, this winery has the unique claim of sitting atop a faultline. The winery had actually been built before the faultline was discovered, and in fact the faultline is called the Pacific Star to recognize where it was discovered.

We sampled their wines, bought a beautiful red blend, pulled out our bread, sausages and cheese and had a lovely lunch overlooking gorgeous scenery and trying to stay a bit warm as the winds whipped across the land. As part of director LK's ongoing series of Pacific Rim lunches, the following video is offered:

We finally made it to Eureka last night, after Jaki drove us through some of the scariest, winding mountain roads I've been in. Hairpin turns overlooking 100+-yard drops with nothing to stop you except big trees that would probably treat the car as if it were a pachinko ball. But she did a great job, and today we begin Day 3 of our adventure.


And a Big Postscript. Happy Birthday, Mom. We love you and are really looking forward to making it to Rutland to have a proper celebration.

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