We spent the better part of the past two weeks on vacation in California, and I thought I’d share a few highlights of the trip.
We flew into San Francisco, and had a little time to kill there while we waited for all of our luggage to join us (thank you very much, TSA). We stopped for a bite at Mocca, a European-style café, which included a mixed shellfish salad with shrimp, scallops, and green mussels, marinated in olive oil and herbs, and a delicious little apple tart:
Once we were reunited with our luggage, we headed towards Mendocino. Knowing that dining options would diminish the farther we traveled and the later it got, we stopped for dinner at the “World Famous” Hamburger Ranch & BBQ in Cloverdale:
I finally got to try a Dutch crunch, and it made for a tasty, if sloppy burger;
I really got a kick out of this place. “Joey” from Friends likes it too:
We arrived in Mendocino and settled in at Stanford Inn by the Sea, with its lush gardens and view of the coast:
This “eco resort” is a little different than most (all) of the places we’ve stayed at over the years. For starters, its Ravens’ restaurant is vegan. The complimentary breakfasts were interesting (translated — my son wouldn’t eat them). Among the vegan dishes we tried were a chickpea crepe filled with vegetables from the gardens and drizzled with a cashew cheese sauce, and enchiladas filled with quinoa and spinach:
Although not everyone was crazy about the vegan breakfasts, we fought over the vegan chocolate chip cookies that were waiting for us in our room each day. The inn graciously shared the recipe, which I’ll share as soon as I try it out at home.
The Mendocino coast is breathtakingly beautiful:
The Albion River Inn, where we ate one night, was worth visiting just for the spectacular view from the dining room:
We noticed that in Mendocino they take tree-hugging to a new level:
At the health food store in town I bought some organic GMO-free granola made with love (you get the picture):
I guess Love is neither organic nor GMO-free
If you’re up that way, be sure to stop by the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. This is one of the most gorgeous, colorful botanical gardens around, and the dahlia garden is a match for any rose garden:
We left Mendocino to drop our son off with friends in Stanford, and headed on to Carmel, where we enjoyed more stunning coastline:
Carmel has a beautiful town center, with upscale shopping and lots of dining options. At the Flying Fish Grill, we loved the complimentary wonton crisps with gingery salsa, the steamed artichoke with wasabi mayonnaise and miso vinaigrette, and delectable halibut baked in parchment with fermented chinese black beans, mushroom, ginger & scallions:
We also enjoyed an elegant meal at Grasing’s, where my husband loved his clams with Yukon gold potatoes, leeks, and bacon, and declared his lamb chops to be the best he’s ever had:
Our hands-down favorite restaurant of the whole trip was La Bicyclette, a charming European-style café, recommended to us by my favorite oral surgeon:
The menu changes daily to provide variety and focus on seasonal ingredients. On this day we enjoyed a wood-fired pizza with local mushrooms, a grilled chicken and pesto Panini, and mussels in a saffron broth. Even the coffee was excellent!
While in Carmel, we spent a day marveling at the exhibits at the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium:
We next headed to the Napa Valley. We stopped at the historic Oakville Grocery Co., which was established in 1881, and is the oldest continually-operating grocery store in California. The shelves were loaded with tempting locally-made snacks, marinades, and condiments:
We splurged on accomodations here, and stayed at the beautiful Solage resort in Calistoga:
The highlight of our Napa stay was a leisurely visit with winemaker Tom Eddy:
If you’re looking for a place to go with kids for dinner in Napa, the Farmstead at Longmeadow Ranch has family-pleasing fare in an attractive, casual setting (and you can BYOB). The starters were our favorites, including the cheddar biscuits with honey butter (which were complimentary for checking in on Yelp), meatballs with caramelized vegetables and tomato marmalade, and a wood-grilled Castroville artichoke:
On our way out of Napa, we stopped at the popular Gott’s Roadside (formerly Taylor’s Refresher), and sampled, among other things, the legendary Ahi Burger and Western Bacon Blue Ring Burger. The food was good, but after eating out for 10 days or so, at this point it was a little too heavy for us:
We loved all the places we visited, and the cool, dry California weather was a welcome break from our Gulf Coast heat and humidity, but it was nevertheless great to return home to our own beds, and our dogs that we missed like crazy.