Hello everyone, I’m back! I’m fresh off a two-week road trip down the coast of California. My girlfriend and I rented a convertible and drove from San Francisco to San Diego on highway 1, better known as “PCH” or the Pacific Coast Highway. It was my first time to California and we covered 1200+ miles and visited an astonishing 21 cities on our way down! (talk about a grand tour) Some places were on the beaten path and some were off. I experienced some of the most beautiful natural scenery I have ever seen in my life. But with all of that driving a dude needs to eat, right? Well I am never one to disappoint and I can tell you, I literally ate and drank my way down the coast of the Golden State and it was such an amazing and fun experience. Although we had a ton of mini adventures, I will share some of the highlights with you…
Our start point was San Francisco which I did not like at first glance. Not that the city seemed horrible, but our hotel was in the Union Square Neighborhood which resembled NYC midtown somewhat. The scary steep hills you need to drive up and down worried me as well. Especially when you stop at a light, because when you release the brake you roll backwards, Yikes! Anyway, after I explored the city and the entire Bay Area, I fell in love with this place. The unique neighborhoods, the scenic views, and the awesome food makes SF a city I could see myself fleeing to from New York.
First, we had a garlic filled lunch at The Stinking Rose, I ordered the “40 clove Chicken”, Which was cooked with forty cloves of garlic! Stinky and good lol! The next morning we had a great breakfast at Cafe de la Presse. One of the places that I loved was a new spot I briefly visited in the Chinatown district called “House of Xian Dumplings” on Kearny st. and Columbus. Cheap prices and great food make this a good eatery to grab a quick-lunch of fresh noodles and dumplings that are prepared right in front of you. I also had a good lunch at a restaurant called Taste of the Himalayas in the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley.
Before we left the Bay Area a good friend of mine Laura Martin-Bacon who is a longtime writer for William-Sonoma showed up with her cousin (who is a zebra) Zebot. I was given a tour of the farmers market by Zebot and interviewed by him for his children’s food blog Zebot.org. I will link the interview to this thread when I receive it.
Next up was Monterey Bay/Carmel. I had good food in each one of these areas:
In Monterey, we started the afternoon at the Aquarium which was an awesome experience. We had lunch at the Fish Hopper and I had this delicious blackened swordfish salad which was worth the long wait. That evening we had dinner at the Sardine Factory that featured some kick-ass lightly breaded Abalone appetizers, fresh shellfish, and I also had a really good Halibut entrée. In Carmel we visited Flaherty’s Seafood Grill & Oyster bar. First Emily ordered the baked halibut in sherry and porcini sauce, which came out over-cooked and dry.Then we had a waitress with and attitude problem (whatever). Anyway the Chef redeemed himself by sending out a lobster gnocchi dish that was to die for!
We hit the road the next morning to drive The Big Sur. The dramatic landscape made for a great scenic views. The ride did get a little scary as we drove around steep rocky cliffs, but it was still fun! We stopped at a bar & grill named Fernwood and we had steak tacos and hot wings before we resumed the road trip. Another cool thing we got to see along the way, were the hundreds of elephant seals basking in the afternoon sun.
In the San Louis Obispo/Pismo Beach area we had breakfast at the iconic Louisa’s Place in downtown “SLO” which was a good diner-style meal. In Pismo Beach we ate at the Cracked Crab which had an 1 hour-long wait to get a table. I must say that the seafood was good, but this place was more like an over-priced Joes Crabshack. At least we made good use of the wait time by hanging out and making new friends next door at Vino Versato Wine Bar.
Next we tackled Santa Barbara. We did not really look for an upscale dining experience here (which there are plenty of options). Upon our arrival we had lunch on the harbor at Brophy Bros. and I watched them run through a couple of pots of clam chowder which I regret not trying. I order a salad so I never got a chance to taste it, but it must have been that good. We chose to eat dinner at the Sandbar nightclub & bar which served 2 for 1 margaritas and some tasty Mexican dishes. I also had lunch at the Shintori Sushi Factory which featured soft shell crab tempura. We ended our time in SB with cheese plates, drinks, and good cigars at the beautiful Bacara resort & spa.
Along the way we accidentally stopped in downtown Ventura because of nature calling, and by no means was it a mistake! We checked out a cool spice store on Main st. called “Spice-Topia”which was like heaven to me. It had so many fusion spices such as aged balsamic seat salt, rosemary & porcini sea salts, and many others. Next door was an Indian restaurant named Taj which served up some tasty cuisine buffet style. I had the lamb vindaloo which was simply delicious. We sent our compliments to the chef and in return he sent us 2 double cut lamb chops tandoori-style on the house. Not only a cool city, but very nice people as well. Thanks Ventura!
Los Angeles was the next stop on this road trip. We arrived in LA a little winded, because we stopped in Malibu and Santa Monica the same day. I wanted to rest but Emily quickly reminded me we had dinner plans with our friends William and Kasinee. I was cranky and tired to say the least, but my mood brightened up once we got to the spot Parks which serves Korean BBQ. We had some really good food and laughs here. Heck, it was my first time eating raw crab. The next morning we visited Roscoes Chicken & Waffles for my favorite breakfast which is…well, chicken and waffles haha! Perfectly fried and homemade waffles Yum! I also had the chance to see Beverly Hills and walk around Rodeo Drive. We visited Hollywood, and the Tar Pits which was a very cool and educational experience.
Now comes the part when we went off the beaten path. Our plan was to hug the coastline all the way down. But there was no way I was going to drive past Perris, CA without visiting my good friend Anshu, owner of Exotic Meat Market. He and his wife Claudia gave us a tour of his farm of exotic animals. When we returned to the office we were treated to an array of exotic foods. I will write about our experience at Exotic Market Farm in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.
San Diego was the final destination of our trip. We had so much fun in Perris at the farm, that we didn’t get to our hotel in Coronado until 1am. Problem with this is that we had reservations for a fishing trip at 6:00am, no rest for the weary. After about 3 1/2 hours of sleep we were on Fisherman’s Landing with coffee and rented fishing poles. The day was fun and we caught a few California scorpion fish and small rockfish which I had the mates clean and filet for me. That night we had dinner at Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana restaurant. We were seated in a place that gave us a beautiful view of San Diego. I tried the Petto di Pollo al Peperoncino which featured a juicy and delicious marinated free range chicken breast with a spicy peperoncino sauce. Emily had Cannelloni al Forno, Large pasta tubes filled with chicken, ricotta , smoked mozzarella, pecorino, spinach, sun-dried tomato, and topped with bechamel, marinara, and mushrooms. I would definitely eat here again!
Early the next morning we visited the San Diego Zoo, a place I have always wanted to explore. I never thought I’d visit a zoo that compared to our own “Bronx zoo” , but the one in San Diego was awesome and fit the bill. We made our way to Old Town San Diego for some sightseeing and Margaritas with our late afternoon lunch. Our last night in SD we had dinner with friends, Quincy & Melany. I had not seen Quincy in 20+ years so I was very happy to see him. I finally had the opportunity to prepare a meal! Dinner consisted of rib-eye, shrimp, and that scorpion fish I caught the day before. What a perfect way to end the road trip, friends, food & drinks, and a whole lot of love! The next morning on the way to the airport we decided to visit the famous Hotel Del Coronado, the views were so beautiful and the hotel was amazing looking inside and out. We spent a little too much time here exploring, because we found ourselves doing 50 yard dash to catch our flight out! Haha, we made it just in time, amongst the last to board. We really had a memorable time in California and I want to thank our friends and the nice people we met along the way that helped make this trip a great one!