road trip chapter 4: the road home

the road north

We did the drive home in two days.

Steady Eddy's

The first morning, driving through the Central Valley, was bright and hot. We took a break in Winters, a really charming town we happened upon by chance last year. Iced lattes on the deck at Steady Eddy’s fortified us for the next leg.

Countryside Cafecorned beef sandwich

Lunchtime hit as we were passing through Red Bluff. A study of Yelp and Chowhound reviews led us to the Countryside Cafe, which was a slightly strange place but was cool, dark, and had cold beer, really good corned beef sandwiches and macaroni salad. What more do you want during a hot drive?

volcanoes

We continued north past Mount Shasta, and felt compelled to stop in Weed for another break.

Abner Weed

Just like last year, the Weed Alehouse was hot and muggy, but a really interesting place to sit and nurse a good IPA. The heat was enhanced by the fresh tarmac in the parking lot, unfortunately, so you really had to just resign yourself to roasting. Good thing we like their beer.

Elements

We stopped for the night in Medford, Oregon. Medford’s a bit of a food wasteland, and we had thought we’d need to drive back to Ashland for dinner, but then we discovered Elements, a tapas restaurant in downtown Medford. Their website said they were closed on Mondays but apparently they just decided not to tell anyone they were open.

basil gimlet

We got some remarkably pleasant cocktails here, including a basil-cucumber gimlet that I liked a lot.

ceviche

The ceviche was a small portion, cutely served in a scallop shell, and nicely flavored. I liked the black salt on top.

calamari

We got the calamari purely by accident – we had been discussing what to order next and the waitress misheard us. It was a lucky mistake, though, because it was really good – lots of spices on the squid, which was perfectly cooked and not at all rubbery, and a red pepper sauce for dipping.

mushroom tapas

Then there was a small tureen of mixed mushrooms in sauce, also extremely good.

flatbread

And we finished ourselves off with an order of flatbread topped with lamb, Rogue blue cheese and sharp olives. Very strong flavors and very filling. We took the leftovers back to the motel and I ate them for breakfast, which was perhaps a little odd at 6:30 in the morning, but at least there was Dutch Brothers coffee to wash it down.

Horse Brass

Our last stop before getting home the next day (unless you count the hour we spent sitting in Seattle-Tacoma traffic) was lunch at the Horse Brass pub in Portland. I’ve been hearing about this place for years but it’s not very handy to where we usually stay, so I’m glad we finally got to try it.

Horse Brass

The beer list was astonishing, all the more so since July is Oregon Beer Month and they were featuring local brews of all sorts. I got a Walking Man IPA and Jon got an amazing Velocirapture rye ale from Prodigal Son Brewing, one of the best rye beers I’ve ever tried. I was also able to try a Green Flash pale I’d never seen before but it wasn’t as assertive as I was wanting.

fish and chips

The food at the Horse Brass is straight English pub style, so Jon tried the fish and chips. The chips and coleslaw were fine, but the fish was perfect – everything you’d want fried fish to be. The waitress said they’re a little irregular in their quality, so it must have been a good day.

steak and mushroom pie

I got a meat pie. It was full of fatty, tender steak and lots of mushrooms, and it was very good in a leaden sort of way, with lots of brown sauce. The potato chips were so delicious I accidentally ate them all. Possibly a good thing, since it took us hours and hours to get home after that. But we made it!

 

road trip chapter 2: down the coast

airstream

After two great days in Portland we dragged ourselves back into the car and headed south. We drove across to Reedsport, then down the Oregon coast to Coos Bay.

view from the High Tide Cafe

At midday we took a small side trip over to Charleston and had lunch at the High Tide Cafe, which I had heard was reknowned for their clam chowder. It’s a cute place, very much a neighborhood diner sort of vibe, with windows looking over the bay and a fireplace for blustery days. They had some excellent beer on tap and were serving both breakfast and lunch.

chowdah

I got clam chowder, of course. It wasn’t bad – creamy but not too rich, with herbs and plenty of clams and big chunks of potato. Not the best I’ve ever had but very decent. I was pleased that it came with oyster crackers because the slab of white bread that also came along was stale and dull.

jambalaya

Jon got jambalaya. It was pretty good – lots of seafood in a spicy tomato sauce, and a cone of rice in the middle. It did the job, anyway.

7 Devils Road

slow down at the curve

Onward! After a fun, upsy-downsy ride back to 101 on Seven Devils Road, we wound our way down through the redwoods and eventually arrived in Eureka.

Lost Coast Brewery

Our dinner destination here was the Lost Coast Brewery, and as far as I could tell it was everyone else’s destination as well – it was packed.

decor

I was impressed by the decor – lots of weird papier mache heads and monsters. Also a large spider that was attached to the door by a string, so if you look up while the door is closing behind you you’ll see a vast arachnid descending on your head. Fortunately, I never think to look up.

IPA

Our local grocery store carries a lot of Lost Coast beer, and there weren’t a lot of enticing specials. I had a glass of the Indica IPA, then found out that they also had a cask conditioned IPA which I liked quite a lot more. Wish they had mentioned it when we ordered, but oh well.

fish and chips

Food was unexciting. I got fish and chips, which would have been quite good if the fish hadn’t been allowed to sit in a big puddle of its own oil, but unfortunately by the time I got to it it was pretty soggy. The fries were dusted with Parmesan and were tasty but too squishy to be addictive.

sandwich

Jon asked for the “Famous Hot Brown” sandwich, which sounded really amazing (bacon! ranch dressing!) but was sort of blah. Also rather small. It came with a tiny dish of coleslaw on the side. I’ve seldom seen such small portions in a brewpub, which was not at all what I was expecting.

a very nice martini

We felt a little dissatisfied after our dinner, and downtown Eureka wasn’t really hopping (except for the brewery and a carnival down by the waterfront), so we headed back to the Red Lion, where we were staying, and actually had an extremely decent martini. Go figure.

Bear Republic

The next morning we had a very motel sort of breakfast at the Red Lion, then continued down 101 to Healdsburg. It was a beautiful day and all of Sonoma seemed to be screaming out to us to spend lots of money. We avoided a large number of adorable boutiques and wine tasting rooms and eventually found what we were looking for: the Bear Republic brewpub.

Bear Republictoday's beer list

Now this was more like it. The only Bear Republic beers I’ve had before were the Racer 5 and the Hop Rod Rye, both of which I adore. Their house beer list was long, with an equally long specials list, including some single-variety-hops brews that were really interesting. We tried the Aramis and Premiant Rebellions just for the hell of it, but then Jon discovered the Nor Cal Ale and was smitten. I tried the red, which was very good but a little heavy for my mood.

burger

burger

We each got a burger: Jon got a special that had brie, mushrooms and onions, while I got one with a whole grilled green chile and pepper jack cheese. He had green salad with his, while I tried the pasta salad side. We saw fries on neighboring tables and decided we weren’t missing anything, but the burgers and salads were fantastic.

Bear Republic

This place has shot up into my top five brewpubs. We may have to come back someday!

sunlight

That evening we made it to Santa Cruz. Stay tuned for the next installment…

road trip to Cali

on the beach

We’ve just begun to recover from our week-long road trip to Santa Cruz to visit my brother-in-law. We spent two days driving south, a few days there, then three days coming back. We hit an astounding number of brewpubs along the way. Here’s a (rather long) photo essay of some of the week’s eats and drinks.

HopworksHopworks Brewery

We left Mount Vernon bright and early, with our first stop at Hopworks in Portland. It was pouring down rain (my feet got soaked just going the short distance from the car to the door), but the brewpub was bright and cozy and the Women’s World Cup was just starting. We could happily have stayed there all day, but we dragged ourselves away at halftime.

Ancho chicken sandwich

steak sandwich

blue cheese salad

The sandwiches were excellent, especially the chicken ancho, and the salad had chunks of Rogue Creamery blue cheese almost too big to eat. Plus their beer is amazing – I had a pint of Evelyn’s Sunshine Imperial IPA, which was badly needed after our drive through the storm.

Continue reading

California wine

grapevines

Take a long dram with me
of California wine, of California wine.
And the wine, it tastes so sweet
as we lay our eyes to wander,
and the sky, it stretches deep.
Will we rest our heads to slumber
beneath the vines of California wine?
Beneath the sun of California One.
 

the Decemberists

Despite being a Washington State native and rather uninclined to live anywhere else, I really like visiting California. We lived briefly in Santa Barbara after we were married, and this was the first time we’ve been back to visit. So nice to see the live oaks and the dry grassy hills (at least the ones not recently burnt black) and smell the eucalyptus.

live oaks

To boil down our Memorial Day weekend to a few sentences: we drank wine and ate barbecue. Then we went to a wedding and had more wine, and oysters, and more barbecue. Then a lot more wine.  Whee! Many thanks to our friend Deron who drove us all the way out to Foxen Winery. I loved Foxen’s porch tasting room.

Foxen Winery Continue reading

recovery

live oak

Having just returned from Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley last night, after a long weekend of wine, family and food, I’m not quite back together yet. I’m gradually getting my photos sorted out, and putting myself into carbohydrate recovery. Those garlic-rosemary frites at Square One were totally worth it. Not to mention the lemon-strawberry wedding cake. And did I mention wine?

recovery

live oak

Having just returned from Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley last night, after a long weekend of wine, family and food, I’m not quite back together yet. I’m gradually getting my photos sorted out, and putting myself into carbohydrate recovery. Those garlic-rosemary frites at Square One were totally worth it. Not to mention the lemon-strawberry wedding cake. And did I mention wine?