Road Trip 2009 - California Wineland, the California Coast, the Redwoods, the Oregon Coast

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So it starts again... This year, we're mostly in Northern California - wine country and the wild coast. Later on, we'll be visiting the Redwood forests, and the even wilder Oregon coast. Our journal is captured in true point-and-shoot fashion with, well, point-and-shoots: a venerable Nikon Coolpix 5600 and a relatively modern Canon G10. The pictures in this journal are simply downloaded from the cameras, downscaled for the web, and uploaded to our website. Yes, most pictures could benefit from some tweaking... but we are on vacation!

Our film camera kit this year (not featured at all in this journal) consists of 35mm Canon F-1, 6x6cm Mamiya C330, 6x7cm Mamiya 7II, 4x5in Fotoman 45PS and 4x5in Zero Image 45 pinhole.

For Foodies

As our friends know, we love sniffing out good food in out of the way places. Of course, it's pretty easy to spend a lot of money and get pretty good food. It's a little harder to spend a reasonable amount of money for great food - that often requires sniffing around out-of-the-way places for young or refugee-from-the-big-city chefs who really care about their work. Here are some of those places.

Vine Tastings - Windsor CA

Wine bars are a dime-a-dozen along the California wine corridor, but we stumbled into "Vine Tastings" in tiny Windsor, just south of Healdsburg - the place is just off the village green in the middle of town. Chef William (Billy) Oliver is putting out small plates to go with the wines on offer, and most every component is made in-house from locally produced ingredients. That in itself is also not unusual, but chef Billy takes unusual care and pride in his ever changing menu, and on this slow night, personally brought out every plate. We ordered one of everything on the menu, which turned out to be a nice quantity and variety of food for a dinner for two. Chef Billy went 12-for-12 in dishes - it is very rare to have everything on every plate be so good - especially when there were unusual tastes in practically every dish. Even the more prosaic plates like the gravlax and caviar on blintzes and the Kobe beef sliders were impeccably executed. Vine Tastings is very new, and they have some work to do on their service - chef Billy personally saved the evening for us - but don't let that be a deterrent.

Bistro des Copains - Occidental CA

Occidental is a bip of a town in the middle of the out-of-the-way west of Sebastopol in California. Bistro des Copains is worth a special trip to visit. First off, they offer BYOB for a small corkage fee - a nice thing after a day of wine touring. There is also a small, but tight wine list. The food is perfectly French, perfectly prepared by chef de cuisine Thomas Halligan. The sweetbreads with forest mushrooms on puff pastry is far too generous a portion, but hugely (literally) delicious. The duck breast was perfectly cooked, pink and juicy in the middle, which is strangely very hard to get in the USA, even when it's specifically ordered that way. House made ice cream on a strawberry-apple galette makes for an ideal finish. Service was efficient (maybe even a little too efficient), friendly and informed.

Queenie's Roadhouse Cafe - Elk CA

Ok, it's not exactly fine dining, but what could be better than a huge and delicious plate of huevos rancheros on the deck overlooking California Highway 1 and the coast on a sunny day? I usually shudder at the thought of "all day breakfast", but these folks really should be serving up breakfast all day. The interior spaces of the cafe are hilarious. The service is excellent, and the locals are very friendly.

Cafe Beaujolais - Mendocino CA

Well, this is actually one of those fine-dining establishments with the bigger price tags, but that price tag is warranted by the amazing ingredients, perfectly prepared. We had foie gras, on a pan-fried polenta thingie with a dollop of wild flower honeycomb and local huckleberry compote. Waaaay too big a chunk of foie gras. Perfect. Wendy had roast sturgeon served up with a wild mushroom and truffle tagliatelle, and Russ had duck two ways: a leg confit and a seared and roasted breast. Once again (to Russ' amazement - the second time this trip), the breast was beautifully cooked - pink in the middle. The duck came with a celeriac mousse and a huckleberry sauce. Nice room, attentive service. My only complaint was the person who took my phone reservation was pretty unfriendly, and got it wrong - but it all worked out in the end.

Wild Rose Bistro - Bandon OR

We found Wild Rose a number of years ago when Lynn and Daniel Flattley first set up their excellent restaurant in old town Bandon. They have only gotten better. The Wild Rose is a rustic, but very comfortable room, and the locals know it well - so a reservation will be necessary. We had four beautiful dishes, all perfect: seared wild scallops with a cauliflower puree, pesto and truffle oil; crab ravioli in a champagne (I think) chive and cream sauce; over-roasted sablefish with spinach puree, more of that cauliflower and truffle oil (I think) and a roast tomato sauce. Dessert was a Grand Marnier and Bailey's chocolate gateau. MMMmmmmmmm. I just wish they would get an espresso machine....

Newman's at 988 - Cannon Beach OR

No visit to Cannon Beach is complete without a visit to chef John Newman's little restaurant near the Cannon Beach Hotel. Chef John has been recently invited to NYC to cook a meal for the James Beard Foundation. This must be our fifth or sixth visit, and chef John never disappoints. Order all of the appetizers - that's often what we do. This night, that means polenta with wild mushrooms, crab cakes, green salad with sugared walnuts and blue cheese and pears, foie gras with seared pears, and the signature lobster ravioli in marsala cream. I'm understating the complexity of the dishes... they are all incredibly garnished with things we often have trouble identifying... dessert was the perfectly prepared Pavlova, with the partly crunchy, partly chewy meringue, huckleberry (I think) sauce and ice cream.

Astoria Coffee - Astoria OR

It's roasted on site, there's a long, long list of single-source beans and blends (always, always ask for the "weirdest" coffee in the store - there is always something). There's also a huge selection of single-source and house-blended teas, and to top it off, a selection of unusual spices and chocolate. The best thing here is the proprietor's encyclopedic knowledge of coffee, tea, and spice - and their trivia. We've been coming here for years.

The Picture Journal

Day 1 - Vancouver to Salem

Day 2 - Salem to Anderson

Day 3 - Anderson to Windsor

Day 4 - Windsor to Cazadero

Day 5 - Cazadero and Sonoma Beach

Day 6 - Russian River Wine Touring, and other things

Day 7 - Duncan Mills, Sonoma Coast, Bodega Bay

Day 8 - Point Reyes Station and National Seashore, Occidental

Day 9 - Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve, Sonoma Beach State Park, Guerneville

Day 10 - Fort Ross, Monte Rio, Sonoma Beach State Park

Day 11 - Cazadero to Mendocino

Day 12 - Point Cabrillo Light Station, Mendocino Chocolate Company

Day 13 - The Road to Boonville

Day 14 - Elk, Point Arena, Manchester Beach, Van Damme State Park

Day 15 - Fort Bragg

Day 16 - Mendocino County Airport, Comptche, Ukiah, Jackson State Demonstration Forest, Mendocino Headlands State Park

Day 17 - Mendocino

Day 18 - Mendocino to Smith River

Day 19 - Smith River, Crescent City, Renqua, Trees of Mystery

Day 20 - Crescent Beach Overlook, Tolowa Dunes, Crescent City

Day 21 - Gasquet, Jedediah Redwoods State Park

Day 22 - Samuel H Boardman State Park, Gold Beach

Day 23 - Smith River, Crescent City, Ferndale

Day 24 - Orick, Redwoods National Park, Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Day 25 - Brookings, Bandon

Day 26 - Coquille River Mouth and Lighthouse

Day 27 - Seven Devils State Park, Charleston, Cape Arago, Coos Bay

Day 28 - Cape Arago, Coos Bay, Bandon

Day 29 - Coquille, Myrtle Point, Bandon Head Beach

Day 30 - Winchester Bay, Coos Bay

Day 31 - Oregon Dunes, Coos Bay, Bandon

Day 32 - Bandon, Newport

Day 33 - Nye Beach, Newport Marina

Day 34 - Cannon Beach

Day 35 - Astoria, Ephemeron Beach, Cannon Beach

Day 36 - Seaside, Astoria, Montesano, Port Townsend, Coupeville, Vancouver


all roadtrips


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