There’s something about driving down an empty road lined with parched grass and grapevines that makes me feel at home. Not that this is a particularly surprising revelation, as I spent, oh, twelve formative years in the state. It’s funny, though — only now, after a single day trip, I finally feel like a proper Californian. At least, in the stereotypical Sideways sense of the word. I’ve been wine tasting! And had “authentic” Dutch pancakes just next door to electricity-powered windmills (I know, I know — a travesty) and cute tourist traps. I feel, somehow, complete.
Hah… Don’t take me so seriously. I am perpetually tongue-in-cheek, which makes for some interesting conversations. But it was a good trip, touristy or no — brunch in Solvang at Paula’s Pancake House with P & M was a good start. Paula’s special consisted of Dutch pancakes (crepes, basically, with a bit more air) smothered in baked apples and mounds of whipped cream. It was like my childhood dream breakfast, only with diner coffee and a taste of some not-so-great but hyped dutch sausage. It’s worth a trip nevertheless — just stick with the pancakes.
Solvang itself is like a village in Disneyland. It’s so very, very fake, but the tourist information staff are lovely and speak a few words of Dutch. And people are happy there, if only because of the incredible combination of sugary pancakes, bakeries (danishes!), and winetasting rooms every five feet. How could you not be thrilled to be there?
Of course, there’s only a few blocks to actually explore, before you get to a stereotypical Californian sprawl. Luckily, you can then move on to Lompoc, if you only follow your Sideways winetasting map. We had heard Melville had a nice pinot or two, so off we went, to taste and taste. I think we had 5 or 6 wines for $10, which wasn’t a bad deal. And they were pretty decent. Not as good as the St. Lucia we had at Melisse the night before, but they weren’t bad. I think, to be honest, I preferred the Shiraz I tasted. Of course, I can’t remember the vintage.
After a wayward trip through the neighboring winery’s vineyard (in the car, on dirt roads, complete with apple picking), we headed off to Santa Barbara. Well, more precisely, to the beach, closer to Goleta. I actually lived in Santa Barbara for a few years, though it’s been ages since I’ve been back. It is much the same … Gorgeous beaches (though you might want to wear shoes, unless you want to scrape oil off with turpentine), the main drag with all its cute little shops and posh restaurants, the same old crowd… I think the only change I really noticed was the presence of more chain stores on State Street. But that’s true of everywhere these days. After the beach, we headed to dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Zaytoon, on Cañon Perdido, which M had found on his last trip to the area. This place was fantastic, if only for the outdoor seating:
Forgetting the slight fear that our dinner would ignite, who doesn’t want a little bonfire in the middle of their table? The food was good, too — we had a vegetarian starter series, which was plenty of food for the three of us. It made for a fairly cheap dinner, and they let P pick one of their lemons. How cool is that?
So yes … California is good, road trips are lovely, and I had a lot of fun. I could see myself going back there one day, if life takes me in that direction. We will see, I suppose…
After LA, I went to visit family in Fresno. It was good to see my grandparents, and the girls, and while I didn’t do much other than play monkey in the middle and show them how to make cookies, it’s always good to see all of them. And then? Off to Oakland, for a conference full of lots of physics people, eating out at the same bar night after night, and a brief trip to San Francisco. And so, I’ll leave you with this amazing deliciousness from Mijita in San Francisco, because it was freaking delicious:
Next time? Pumpkin saag, and my current obsession.