Just the essentials

Melville Winery

Melville Winery

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.

Paulas Pancakes

Paula's 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.

Arroyo Burro Beach

Arroyo Burro Beach

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:

Squash blossom quesadilla

Squash blossom quesadilla

Next time? Pumpkin saag, and my current obsession.


Filed under restaurant review, stories, travel, wine

7 responses to “Just the essentials

  1. Oooh, squash blossom quesadilla…sounds lovely…. (the whole trip sounds pretty great!)

    P.S. I can’t believe electric powered windmills exist!

  2. i love solvang and all of its weirdness.
    and i think that photo of the squash blossom quesadilla completely evokes everything that i miss about california food. i saw that picture and knew, without even reading the text, that you’d been to san francisco.
    squash blossoms. not so readily available here.
    sounds like a fun trip, though. sometimes, playing tourist is just what’s needed.

  3. liz

    rachael — i know, right? it’s a crazy, backwards world…

    kelsi — it’s frustrating, right? there is nowhere else (at least here on the east coast) that you could get that kind of food, unless you make it yourself. and that usually means growing the squash blossoms yourself, making the corn tortillas, guacamole, and salsa from scratch, and, well… you know. but it makes visits home extra nice.

  4. pshazz

    but how much more amazing is home made food from scratch? didn’t you grow squash, and therefore blossoms?

    i’m liking that you are calling california home now though. 🙂 (unless you mean kelsi’s home, but i am going to stick to misunderstanding it as yours)

  5. liz

    hehe… i know, i know. but she’s right — it’s hard to get those ingredients here. which is why i grew squash almost solely for the squash blossoms. But I want MORE! mwahahahaha!

    and yah, i do think of CA as home, in that formative sense of the word. I mean, it’s that, New Haven, or Utah. Which would you pick?

  6. pshazz

    oh come on, we all know you’ve got a little mormon in you! (insert bawdy joke about putting some mormon in you otherwise :-p)

    you know, i’ve never had squash blossom. it’s probably easier to get here than there, but still not super easy i think.

  7. liz

    hah! right. if i had a little mormon in me, i think i’d infiltrate the church and sabotage their role in the vote on prop. 8. but that’s just me. (as for the bawdy joke — shudder!)

    you have to eat them the same day you pick them — they have no shelf life. you could get them at farmer’s markets at the start of summer, usually. or ask your dad to grow them. they are AWESOME stuffed with cheese, battered, and pan-fried. (so much for healthy produce)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s