The weekend before Thanksgiving we took a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping the first night in the lovely seaside town of Cambria and then in Ventura in Southern California.
Here are some foodie highlights!
The main reason for this road trip was to try it out in our EV! We’ve driven down Highway 1 to Big Sur before, but not further than that. Usually we take the I-5 down to LA and beyond but it is one hell of a boring straight road. So it is so much more delightful to take the curvy winding roads of the 1, with the sea on your right and lots of vista points to stop and take photos at.
We arrived in Big Sur before 11, too early for lunch at the Big Sur Bakery, and the guy there, while friendly with the kids seemed to suggest that we would find more kid-friendly fare back down the road, “if you want scrambled eggs and things”. Um, not really, but I can take a hint. Instead, we kept going further down south to Ventana Inn, and ate at The Sur House (also, supercharger).
The food at The Sur House is nothing impressive, at least at lunch time, but you can’t beat that view!
I had a Gulf Shrimp sandwich which was tasty. The kids burger was well, a good enough burger, and the husband’s fried chicken sandwich had a nice hint of Thai spiciness and herbs.
But that view!
We kept heading down that beautiful highway to Cambria, our first stop for the the weekend.
We stayed at Pelican Inn, right across the road from Moonstone Beach which has a nice boardwalk and some tide pools to check out. After spending some time at the beach, it was time for an early dinner (also it was getting dark).
So just down the street from the inn is Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. And there was already a short line of people outside the restaurant at 5pm, when it opens. We joined the queue and were given a nice window-side table, which of course would be more useful if anything were visible outside. It’s a touristy place so I wasn’t really eating there with high expectations, but I liked that the kids’ menu had fried clams on it. And the 8yo was extremely excited to have clams (strangely my kids like mussels and clams, something I wasn’t expecting. And don’t get me started on my 6yo who would eat all the smoked salmon and salmon sashimi if he could). The 6yo went with spaghetti. And I had the seafood pasta, the husband picked vongole. The service here was really great, efficient, friendly but not too much. And they even gave out little toys to the kids (who also got ice-cream).
The broth that the pastas came in was delicious and seafoody.
We continued our drive down south, stopping in the cute Danish town of Solvang. It’s very touristy of course, lots of shops selling random knickknacks, a horse-drawn trolley, lots of Scandinavian-style buildings, although it was too warm to feel like we were in Denmark. The best part of our little stop there was finding Mortensen’s Bakery and buying some treats for teatime.
This pistachio square was delicious!
And I hadn’t seen a Sarah Bernhardt cookie before and it was yummy. It’s mocha buttercream sandwiched between two almond meringue cookies.
We finally reached our stop for the night in Ventura, the Ventura Beach Marriott, a newly refurbished hotel, and I loved how the room looked. Also a plus for the sliding barn bathroom door!
For dinner, I found an Italian restaurant, Spasso, not too far from the hotel. The service was a bit slow (there was one waiter and one manager) in this small restaurant (the elderly couple at the table next to us came with books, making me wonder if they were regulars and expecting it to be a leisurely meal). But the food was really good.
We started off with an antipasti platter and I had a Campari martini, which was delightfully refreshing (and very strong).
The husband’s vongole (yes again!) was the “proper” kind, he said, not sitting in a pool of broth (which, while delicious, isn’t the vongole he was used to). And also, had a liberal sprinkling of chill flakes which made for a great spicy meal.
I had the carbonara. I love carbonara but most places make it with cream and it becomes too rich and just overkill. I make it at home sometimes but my kids don’t like it much (they’re very much bolognese fans). And so I was looking forward to this one, and it was just right!
The kids had lasagne and salami pizza.
That was a delightful dinner. We don’t have fantastic Italian food in our city (have to drive across to Mountain View or Palo Alto or the city for that), so I’m always happy to eat good Italian food.
Our road trip was coming to an end and we were due to head back north the next day. But first, a stop down to LA to meet friends for lunch.
They decided to take us to Porto’s which is apparently an LA institution. It’s a Cuban bakery and cafe and it’s expanded to several branches.
It was impossible to find parking though and we later found out why as the lines inside are insane (and stretched out the door). And this was on a Monday!
The cakes and pastries looked amazing but I didn’t want think cakes would survive the long drive back to the Bay Area. So we bought some cheese rolls (surprisingly, not a savoury thing but sweet – the cheese being more like a cream cheese), potato balls (papa rellenas), chicken empanadas, meat pies (pastel de carne). You also can order cooked food there so we had a ham and cheese croissant sandwich for the kids, a Cubano, and a steak plate. The eating area was so crowded! But the food was great.
The pastries were eaten on the drive back and the kids really liked the potato balls. The empanadas were good but I thought that the meat pies didn’t have enough filling in the puff pastry.
And that was a very delicious road trip!
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