Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip

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wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/19 20:03:42 (permalink)
Ralph,
 
Although I can describe my three years of living in the Pacific Northwest as "horrific" you made me remember that despite it all the one thing that made me maintain my  sanity  was the scenic beauty...
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/19 22:24:54 (permalink)
ann peeples

I absolutely love that you include, besides food pictures, area surroundings. Makes me feel like I am with you two........

 
I try to strike a balance with the scenery pictures. I'm writing these posts for two audiences; Roadfood and my own blog, read mostly by my friends. I think my friends may be more interested in the scenery than the food, but I know it's possible to overdo the scenery pictures - particularly the pictures that were just taken out the window of a moving car.
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/21 09:09:21 (permalink)
Sunday began with breakfast made by Charlotte - very pleasant, but unavailable to most of my audience.

We went to visit Haight-Ashbury, because I had never visited that neighborhood in all my time in the Bay Area, and Lori had enjoyed her previous visit. Parking was a bear, but we passed some lovely Victorian homes on the walk down to Haight.
  

Haight-Ashbury put a twist on the Victorian theme.


I enjoyed walking around and shopping with the ladies (and Charlotte ended up with a very natty fedora), but I kept pondering the question of whether Haight-Ashbury is still a counterculture mecca, or whether it's become a center of corporate cashing-in on its Summer of Love identity. My guess is that the non-residential part is about 70% sellout, but it's hard for me to judge without any prior experience.

From there, we headed towards Bi-Rite Creamery, because I wanted to add some Roadfood-listed restaurant to my list. Unfortunately, there was some festival going on at a nearby park, so parking was a challenge. I let the ladies out to get into line, while I searched for parking. I failed utterly to find a parking place anywhere nearby, so I just circled the block a few times - simply circling the block was almost as much traffic frustration as trying to park. While I gnashed my teeth with traffic, the ladies gave up on the half-block line for the hard ice cream and got soft serve ice cream. So I ended up trying to eat my burnt caramel soft serve while driving, so my judgement was clouded with frustration. To me, the ice cream had a strong and not very pleasant burnt-sugar flavor, like the top of an overdone creme brulee. And to cap the experience, our camera destroyed the picture of the cones. I'll still count this on my big list of Roadfood places, but it's one of the biggest technicalities I can list.
 

For dinner, we drove over to Oakland to join my sister Laura and her husband Jeff for dinner. As we were driving to one restaurant, Laura suddenly said, "Oh! I know where we should take you. We should go to Homeroom." Homeroom is a mac and cheese restaurant, and a great pleasure.


The menu. Choosing was hard!


Our drinks: organic house-made limeade, sweeter than I like my limeade; blood orange hard cider and huckleberry cider, neither of which were as good as I had hoped from the name; and Jeff's favorite beer, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.


Our camera lost some of our mac and cheese pictures, so I have only one shot of an entree, Lori's Gilroy ("Creamy gouda, sharp pecorino and just the right amount of roasted garlic.") with peas and baked with breadcrumbs. It was quite good; I asked Lori for commentary just now, and she said that a mac and cheese restaurant is always good for her.


I chose the The Exchange Student: Cacio e Pepe ("Rich and flavorful, with pecorino and cracked black peppercorns. Just like the Roman classic!") with added breadcrumbs. It was also very tasty and zesty.
Jeff was very pleased with his Vermont White Cheddar ("Extra-sharp, 2-yr aged Grafton white cheddar") with added bacon. Curiously, although there's still a Vermont White Cheddar listed on their online menu, its description doesn't mention the sharpness of the cheese - but we definitely noticed the sharp cheddar in Jeff's dish.
Only one of the dishes might qualify as a miss, and even that was only a partial one: Laura's Summer Pesto Mac ("Homemade basil pesto, green beans, and topped with pecorino.") We all agreed that it was tasty, but Laura didn't feel that it really met the spirit of mac and cheese; it was noodles tossed with pesto and large flakes of pecorino cheese, not the creamy cheesy sauce of the other dishes. So I traded my Exchange Student with her, and quite enjoyed the Summer Pesto Mac.

We liked Homeroom quite a lot, and would seek to return if we came to Oakland again.

For dessert, we went to Fenton's Creamery, a Oakland tradition for generous ice cream.


Lori, Laura, and I shared the black and tan sundae, and I'm not sure the three of us managed to finish it. Jeff struck out on his own with a very tall sorbet.



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mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/22 00:39:59 (permalink)
A pleasure to read of your redwood and Bay Area adventures. The redwoods are one of the most amazing sights of my life and every walk or drive i take thru them seems like a visit to a fairy tale kingdom. The oregon coast from Bandon to the california border is marvelous with every turn bringing yet another stunning vista.The only problem is i have not yet found food to rival the scenery.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/22 12:42:26 (permalink)
You need a SHOVEL for that black and tan sundae!!!! 
Oh wait I have one right here!!
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/22 23:17:53 (permalink)
A shovel would be handy indeed, but a few co-eaters will do in a pinch. I believe that Fenton's offers much larger offerings as well.
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/22 23:18:21 (permalink)
On Monday, I went in to work at Apple Cupertino. Most of that, I can't talk about, so this will be a short entry. But I think I can mention that Apple offers a very nice motorcoach service for commuters from San Francisco, with comfortable chairs and WiFi networking. Unfortunately, the nearest stop was over a mile from Potrero Hill, so I had a long walk and no breakfast but a bagel form Whole Foods.
One detail of the ride down the peninsula particularly struck me: San Francisco had been foggy and damp, but somewhere around San Bruno, the weather changed dramatically to cloudless blue sky.

Lori, I believe, spent most of the day doing laundry. It was rather a boring day, but I think it actually helped us a great deal to have a low-key day in the middle of a great many days of excitement.

Jeff and Laura and Charlotte joined us for dinner at Goat Hill Pizza in Potrero Hill.


Monday night is their pizza variety night, when instead of making you the pizzas you specifically order, servers wander among the tables bearing trays of pizza from which you may sample what you like. I wrote down a list of the varieties we encountered, but I can't clearly remember which varieties I tried, or what they were like. I do remember that I liked the light, crisp, crust.
Pesto and roasted garlic
Bacon, tomato, roasted garlic, garlic cream sauce
Sundried tomato, feta, artichoke
Tomato basil
Ground beef and green onion
Artichoke and garlic
Goat cheese, pesto, tomato
Meat lover's
Pepperoni, black olive, mushroom
Chicken
Chicken pesto pineapple
   
   

This is also a good time to mention the lovely views of the city from Potrero Hill. This is the view from the top of the block of Eric and Patricia's House:


The house itself doesn't have such good views, because other buildings get in the way. But they have mounted a mirror in one hallway so that it reflects the view from a high window. It's an excellent touch of interior design.
   
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/22 23:19:34 (permalink)
On Tuesday, I went down to Apple again. I got a t-shirt that says, "I visited the Apple campus, and that's all I'm allowed to say."

Lori and Laura got together; they went shopping and indulged in tea at the Crown and Crumpet Tea Room. I hope that Lori can chronicle her tea, because our notes say "all exemplary" with out much detail.

We joined Laura and Jeff again for dinner. Laura suggested Picante, a Mexican restaurant with a focus on fresh, local food.


I had the chorizo y papas and a manchamanteles taco. I'd never heard of manchamanteles before; the menu described it as "'tablecloth stainer' chicken in a red mole". It surprised me by being fairly bland and flavorless.
 

Lori chose flavorful enchiladas with mole sauce, and had her first sample of jamaica agua fresca. ("Jamaica" in this context means hibiscus flowers.) The jamaica was essentially an iced tea made from hibiscus flowers, reasonably tasty but not a rare delight.
 


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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/25 15:57:46 (permalink)
Such a great trip!  I'm enjoying every mile and every bite!  It is bringing back memories of my honeymoon, 20+ years ago.  The northern California coast was just breathtaking - we especially loved Mendecino, where people would gather on a large field every night just to watch the sunset!  Now I wish we had gone farther north into Oregon.  My goal  is to spend a day (and a fortune) shopping at Powells.  Thanks for sharing your trip.
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/30 15:24:17 (permalink)
Our last meal in San Francisco was at Plow, a cozy restaurant just down the block from Eric and Patricia's. Our meal was extraordinary.
 

I hesitated about ordering the biscuits and gravy, thinking that perhaps I should order something more local - but I'm glad I ordered them, because they were among the best biscuits and gravy I've ever had. The biscuits were splendidly light and fluffy, and the gravy was rich and savory - and the crispy potatoes were also superb.


Lori chose the french toast with mascarpone and roasted peaches. These too were great, but I think I got the better dish; it was a bit too sweet a combination for me.


The drive across the peninsula was foggy enough to mist the scenery without interfering with driving.
 

From Half Moon Bay down to Pescadero, we were able to see beach and ocean from the road.
  

In Pescadero, we stopped at Duarte's Tavern, a hundred-year old family restaurant and bar.
 

We were still mostly full from Plow, so I just ordered a bowl of the oyster stew, because I hadn't made an opportunity for oyster stew in the Northwest. This included artichokes, carrots, celery, cream, and sherry, so it was like a rich chowder with large, whole oysters. The oysters were very oystery, strong enough to take the edge off my enjoyment.


Lori ordered the cream of artichoke soup, which was splendid; she said "it tastes like artichokes and sunshine." But the photo demonstrates that this is just not a very photogenic dish - it's better in the eating than the looking.


Our waiter was a hoot, and definitely a booster for the place. Our notes record that when he brought a basket of bread, he said "Here's another willpower tester." His recommendation for dessert was the lemon meringue pie; he said that every time they serve a drink at the bar with a twist of lemon, they save the lemon scraps and use them to intensify the flavor of the pie. But when he learned that we had never had olallieberry pie, he agreed that that was the dessert we had to have. As he served us the pie, he said, "this changes everything."
For us, though, it did not actually change everything. The filling was good, and I'm glad to have tried olallieberries, but the crust was not a wonderful pie crust.


From there, we drove on down to Monterey.
  

We'd made haste to Monterey to try to arrive in time to see them feed the otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It turned out that our hurry was irrelevant, because they had different otters in the tank than usual. An injured otter kit had been found and brought to the Aquarium, and it had been decided that he wouldn't be able to return to the wild. So currently the tank held the nameless otter kit and the otter Joy who was foster-mothering the kit, and the other four otters were off out of public view. The feeding schedule was thrown off to better serve the kit's needs, but we subscribed to a free service to get text messages notifying us of feedings and other aquarium events, so we did get to see the otters being fed. (I highly recommend this service to other visitors.) We took eighty-four pictures of otters playing and eating, but most of them came out badly through a combination of water on the glass or otters moving as we took the picture. But hey, I don't have to show y'all the bad ones.
  
  
  

The volunteer describing the otters mentioned how important it was to maintain their skills of extracting food from rocky crevices. This made me wonder: how do the treats get into the crevices in the tank? I found out: every morning, the otters are taken out briefly while divers go in to clean the tank and plant treats in the crannies.

The seahorse feeding was not nearly as cute, but still nifty. 
 
 

I'm particularly fascinated by sea dragons, which look so much like drift seaweed.


The view of Monterey Bay from the Aquarium


One of Lori's great dreams for this trip was to spend the night in a hotel room with a view of the Pacific Ocean. In the interests of cost management, I persuaded her to do this in a place where we were spending only one night. So in Monterey, we stayed at the Martine Inn bed and breakfast. (And she didn't quibble about the fact that our view was of the bay, not the ocean.)
 

The evening appetizers included brie in pastry and other sumptuous treats, and a splendid view of the bay.
  

The view from our window:


We walked down a couple blocks to Archie's American Diner, where we'd had a lovely meal on a previous trip. 
 

We quite enjoyed the batter-fried artichokes.


I enjoyed my California Salad (greens, turkey, avocado, blueberries, and feta).


Lori was not so charmed by her turkey rollups (salad rolled in turkey slices).


More photos of the walk back to the Martine Inn, because I don't get many Pacific sunsets:
  

post edited by Ralph Melton - 2011/09/30 15:29:42
#70
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/30 15:31:58 (permalink)
Hey, I'm a Double Cheeseburger now! And it only took two years... I have no idea how some of y'all manage to accumulate several thousand posts.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/09/30 15:50:25 (permalink)
Ralph & Lori
Isn't Monterey amazing? I haven't been back since 1993 but it's engrained in my memory.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/01 08:48:58 (permalink)
The Monterey area is breathtaking...as is that sunday!!!!!
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/01 17:40:40 (permalink)
Monterey is so beautiful. We went to San Simeon....were you able to see the Hearst Castle?
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/02 00:15:01 (permalink)
josefinajoisey

Monterey is so beautiful. We went to San Simeon....were you able to see the Hearst Castle?

 
That's coming up in the next post.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/04 15:46:22 (permalink)
I live in the wrong part of the world for scenery!!!!
I WANNA MOVE!
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/06 17:44:11 (permalink)
We left the the shades open because we wanted to be open to seeing early morning on the water. I slept through the sunrise, but Lori took pictures.
  

  

Breakfast started with tasty fresh-baked blueberry muffins.
That was followed by some marvelous poached pears in a rosé wine glaze. These were so beautiful, so tender, and so flavorful–we were really wowed.


My next course was introduced as a "vegetable egg roll", and I thought that it would be an egg roll as one might find in a Chinese restaurant. I was wrong: this was a filling of sautéed vegetables wrapped in a delicate thin omelet. It too was beautiful and tasty.
 

Lori was suspicious of the mushrooms in the egg roll, though, so she chose the house made granola with fresh strawberries.


We toured the grounds of the Martine Inn before leaving.
  

The proprietor has a collection of classic MG racing cars.
 


We returned to Castroville to seek out smoked artichokes. I had misread or misremembered Mayor Al's advice; when I reread it just now, I see that he was recommending the smoked artichokes from Central Texan BBQ in Castroville, but I had somehow completely overlooked the mention of that specific restaurant and formed the expectation that smoked artichokes could be found widely throughout Castroville. But we hadn't seen anyone selling smoked artichokes on our way through on Wednesday. And I found no smoked artichoke sellers through Google searching. (I don't know why I didn't reread Mayor Al's advice. Perhaps I assumed that I remembered it entirely.) So we decided that if anyone knew about smoked artichokes in Castroville, it would be the people at the Giant Artichoke store and restaurant.


Lori was surprised to see what an artichoke plant looked like:


The Giant Artichoke staff knew nothing about smoked artichokes. But we knew no further leads, so we sampled their artichoke treats. Clockwise from the upper left: a half grilled artichoke, a slice of artichoke bread, and deep-fried artichokes.
The artichoke bread was like pumpkin or banana bread, but less sweet.
The fried artichoke hearts were light and delicious, definitely as good as the fried artichokes of the previous night, but in a different way.
The grilled artichoke, though, was kind of a mess. It had a lot of balsamic vinaigrette, as well as the tomatoes and dip in the center. And the vinaigrette didn't really soak into the scales. So every bite involved dribbling sauce and vinaigrette all over our hands and the table. Honestly, I've had better grilled artichoke experiences in Pittsburgh.




We drove down to San Simeon along the coast of Big Sur. The scenery was amazing and dramatic, with mile after mile of steep hills and rocky coasts. (Again, I invite you to poke around in my flickr stream.) 
  
  
  
 


But, well, there's a "but": when the stunning scenery is a hundred feet straight ahead and a hundred feet down, it really focuses one's attention on the road, not the scenery. This is especially true for the driver, but also true for the passenger. I'm very glad that Lori took a big share of the driving, because it was stressful and challenging. In places, the road narrowed to a single lane, with stoplights controlling whether it was for use by northbound or southbound vehicles at any given time.

This is the sort of view that makes the road grab one's attention:
 


I also found myself thinking about the challenges of laying out and surveying a road like this. With a vista like this, it's really not obvious to me where the road should fit into the landscape - and this is a vista that already has a road running through this. Contrast a road like Insterstate 80 through the Great Salt Lake Desert, where road-planning could be as simple as "pick your favorite meridian", and you could start at 11:50 and finish by lunchtime.
 

We were worrying a bit about time and getting jaded by all the vistas of similar splendid scenery, so we missed one photo opportunity: near San Simeon, I saw a beach covered with hundreds of elephant seals. (Lori was driving and didn't see them at all.) We thought that we would see more on our travels, but we never did.


We were right to worry about time, though: we arrived at Hearst Castle just in time for the last tour of the day. It was fabulously ornate, but also very pricey for admission. I'm not sure I believe that we got good value, but I'm glad that we visited it once.
  
  

The flowers and fruiting trees around the estate were delightful. 
  
  
 
 

The estate is at the top of a high, bare hill, so the views were spectacular.
 

These detail came from the doors of some of the guest cottages. Without sarcasm, the cottages actually were less ostentatious than the main house.
 

I think that this was the single view that reminded me most of Citizen Kane. This was the Neptune Pool, which was preferred by most of the guests.


Lori's preferred pool, though, was the indoor Roman pool. It was so unpopular that Hearst had the servants swim there so it would be used.



For dinner, we went to the Hitching Post in Casmalia, because I really wanted to sample Santa Maria barbecue.


Dinner began with a dish of chilled vegetables.


For the second course, I chose the shrimp cocktail and Lori chose the fruit cocktail. The shrimp cocktail was good, but Lori said the fruit cocktail was just something from a can.
 

Santa Maria Barbecue is beef, cooked over a fire of red oak. We were seated right next to the grill, so we had a great view of the grillmaster at work. The chain visible at the very left of this picture was connected to a wheel that allowed the cook to raise or lower the grate.


Next course: salad. You get many courses with your steak here.
 

The steak itself was wonderful, with a dark crust from the spice rub and a tender, juicy inside. It's two and a half months later, and I'm still salivating at the memory. This was one of the best steaks I can remember. (The traditional cut for Santa Maria BBQ is tri-tip, but the Hitching Post only sells tri-tip in stores. This was top sirloin.)


Lori loved her double fudge chocolate ice cream for dessert. I only liked my vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. 


I am too bigoted in my barbecue opinions to accept Santa Maria barbecue as barbecue without a qualifier; to me, it is no more barbecue than a shrimp cocktail is a cocktail. But it was one of the best steak dinners I've had, and I'd be happy to return.

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post edited by Ralph Melton - 2011/10/06 23:13:44
#77
wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/06 18:00:39 (permalink)
Ralph 
 
I wonder if Santa Maria BBQ is any more "real  BBQ" than Cincinnati Chili is "real chili"
(waiting for MH to chime in) 
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mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/06 22:07:26 (permalink)
Barbecue is a process, not a result.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/06 23:16:54 (permalink)
wanderingjew

I wonder if Santa Maria BBQ is any more "real  BBQ" than Cincinnati Chili is "real chili"
(waiting for MH to chime in) 

 
I don't feel well qualified to answer that. Santa Maria BBQ is probably more "real BBQ" than American chop suey is "real chop suey".
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mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/06 23:57:07 (permalink)
Chop suey, like General Tsao's chicken, is entirely an American invention.
post edited by mr chips - 2011/10/18 01:14:22
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/07 09:24:53 (permalink)
Ralph
 
Were you and Lori on the road for four weeks or Six weeks ?
 
 
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/07 14:39:07 (permalink)
mar52

Barbecue is a process, not a result.

 
I can interpret this in multiple ways, so I'm not quite sure what you mean. 
 
I feel in my gut that barbecue must involve cooking over low heat with smoke, and Santa Maria BBQ doesn't fit that criterion.
But I know that I'm being unreasonable about declaring it 'not BBQ', so I don't want to argue too much when I know I'm wrong.

mr chips
Chop suey, like General Tsao's chicken, is entrely anAmerican invention.

 
I have heard that, but I'm not sure it's true. Wikipedia says this:

Chop suey is widely believed to have been invented in America by Chinese immigrants, but in fact comes from Taishan (Toisan), a district of Guangdong Province (Canton), which was the home of many of the early Chinese immigrants to the US. The Hong Kong doctor Li Shu-fan reported that he knew it in Taishan in the 1890s.[1]
 
 
But whether chop suey is American or not, the macaroni-and-beef dish known as "American chop suey" is a very different dish, and once again the qualifier turns the meaning into something very different.

wanderingjew
Were you and Lori on the road for four weeks or Six weeks ?

 
Three weeks. It just seems like more because I'm taking so long to post about it all.
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mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/07 14:59:47 (permalink)
Barbecuing has become known as low and slow... and the result is now called barbecue.
 
Grilling used to be barbecuing but that name was given to smoking which used to be just that.
 
So, I think  (with some back up from the industry I used to be in) that barbecue is the process of cooking meats with fire under them.
 
Are you really barbecuing when meat is hanging in a big locker with a small fire over in the corner?
 
That's it from me on this topic.  I'm retired.   
 
 
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/07 16:48:54 (permalink)
I agree with Lori -- the indoor pool with the lapis lazuli tiles and alabaster lanterns is AMAZING. That outdoor pool -- peh. Lots of people have pools like that. But the indoor pool is really something.
 
I also must mention that my favorite among your food photos are the dessert ones where you can see Lori eagerly clutching a spoon in the background. :)
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/07 16:55:10 (permalink)
mar52
Barbecuing has become known as low and slow... and the result is now called barbecue.
Grilling used to be barbecuing but that name was given to smoking which used to be just that.
So, I think  (with some back up from the industry I used to be in) that barbecue is the process of cooking meats with fire under them.
Are you really barbecuing when meat is hanging in a big locker with a small fire over in the corner?
That's it from me on this topic.  I'm retired.   

From the "Foodbme School of Culinary Delights":
Barbequing = Cooking over indirect heat at low temperatures.
May or may not include Smoking which is the application of smoke caused by burning wood using direct heat on the wood.
Grilling = Cooking over direct medium to high heat.
 
#86
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/17 08:32:52 (permalink)
Friday morning, we went off to Solvang, a tourist town founded by Danish immigrants.
  

This sight made me wonder: is there a Danish windmill tradition, or is the manufacturer confusing Danish and Dutch the way I am prone to do?


For breakfast, we went to Paula's Pancake House. (Our notes say Polly's Pancake Parlor, but since that's in New Hampshire, I think my notes are wrong.)


Lori ordered the specialty of the house, a Danish pancake. The marvelous thing about this was its size; it was so broad and thin that it was folded over double in order to fit on a large plate. (I do wonder how it gets flipped during cooking.) The pancake itself was light and tasty, but not a wild delight.


Our camera ate the picture of my meal, an omelet with havarti and a Danish sausage called Medisterpølse. (This may be the first time I've had a legitimate reason to use the character "ø".) The omelet looked like an omelet, so the missing picture doesn't lose that much information. The sausage was a pale inch-wide sausage, with only a little seasoning.
I also ordered a side of the "Santa Maria Style Chili Beans", because I'd read of them as a standard dish in Santa Maria Barbecue, but hadn't managed to try them on the previous night. I was disappointed; they looked and tasted exactly like the canned chili beans I can buy in my local supermarket.


Lori loved shopping in the cute little shops of Solvang, and she was chagrined when I had to take her back to the car. But I wanted to get through Los Angeles before evening rush hour, because I was worried about Carmageddon. Our friend Suz had alerted us to the threat of Carmageddon: on the weekend we had planned to spend touring LA, a major section of Interstate 405 was going to be closed for construction, and there were dire predictions that it would bring traffic to a standstill throughout the area. I had done some web-surfing to try to understand the hazard this posed, and I'd read a Q&A from the Los Angeles Times that included this unequivocal line: "Q: Am I screwed? A: Yes." So we decided that our love for LA was not so great as to subject ourselves to this, and we decided to rearrange our schedule to go to San Diego for the weekend.

Even before the portended traffic catastrophe, driving through LA was grueling. It took us almost five hours to get from Solvang through greater Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano. 
  

We only had time for a brief visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano, one of the first missions founded by Junipero Serra. (We were too late for the last guided tour, but we were able to walk around on our own and at least glimpse most of the mission.)
This particular view is of the grand cathedral, which was finished in the late 1790s, then destroyed by an earthquake in the first decade of the 1800s and never rebuilt.


 
 
  



After some shopping, we found a restaurant in San Juan Capistrano for dinner: El Maguey.
 

Lori had her first horchata, and decided that she rather likes horchata:


The guacamole we got as an appetizer was very good, with a very rich, creamy flavor.


Lori quite liked her chicken enchiladas with ranchero sauce. She chose them by asking "what's the least spicy item on your menu?" and found that that question did a better job of accommodating her very low spice tolerance than asking "is this dish spicy?"


I ordered the birria, because I had never heard of it before. This was a dish of beef braised with seasonings I couldn't identify. It was super tender and wonderfully savory; I loved it. The house made tortillas were very good too.


For dessert, Lori got flan, because she gets flan most times that the opportunity presents itself. This gave her no reason to change her habit.


I got the churros, because ordering things I'd never eaten before had been a winning strategy so far. They were very fried, crispy, and cinnamon, which I suppose is what you want from a churro. I enjoyed them a lot, but I felt that I didn't need to finish them.


We stopped at a scenic outlook near Camp Pendleton for some more photos of sunset over the Pacific.
 


#87
smokestack lightning
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/18 00:40:04 (permalink)
Great report. Glad you made it to Picante in Berkeley. Its a regular place for me in the East Bay. Not the best around but good ingredients and always consistent. Goat Hill Pizza is fun but not very good. SF is not really a pizza or hot dog or burger place. Much more interesting Asian or Mexican choices. If you crave pizza here Tonys in North Beach is probably the best.
#88
mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/18 01:19:50 (permalink)
I loved my visit to San  Juan Capistrano, finding the swallows enchanting. Loved Solvaang as well. Enjoying your adventures.
#89
leethebard
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/18 05:16:58 (permalink)
Enjoed your photos of San Juan Capistrano. Thannks!
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