Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip

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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/20 13:08:31 (permalink)
After a lazy morning, we went to brunch at Hob Nob Hill in San Diego. I was particularly anticipating Hob Nob Hill, because buffetbuster had repeatedly mentioned it as his favorite breakfast anywhere, and he is a man who has sampled a great many breakfasts and may be presumed to know whereof he speaks when it comes to breakfast. 
 

The interior decor of Hob Nob Hill is a genteel coffeehouse, with a touch of elegance from the chandeliers. The slogan written near the ceiling is "Pleasures in life are few, one of ours is serving you!"


Lori got the pineapple coffee cake. At this late date, all we remember was that it was good. I barely remember a nice roasted-pecan flavor from my pecan roll, but I fear I might be synthesizing that memory instead of accurately remembering it.
 

I ordered the machaca (shredded beef scrambled with eggs). It was very good and very tender.


Lori chose the bacon, avocado, spinach, and cream cheese omelet. It was a very good, with a nice medley of three different richnesses.


It was all very good, but we've had much more extraordinary breakfasts elsewhere.

From there, we went to Old Town San Diego. It turned out that it was the 242nd anniversary of the founding of San Diego, and had we known that, we might have planned differently. On the one hand, there were interesting reenactors in old colonial garb, and we might have liked to arrive earlier in order to spend more time with them. On the other hand, parking was so massively crowded that we ended up parking a dozen blocks away, even after the crowds had thinned a little, so maybe we would have gone somewhere else entirely.


Old Town had a nice combination of small museums and quaint little shops. I saw one shop that particularly fascinated me:


I really like sampling jerky and I really like sampling quirky local sodas. But the House of Jerky and Root Beer was too much for me. I consider myself fortunate when I find a store with one or two unfamiliar sodas to try, but of all of these varieties, I had only tried five or six. So I couldn't make a real dent in the variety in a single visit. I chose a cold Leninade ("A taste worth standing in line for!") I can only describe the taste as "fruity". I tend to scoff at products that can only be described so vaguely, but it was pretty tasty and I would drink it again.
 

Lori really wanted to take a ghost tour of San Diego, but we weren't sure whether the timing would work out properly to do so. So we took a quasi-substitute: we took a tour of the Whaley House, claimed to be one of the most haunted houses in the US. Now, I like ghost tours when they're history tours with a touch of the macabre, but this was very ghost-focused, and I'm very skeptical about that. I'm not certain about ghosts, but I definitely believe in fraud and foolishness. (The temptation to insert a political joke is immense.) 
With that context established: In the first room, the guide talked about seeing the chandeliers sway when there was no breeze. Now, I know that San Diego is on the Pacific Rim, and most of the Pacific Rim is an earthquake zone. And I have seen people fail to notice medium-size earthquakes because they happened to be walking around at the time. So I think that earthquakes should have been mentioned as a possible explanation for the swinging chandeliers, and failing to do so snapped my suspension of disbelief in the rest of the tour. Not all of the stories that were told can be explained by earthquakes–but all of them were retold by someone who can't think of natural explanations that were obvious to me. (Our trip notes say "Parts explained by earthquakes - are you kidding me? GHOSTS!!! Lots of ghosts!" You may guess who wrote the last part, though it was written in jest.)
  
 

These spooky-looking pictures are entirely due to natural causes and inept photography on my part.
 


For dinner, we went to El Indio, a Roadfood-listed Mexican restaurant. Our notes say "Whoa, that's great neon!"



Lori ordered the chicken tamale and cheese enchilada combo, which was a bit too spicy for her.


I quite liked my fish tacos. We've read that the tortillas are house made, but we didn't see them being made while we were there.


Lori finished with very cinnamony rice pudding.


My dessert was the cherry fruit burrito, which is a lot like a fried pie with a slightly different crust. It was very tasty.
 

 
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/20 13:22:19 (permalink)
smokestack lightning

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.

 
I probably wouldn't have chosen Goat Hill Pizza myself, but I did enjoy it and I thought they had a nice crust. I'd cheerfully go back, but I wouldn't write it up as Roadfood.
 
mr chips

I loved my visit to San  Juan Capistrano, finding the swallows enchanting. Loved Solvaang as well. Enjoying your adventures.

 
I don't recall noticing any swallows in Capistrano. Wikipedia says that due to urban sprawl, the swallows are now going elsewhere.

leethebard
Enjoed your photos of San Juan Capistrano. Thannks!

 
You're quite welcome. Note that there are more in the flickr stream.
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BackRhodes
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/20 17:41:23 (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.       


As a Bay Area native...barbequing was what we now call grilling...a metal contraption filled with charcoal briquets, and an expanded mesh grill (which BTW is what 120* crosshatching "marks" are imitating). The coarcoal tray was lined with pea gravel. My father was from Texas but never cooked in what is now accepted as "traditional" bbq (low and slow)...
 
But we also have to remember what America was cooking in the back yards in the post WW2 era: burgers and dogs...not Boston Butts, Brisket, or Ribs (all of which are cooked WAY differently than tossing something on a grill for 15 minutes)
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/20 17:46:38 (permalink)
Chop Suey was invented in Chinatown, San Francisco, according to my tv...which wouldn't lie to me...
 
Source: KPIX-TV-5  "Eye On The Bay"  program  (www.cbs5.com  or www.cbsSF.com
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mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/21 01:44:22 (permalink)
Hob Nob Hill and El Indio are great roadfood stops. The service at Hob Nob hill was the best i've ever had and El Indio was my introduction to fish tacos.  
post edited by mr chips - 2011/10/24 02:34:02
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/22 22:11:42 (permalink)
We set off very late on Sunday with plans for brunch at Cottage in La Jolla, which had been recommended by multiple sources. Unfortunately, Cottage had a one-hour wait, and that left me unsure whether we would be able to do the other things I wanted to do that day. So we walked down the street to Prep Kitchen.


I chose the fish tacos with a roasted corn salsa. The fish in these was grilled, unlike the fried fish in the fish tacos from El Indio. I loved the grilled corn salsa, but the fish was grilled a bit past tender.


Lori chose a more traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs. The bacon and the potatoes were really good.


We shared a delicate, light lemon layer cake.



The reason that I was unwilling to wait for Cottage: I wanted to visit Julian Pie Company, an drive of an hour and a half inland from La Jolla. Lori was dubious about adding three hours of driving just to visit a rural pie shop when there were so many things we could do in San Diego. I had my own doubts, but it had been recommended by several people, and I sort of liked the idea of going to some difficulties to visit a Roadfood destination. I'm glad we visited, because it was a lovely drive through rocky scrubland and a wonderful stop. (And we arrived shortly before closing, so we were right to postpone our trip to Cottage.)
 
 

I ordered the apple pie with cinnamon sauce. As you may have noticed from my reports, I am not sensitive to subtle gradations of culinary quality in many foods. I rarely distinguish a mediocre hot dog from a good hot dog, and I have trouble discerning judging between ice creams unless they are utterly superlative. But I do notice a wide variety in pie crusts in my eating, from wretched pasty mistakes to superb gems, and this was an outstanding pie crust, one of the best I've had. It was tender enough to yield easily to the touch of a plastic fork, it was nicely flaky, and it had an outstanding flavor. The cinnamon sauce was very tasty, but I think that if I were to go back, I would ask for it on the side, so that it didn't soak the crust while I ate.


Lori ordered the dutch apple pie with cinnamon ice cream, which was also excellent. Sadly, our camera failed to record the close-up picture.


We also ordered a bottle of local apple cider. This was superb apple cider, very intense and flavorful. I was particularly impressed by the ingredient list on the apple cider: "Apples". How many foods are there for which the ingredient list is shorter than the product name?
The plastic-wrapped bar shown in this picture is the Julian Pie Company's "wonderbar", a chocolate-and-peanut-butter confection. I found it much too sweet for my taste, but almost all such things are too sweet for me.



We returned to San Diego to check off one last thing on our Pacific Ocean list: we wanted to visit a nice beach. We got to Ocean Beach a bit before sunset.

As we were stepping onto the sand, Lori was accosted by a man in full Elvis regalia–pompadour, sequined jumpsuit, the whole nine yards. We assumed at first that he was some sort of busker seeking tips, but he told us that he was part of a cover band playing nearby on Wednesday evenings. He emphasized that they performed Elvis's earlier, less well-known songs, and he sang "Pocket Full of Rainbows" to us (while we tried to politely disengage). The niggling consistency-checking part of my brain asks why, if he was so focused on performing early-Elvis songs, was he wearing a late-Elvis costume? I didn't ask, though, because I wanted less conversation with him, rather than more. Lori finally disengaged with an assurance that we would attend on Wednesday if we could, knowing full well that we planned to leave San Diego Monday morning.

I took pictures while Lori waded:
  
  

Again I'll link to the panoramic photo instead of including it:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/48435163@N04/6178996714/sizes/o/in/set-72157627619379275/

Once the sun had set, we went to the nearby burger joint Hodad's:


There was a very long line to get into Hodad's. We considered going elsewhere, because Chris Ayers had said "the burger's not the best you've ever had", but it was late enough that other places were closed, and we overheard someone in line emphatically assuring her companion that it was worth the wait.

When we got in, we were taken aback: the floor was filthy with crumpled napkins and trampled french fries. (Lori describes it as "like a Pittsburgh bar at the end of St. Patrick's Day.")
And the tribal house music that was playing was so loud that it was hard to have a conversation. We were waved to a table that had not been cleared. Service was extremely slow; it took several minutes for the table to be cleared, and much longer for us to get menus and order. So we had lots of time to look at the decor and decipher the license plates:
  

The onion rings were super crunchy, so much so that they scraped the roof of my mouth as I ate.


I'm very harsh on Hodad's, but I will give them this: this is one of the most photogenic milkshakes I've encountered.
Flavorwise, it was nothing special, but milkshakes tend to make for boring photos and this one stands out.


We both chose the single cheeseburger. It comes in even more unwieldy configurations, but this was messy enough as it is. This is the essence of my scorn for this burger: I could not taste the meat at all. All I experienced was crunch from the onions (and perhaps also from the patty, which was done far past the medium I ordered).


I would not go back to Hodad's. I do not suspect Chris Ayers or the Sterns of deliberately playing a cruel practical joke on us, but it was an awful experience. This is not the first time I've had a bad meal in a Roadfood-listed place. But I've been far more forgiving of other bad meals, and I'm looking for the reason why. I think it comes down to two points:
- The trifecta of filthy conditions, loud music, and glacial service made a strong impression that Hodad's didn't care about creating a marginally pleasant experience.
- The food that was so bad was very familiar food. I think that I was more forgiving of the horrible lobster roll at Red's Eats, for example, because it was my first lobster roll. But for a burger, I could go to at least three different restaurants in Pittsburgh and get a vastly burger that's enormously superior to Hodad's, and that makes me even more passionate in my rejection of this junk.

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mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/22 22:44:31 (permalink)
I agree with you 100% on Hodad's.  Awful, greasy burger, horrible service .  They cleared away my shake which I was saving for dessert while I either turned the other way or... I forget! 
 
Another story about the Cottage which took place many years ago.  I went with a friend for our birthdays.  Another friend took the two of us.  Yes, we share the same birthday.
 
When our friend told the waitress that it was the other friend's birthday... the waitress asked for her license!  They were known for giving some sort of dessert (I again forget) for birthday celebrations.  The waitress checked the license, sort of snorted, turned and left without asking any of us if we wanted dessert.
 
It was done so rudely that we took pleasure in waiting for her to return with the one dessert to tell her that it was also my birthday.
 
Yep, she asked to see my license.
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Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/23 12:54:28 (permalink)
So was Hodad's good once upon a time, or is it Roadfood-listed because of  its special decor even though it's dismal?
 
I'm glad that we got better service at the Cottage.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/23 12:56:46 (permalink)
First of all, Great report I hope you both had  a great time in the Pacific Northwest and West coast. It looks like Hodads is the perfect success story gone bad. If your going to stay at the top of the mountain in this business, you need to work harder to keep it. The quality of that got them there S/B at the top of the priority list of what will keep them at the top....................pnwc
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/23 14:06:40 (permalink)
Ralph Melton

So was Hodad's good once upon a time, or is it Roadfood-listed because of  its special decor even though it's dismal?

I'm glad that we got better service at the Cottage.
 
I was wondering that, too.  I think wanderingjew was there last year and didn't like it much?
icecreamchick
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/23 16:26:04 (permalink)
On Hodad's, well, I will give them this - we went after dark on what had to be a typically busy day of summer. I know they're crowded, they're popular, etc. I did think the decor was what elevated the place a notch - it was fun to look at all the license plates and marvel at what they had.
 
But it's true that I thought the place looked like my favorite Irish bar (Mullaney's Harp and Fiddle) at the end of St. Patrick's day. And calling the service glacial isn't the hyperbole you might think. 
 
I loved Ocean Beach though! Wandering the coast at sunset is just magical to me. I really enjoyed spending time there.
 
The Elvis impersonator...all I can say is I wish we'd gotten his picture. I didn't want to take one, because I didn't want to tip this guy who pretty much accosted us and wouldn't let us go until we heard him sing.  Another great road trip story is born!  
 
I also want to nominate Solvang, CA, as the next roadfood tour. Y'all can go eat, I'll just spend my time shopping in every cute little store they have...and they have a ton of them! :-)
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/23 17:00:59 (permalink)
Ralph and Lori
 
I don't give advice about stocks or guns, and if I ever did, and no one listened I wouldn't be offended, however I wish more often than not, others would take my Roadfood advice.
 
Miami Don is in a time warp- Believe it or not it's been 2 1/2 years since I was at Hodads !- correct- the burgers  were nothing special and those were my comments exactly- I ordered a double- and the beef was completely "tasteless"- you should have gone across the street to the OB Smoothie and Sub Shop for one of the best Smoothies you will ever have.  
 
 
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/23 23:32:58 (permalink)
wanderingjew

Ralph and Lori

I don't give advice about stocks or guns, and if I ever did, and no one listened I wouldn't be offended, however I wish more often than not, others would take my Roadfood advice.

Miami Don is in a time warp- Believe it or not it's been 2 1/2 years since I was at Hodads !- correct- the burgers  were nothing special and those were my comments exactly- I ordered a double- and the beef was completely "tasteless"- you should have gone across the street to the OB Smoothie and Sub Shop for one of the best Smoothies you will ever have.  
 
 
We chose our dining location based on proximity to the beach, so we were very likely to end up at Hodad's because of its prominence in the Sterns' books. 
 
We did notice the OB Smoothie and Sub Shop, and it tickled a neuron or two which I credit to your report. But it was closed when we were ready to eat. I did make sure to get a smoothie at the Cottage because of your endorsement of southern California smoothies.
 
I freely admit that I hadn't reviewed your report in over a month when we went to Hodad's. But as I reread it now, I think that it would not have changed my decision. You described the chocolate malt as "decadence beyond decadence", and said that you couldn't taste the meat in the burger. I think that's on balance more positive than Chris's recommendation, which said "not the best burger you've ever had". But neither of you mentioned "horrible service", "loud", or "filthy", which were the key points that made me wish I'd stayed away.
mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/24 02:39:05 (permalink)
I enjoyed Hodad's when i ate there but it was  years ago.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/24 07:29:24 (permalink)
Ralph
I still give plenty of accolades to the malted I have- and I would return to Hodads
just for that and nothing else.  Overall if I ever return to Southern California , I think I'm completely done with the burger scene since everyplace I went was  ordinary to downright disgusting.
 
I regret not ordering a smoothie at The Cottage, I saw one being delivered to the next table when I was last there- the presentation was actually better than any of the smoothies I had on that trip but I wondered if it tasted as good as it looked.
 
 
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/26 12:07:16 (permalink)
We had planned that Monday would be our day of LA tourism, and we'd then have two and a half days at Disneyland. But Lori proposed a wise modification: she suggested that Monday should be our half day, before our two full days. This was a very wise change, because it meant that we got to see nighttime shows three times, and it meant that I wouldn't have to try to extract Lori before the attractions were closed.

For our final meal in San Diego, we returned to the Cottage. (As we'd hoped, the wait was much shorter on Monday morning than on Sunday afternoon.)


Our beverages were themselves noteworthy. Lori got orange juice; I got a smoothie because I remembered wanderingjew's recommendations of California smoothies. Both drinks were great; the orange juice had the bright, clear flavor of really good fresh-squeezed juice, and the smoothie had a really rich full flavor of berries and banana. 


I was tempted by the granola, because I remembered wanderingjew's picture (seriously, check out the link, because it's a gorgeous picture). But I was more intrigued by the description of the Baja Chicken Hash: "grilled tortillas, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, hash of apple chicken sausage, chiles, corn, peppers, onions". It was quite good, but the flavors were delicate. But I noticed one thing: this was the first apple chicken sausage I've eaten that really tasted of apple and chicken.


Lori quite liked her blueberry pancakes with apple chicken sausage.


Everything we had at the Cottage was very good, but I didn't feel that it was very different from a nice restaurant Prep Kitchen, where we'd eaten the previous day. One way to interpret this is that I eat in so many different semi-upscale restaurants with an emphasis on good food, fresh local ingredients, and creativity in the kitchen that places that might have been standouts a decade or two ago all become part of the general chorus of good eating, and don't thrill me as much individually. It would me a shame for me to get used to such blessings, but it would be very plausible for me to do so.


From there to our hotel, and from there to Disneyland. We didn't take good notes or lots of pictures from Disneyland, and Disneyland is on the whole not a hidden gem, so instead of a strict narrative, I'm going to tell assorted stories from our days there.

A story of trompe l'oeil: as we were walking toward the Hollywood area of Disney California Adventure, something was tickling my brain that there was something wrong about this scene:

I finally realized what it was: we hadn't seen clouds since leaving San Francisco. And that made me look around and realize that the clouds were just part of a backdrop. Here's a different angle. I haven't edited this picture at all, but to me this looks like a half-clever Photoshop job.


The picture doesn't convey it, but in the parade, Minnie Mouse was really dancing enthusiastically, with lots of kicks and turns. I was very impressed by her ability to pull off these moves in a giant head and shoes like boats.


On Tuesday, our friend Suz joined us at Disney. She's a local and comes to Disney often, so she was able to tell us about the hidden gems of Disney, such as the location of the secret bathroom. Our experience was definitely enhanced by her presence.

Disneyland's fireworks were the best fireworks I've ever seen. I sat on a bench for two hours on Wednesday to try to save a place to watch the fireworks, and it was worth it. (I enjoyed the Fantasmic and World of Color shows a lot as well, but the fireworks displays wowed me much more.)

I was very impressed with the effort to which the lines for rides were themselves made interesting. According to reports, it was a rather crowded day, but it didn't feel horribly crowded and the lines didn't feel miserable. And I noticed that rides like Ariel's Undersea Adventure and the Haunted Mansion had their cars packed as tightly as possible and had moving walkways to board them so that they never stopped in normal operation. I'm sure that a whole lot of labor and craft went into making the lines as fast as pleasant as possible, but that labor only gets really noticed when it fails.

I also noticed that Disney has put a lot of effort into being accessible and welcoming to people with various disabilities. I'm sure that I'm too oblivious to those issues to make a good judgement of whether they succeed at being disabled-friendly, but I did get to ride the Indiana Jones ride with a kid who normally rides a wheelchair.

I was also very impressed with how polite and helpful all the staff was. Everyone we met was willing to talk with us well beyond their role. For example, a food vendor gave us great advice on where to see the fireworks, and a guy taking a survey about our Star Tours experience cheerfully chatted with me about the tablet computer he was using. The photographer hanging out in the central courtyard offered us the chance to purchase the picture he took, but he also took a picture of us with our own camera; I interpret that as an attitude that says that it's more important to be pleasant than to be mercenary in the short term, and I really like that.

On Wednesday, we happened to go by the Jedi Academy show while it was in progress. We hadn't planned to try to watch it for a few moments, but we found it so engaging that we watched it until the end. Kids from the audience were chosen to be padawans and taught a little light-saber routine. Then suddenly a part of the stage rose up, revealing Darth Vader and Darth Maul. (Oh no!) One by one, the padawans engaged one of the Sith in a duel in which their just-taught routine turned out to be ideal strategy, until finally the Sith were driven off by the last of the padawans. I noticed a bit more, though: I noticed that some of the padawans were young enough and uncoordinated enough that Darth Vader had to work to be threatened enough to parry the padawan's light saber. Darth Vader's approach to light saber combat reminded me of a story my father tells about playing softball with me and my friends, and his efforts to "pitch the ball to where a clumsy eight-year-old would swing the bat." It's not often that Darth Vader gets mentioned in the same paragraph as good fathering, but there you go. 

There's no reason to go into much detail about the food, but I was pleasantly surprised. Everything we ate was pretty tasty, and I saw a lot of healthier options like fresh fruit and vegetable sticks available. There certainly was a price premium, but was not nearly as bad as I'd feared.

I entered Disneyland with an anti-Disney bias. I watched Warner Brothers cartoons as a kid, not Disney, so I never really bonded with the characters, and I tend to associate the word "Disney" with "bland" and "saccharine". But I concluded that Disneyland really is an excellent park, and there are very good reasons to like it a lot.
   
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/26 16:39:44 (permalink)
I remember that granola picture too!  It was insane.  I was like 'I never knew it could be like that.'
 
Just quietly reading and looking at your pictures and taking it all in.  Masterful trip report, Ralph. :)  Also, we had apple chicken sausage in SF too--is that a California thing?
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/26 17:40:09 (permalink)
Nancypalooza
Just quietly reading and looking at your pictures and taking it all in.  Masterful trip report, Ralph. :)  Also, we had apple chicken sausage in SF too--is that a California thing? 

 
My short answer is "I don't know", but I suspect you may be right.
 
I'd first encountered chicken apple sausage in our local Whole Foods, under the Aidells brand.  http://www.aidells.com says that Bruce Aidells started making chicken apple sausage in 1983, and Aidell's is based in San Leandro, CA. I didn't quickly find evidence of older producers of chicken apple sausage. This is far from definitive, but it gives me enough confidences for a forum post.
 
I'm not wild about Aidells' chicken apple sausage, because the flavor is fairly mild; it would be hard for me to distinguish the chicken apple sausage in a blind comparison from, say, weisswurst. But people with more refined palates may reasonably judge it differently.
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/26 20:14:29 (permalink)
Believe it or not, Johnsonville now makes some really good chicken apple sausage.I had one on the 4th of July-never knowing its origin or flavor....I do not like aidells because it is, well, very dry.
mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/26 22:24:19 (permalink)
Disneyland and Disney world are very friendly for disabled people. When i chaperoned trips for people with intellectual and physical disabilities, Disney places were  exceptionally accomodating to folks with disabiliities.
Twinwillow
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/26 23:36:18 (permalink)
Ya know, I've been almost all over the western world. And, I just have to say it. I LOVE OUR USA!
mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 01:18:56 (permalink)
Granola at the Cottage was the best i have ever had. And the Julian Pie Shop is not too far from the San Diego Wild Animal park if you are in the area.
wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 08:07:09 (permalink)
Ralph,
 
Thanks for the compliment on that Granola photo- but  you should really be thanking the granola- all I did was take a photo of it- it really was as good as it looked, although that baja chicken hash looks like it's no slouch too.
 
As far as your smoothie- I just have one comment "Now that's Roadfood!"
ScreamingChicken
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 09:48:54 (permalink)
ann peeples

Believe it or not, Johnsonville now makes some really good chicken apple sausage.I had one on the 4th of July-never knowing its origin or flavor....I do not like aidells because it is, well, very dry.


Usinger's also has a line of chicken sausages that includes one with apple.
 
And so's not to completely hijack the thread...Ralph, I think this might be your best trip report ever!  The food and scenery have been incredible...
 
Brad
mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 15:12:40 (permalink)
Usinger's has been the best I've found... so far.
 
Excellent report. 
 
We might have been at Disneyland at the same time.  The food was much better than it's ever been in the past.  I was surprised.
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 15:23:57 (permalink)
We started our last full day in California with brunch at Du-Par's, which is the sort of coffee-shop that Denny's franchises tell their kids they can be if they work hard and eat all their vegetables. Their web site says that the restaurant was renovated in 2007, but it has a very timeless feel.
 

I chose the bacon, avocado, and jack cheese omelet. This was a very good omelet, with sturdy bacon and creamy cheese. Once more I loved the avocado; all the avocados I ate in southern California were richer and creamier than any I've had elsewhere.


Lori enjoyed her buttery pancakes very much.


Although we enjoyed our meals, we both wished that we had more appetite left for our exploration of the Farmer's Market, because the Farmer's Market had lots of intriguing food stalls, from Korean barbecue to Mediterranean restaurants to donut shops to Cajun cooking to smoothie stands.


Once we'd recovered some appetite, we went off to another Roadfood classic, Phillippe the Original, one of the claimants to the origin of the French dip. The atmosphere was completely that of an urban cafe, and the lines were long even at 3pm. One unusual practice: the women taking orders and dishing up sandwiches never touch money (presumably for sanitation reasons). You put your cash in a little tray, and they hand the tray to a cashier in the back, who puts your change in the tray to return to you.
 

I'd read a lot of enthusiasm for Phillippe's lamb sandwich, but I had some suspicions and Lori had more. So we ordered one lamb sandwich and one beef. The lamb sandwich justified our suspicions, because it had a very strong mutton taste, which we don't care for. I liked it more with Phillippe's spicy mustard, because then the mutton and mustard flavors fought each other to an agreeable stalemate. I much preferred the beef sandwich, which had the beef-and-gravy taste that I've come to expect of a French dip.



Our last tourist destination was the Museum of Jurassic Technology, an odd little gallery of curiosities. Wikipedia's summary is reasonably apt:
The Museum of Jurassic Technology traces its inspiration to the earliest days of the institution of the museum, which it dates back to Noah's Ark, the first and most complete Museum of Natural History known to man. The Museum's catalog includes a mixture of artistic, scientific as well as some unclassifiable exhibits, and evokes the cabinets of curiosities that were the 18th century predecessors of modern natural history museums. The factual claims of many of the Museum's exhibits strain credibility, provoking a rich array of interpretations from commentators. The Museum was the subject of a book by Lawrence Weschler in 1995 entitled Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, And Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology, which describes in detail many of its exhibits.


My credibility was certainly strained by things like the exhibit of the deprong mori (among other things, I find it unlikely that a bat flying into a lead wall would give an impact of only 10^3 ergs, and if it did, I don't think an X-ray viewer would see a bat 7 inches deep in a wall of lead). 


But mostly I found the museum less of a strain to credulity than an incoherent mishmash. Let me explain with an analogy:

Most museum displays for the public that I encounter are more or less analogous to essays (or collections of essays) supported by artifacts, in sort of the same way that this travel report of mine is an essay supported by pictures. (There is an entirely different role that museums fulfill, but I leave that aside.) And a museum might have many of the qualities that an essay can have; it might be rambling (like my travelogues) or even boring yet creepy (like the Tower Museum in Colorado). And there are things that look like a travelogue but aren't:
I could use the travelogue form to do a hoax, such as an attempt to prove that I had been to a restaurant I'd never visited. (Perhaps Osteria l'Intrepido, which has received an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator despite not actually existing.)
I could use the travelogue form to do a satire, such as Gulliver's Travels.
I could do a joke travelogue, such as a thoughtful, elaborate review of a trip to McDonalds.
… and so forth.
And there would be museum analogies of each of these.

So, with this museum-essay analogy established, I can return to a description of the Museum of Jurassic Technology: it was like a collection of pages from books of fact and fiction, all thrown together into a new binding. But this sort of literary tossed salad is not a coherent essay, and it's not a good joke or good fiction; it's just boring.

One surprise: despite all I'd read about the MJT as a quirky, off-the-beaten-path place, it had many visitors. We were rarely alone in a room.


After the MJT, we went to visit our friends Lyndon and Diane. After an hour of pleasant chitchat and an opportunity to meet their bearded dragons, we went to dinner with them at a restaurant called Casablanca. I think that it was reasonable of me to assume that a restaurant named Casablanca would have a Mediterranean/North African focus; however reasonable it was, though, it was wrong. The Casablanca that the restaurant's name refers to was not the city but the classic film; for example, the restrooms were gender-identified with pictures of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.


So what does a Casablanca-themed restaurant serve? Well, in LA, it apparently serves Mexican and seafood without feeling a need to identify itself as such with its name.

The fresh-made tortillas were really delicious. I can no longer recall exactly how they were different from the other tortillas I had, but I felt that they were clearly the best tortillas we'd had on the whole trip. We were seated right next to the comal (I'm not sure that's the right word); I would have had to lean to touch it, but I would not have had to leave my chair.


Unfortunately, I no longer remember what we ordered or who had what, though all the food was very good. As I review the menu, I think it likely that I would have ordered the Sam Burrito, on the theory that I'd favor something that the restaurant thought distinctive enough to name within the Casablanca theme, or perhaps the Sam and Chicken combo with the same logic. But I think I see both of those among our pictures. (The pictures are dark because the restaurant was dark. I feel our new camera does a good job with low-light pictures, but I don't yet have the photo-editing chops to improve those pictures beyond what the camera gives me.)
 
 


For most of the trip, we had had good luck with hotels. Few of them were special enough to warrant mentioning, but we generally got comfortable beds with nothing to complain about. That night, though, our luck ran out.
In the first hotel we selected (a Days Inn, I think), Lori spotted a cockroach in the bathroom and was unwilling to stay. She demanded a refund from the front desk and got only apathetic compliance, without any indications of surprise or regret.
So then we sat in the parking lot trying to find another hotel, only to find that at Orbitz.com, Lori's preferred travel website, would not talk to us because it claimed that July 21 was already over, so we couldn't book a hotel for July 21—even though it was only 10pm Pacific Time. It may be the case that Orbitz is based in Central Time, but even so I think this is poor behavior of Orbitz; if it's 1am and you need to find a hotel before sunrise, isn't it the right thing to say that you're checking in for the previous day?
Fortunately, kayak.com was more cooperative, and that led us to a nearby Quality Inn. We got the last nonsmoking room, just before a large group of Asian flight attendants came through the door.
This room was cockroach-free, but the air conditioning didn't work. We slept the night in a room that was hotter than the evening outside.

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mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 16:02:46 (permalink)
I'm loving your trip.
 
If you think those are lines at Phillipe's you're mistaken.  Lines are 20 people long (or more) and extend out both doors. 
 
I like my sandwiches with both mustard and cole slaw inside and I choose pork. 
 
I can't believe you went to The Museum of Jurassic Technology!  I just learned about this a few weeks ago.
 
Stranger than that is that it is catty corner to my brother's store (Armand's Discount if you saw it) and has been for years.  Why I never saw it, I don't know. 
 
I can miss it now.... thank you!
 
Casablanca is one of my favorite places in the Venice/Santa Monica corridor.  I go for the calamari dishes which are superb.  The handmade tortillas are wonderful, indeed.
 
The owners make sure to catch you if you want Mexican food by also owning the restaurant across the street...  La Cabana which is also great.
Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 16:19:33 (permalink)
We had time for one breakfast stop before we caught our plane: that classic of mimetic architecture, Randy's Donuts.


We shared a ham bun and an assortment of donuts. The ham bun was very good, with a soft, tender croissant enclosure.


I remember little about Lori's chocolate-coated donuts.


The plain glazed donut, though, was really splendid, far beyond my expectations. It was light and airy, but sturdy in a way that, say, Krispy Kreme donuts are not. After some debate, we decided that the best way to describe the texture was to say that it was the texture of a marshmallow. There's a wide range of variations in donuts that I do not notice, but this was really extraordinary.


I presume that every other tourist to Randy's takes this picture demonstrating the mimicry, but I can't always be novel:



We had one incident of note on the flight back: At our stop in Charlotte, we were told that if we were continuing on to Pittsburgh, we could leave our carryon luggage aboard the plane. So we left our things in our seats and had a nice dinner at a restaurant next to the gate. We returned from the dinner twenty minutes before takeoff, only to discover that USAirways had changed its mind–the flight to Pittsburgh was now leaving from another terminal. The airline staff had at least retrieved our things for us, but we still had to dash across the airport and get to the gate only after everyone else had boarded. There was probably some legitimate reason for the switch, but it still left me feeling mad at USAirways.
 
Whew! I've managed to finish this report just in time before we leave for the Chicago-Milwaukee Roadfood tour!
mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 16:23:37 (permalink)
BRAVO!
Glenn1234
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip 2011/10/27 17:23:42 (permalink)
 
 
WOW!!   Great report!  
We'll be out in SoCal in late Nov. - early Dec.   We planned on going to Phillipe's as one of our meals, and like you, wondered about the lamb.  We read lots of good reports about it, but we dislike the "gamier" taste of mutton.  After your report, we'll skip the lamb and stick with the beef. 
 
Great report!
 
Thanks!
 
 
Glenn and Janet
 
 
 
 
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