Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip

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wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Mon, 09/19/11 8:03 PM
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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...

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Mon, 09/19/11 10:24 PM
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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.

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Wed, 09/21/11 9:09 AM
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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.




mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 09/22/11 12:39 AM
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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.

CajunKing
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 09/22/11 12:42 PM
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You need a SHOVEL for that black and tan sundae!!!! 
Oh wait I have one right here!!

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 09/22/11 11:17 PM
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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.

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 09/22/11 11:18 PM
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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.
   

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 09/22/11 11:19 PM
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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.
 



josefinajoisey
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sun, 09/25/11 3:57 PM
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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.

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 09/30/11 3:24 PM
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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:
  

<message edited by Ralph Melton on Fri, 09/30/11 3:29 PM>

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 09/30/11 3:31 PM
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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.

wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 09/30/11 3:50 PM
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Ralph & Lori
Isn't Monterey amazing? I haven't been back since 1993 but it's engrained in my memory.

leethebard
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sat, 10/1/11 8:48 AM
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The Monterey area is breathtaking...as is that sunday!!!!!

josefinajoisey
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sat, 10/1/11 5:40 PM
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Monterey is so beautiful. We went to San Simeon....were you able to see the Hearst Castle?

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sun, 10/2/11 12:15 AM
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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.

CajunKing
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Tue, 10/4/11 3:46 PM
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I live in the wrong part of the world for scenery!!!!
I WANNA MOVE!

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/6/11 5:44 PM
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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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<message edited by Ralph Melton on Thu, 10/6/11 11:13 PM>

wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/6/11 6:00 PM
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Ralph 
 
I wonder if Santa Maria BBQ is any more "real  BBQ" than Cincinnati Chili is "real chili"
(waiting for MH to chime in) 

mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/6/11 10:07 PM
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Barbecue is a process, not a result.

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/6/11 11:16 PM
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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".

mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/6/11 11:57 PM
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Chop suey, like General Tsao's chicken, is entirely an American invention.
<message edited by mr chips on Tue, 10/18/11 1:14 AM>

wanderingjew
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 10/7/11 9:24 AM
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Ralph
 
Were you and Lori on the road for four weeks or Six weeks ?
 
 

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 10/7/11 2:39 PM
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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.

mar52
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 10/7/11 2:59 PM
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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.   
 
 

Suzy Gruyere
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 10/7/11 4:48 PM
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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. :)

Foodbme
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 10/7/11 4:55 PM
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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.
 

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Mon, 10/17/11 8:32 AM
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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.
 



smokestack lightning
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Tue, 10/18/11 12:40 AM
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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.

mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Tue, 10/18/11 1:19 AM
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I loved my visit to San  Juan Capistrano, finding the swallows enchanting. Loved Solvaang as well. Enjoying your adventures.

leethebard
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Tue, 10/18/11 5:16 AM
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Enjoed your photos of San Juan Capistrano. Thannks!

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/20/11 1:08 PM
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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.
 

 

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/20/11 1:22 PM
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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.

BackRhodes
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/20/11 5:41 PM
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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)

BackRhodes
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/20/11 5:46 PM
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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

mr chips
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Fri, 10/21/11 1:44 AM
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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.  
<message edited by mr chips on Mon, 10/24/11 2:34 AM>

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sat, 10/22/11 10:11 PM
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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 - Sat, 10/22/11 10:44 PM
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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.

Ralph Melton
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sun, 10/23/11 12:54 PM
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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.

pnwchef
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sun, 10/23/11 12:56 PM
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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

MiamiDon
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Sun, 10/23/11 2:06 PM
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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 - Sun, 10/23/11 4:26 PM
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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 - Sun, 10/23/11 5:00 PM
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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 - Sun, 10/23/11 11:32 PM
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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 - Mon, 10/24/11 2:39 AM
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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 - Mon, 10/24/11 7:29 AM
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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 - Wed, 10/26/11 12:07 PM
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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.
   

Nancypalooza
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Wed, 10/26/11 4:39 PM
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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 - Wed, 10/26/11 5:40 PM
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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.

ann peeples
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Wed, 10/26/11 8:14 PM
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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 - Wed, 10/26/11 10:24 PM
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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 - Wed, 10/26/11 11:36 PM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 1:18 AM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 8:07 AM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 9:48 AM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 3:12 PM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 3:23 PM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 4:02 PM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 4:19 PM
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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 - Thu, 10/27/11 4:23 PM
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BRAVO!

Glenn1234
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Re:Ralph and Lori's West Coast Roadtrip - Thu, 10/27/11 5:23 PM
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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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