Duarte Disappointment - Mussels not cleaned properly...
I'm still not sure if Pescadero belongs here or on the California Board but I'll post here for now...
On our way home from the Santa Cruz area Monday afternoon I suggested that we stop in Pescadero at Duarte's for lunch as it's been quite a while since we've been there....
Maybe I ordered the wrong thing: Steamed PEI mussels. Seems like a pretty straight-forward dish and something I really like.
Meal started out well with a bread basket full of warm, very crusty sourdough.
Plate of fried smelt was forgettable; were not crispy enough and seemed to have gravel in them - large enough pieces that I thought I'd broken a tooth... a waste of calories.
My mussels looked promising when the bowl appeared; a generous serving piled high and they were very large and meaty. But things went downhill from there: the mussels hadn't been de-bearded (the byssal threads hadn't been removed...) I know my way around a mussel and I know that the beard is supposed to be removed just prior to cooking. If you've ever been served mussels with the beard, then you know why I didn't like them - the beard is like eating hair or steel wool! I ate about half the serving, pulling the beards out as I went...
DH decided he wanted to try their tripe stew - he liked it but I tasted it and found it very one-dimensional. Just strips of tripe in a very plain tomato sauce with chunks of celery. I would not recommend it and I love tripe...
I guess that Duarte's is an icon to a lot of people: Is it really best to just stick with the artichoke or green chili soup and olallie berry pie? What have you had there recently that was really great?
I almost always go for one of the fresh fish offerings listed on their whiteboard; those can be sautéed or blackened Cajun style.
I've also found their mussels unreliable. They're wonderful when prepared properly. (In the past they've sometimes had the New Zealand green-lipped ones --which were dreadfully rubbery.)
I'm not a big pie fan (with a few exceptions; their apple pie was good, iirc), but when berries are in season (summer) the berry shortcake is yummy.
I wouldn't order any seafood there that wasn't local (check the board). I've had petrale sole and sand dabs there that were delicious. And actually, sometimes I order the pork chops, which are decent. Breakfast there is pretty good, too (I've had breakfast there at 7 a.m. when all the other patrons were locals, as demonstrated by the line-up of mud-spattered pickups out front).
The tripe's really bland. I wouldn't order it again.
I liked the cream of artichoke and cream of green chile soups, cold artichoke hearts, cracked crab, and cioppino (in their version, basically cracked crab with extras).
Fried smelts and fried calamari were just okay.
The olallieberry filling is excellent. Crust is flavorless (Crisco and bleached flour).
re: Robert Lauriston
We were bummed about the smelts - we've had them there before and they've been pretty good. They had at least been fried well... this time they were greasy and flavorless plus the gravel/broken tooth sensation which happened with about half of them... I don't think we'll be stopping there again any time soon.
I was there again last Sunday and their prices sure have crept up. I forgot to ask for french fries; their mashed are always tasteless, like they put no butter or cream in them. Should have only gotten the great soup and pie.
As a local, I have some favorites and as a rule try to keep it simple. A bowl of half and half (half artichoke, half cream of chili soup and a piece of ollalieberry pie. If i want to splurge, I'll go for the artichoke ravioli or the cioppino. For comfort food, I'm all for the french dip with fries cooked extra well done. And for breakfast, the pancakes with ollalieberry syrup, or the artichoke omelette with lappi cheese are the way to go. Don't forget to take some ollalieberry jam home.