Coastal California: Trip Report
Just got back from a fabulous long weekend traveling along the Central Coast. I wanted to share our itinerary since everyone was so helpful with their recommendations.
Day 1: Flew into SFO late afternoon. Took a cab from SFO to our hotel (Hilton San Francisco, got it for super cheap on Priceline), then we walked down to the Ferry Building and enjoyed a few (okay, six) dozen oysters & champagne on the patio Hog Island Oyster Co. They have great happy hour specials on Thursday! After happy hour, we had dinner at Range in the Mission District – loved, loved loved this place. Cool, intimate, but with great food. The menu isn't extensive, but I had trouble narrowing down my dishes. I ended up with the ricotta/morel ravioli to start, the chicken for my main course, and a banana upside down cake for dessert. The chicken was definitely a crowd favorite, and I'm glad I chose wisely.
Day 2: Breakfast at Taylor Street Coffee Co. Food was okay, service was quick, nothing special, but nothing terrible either. After breakfast we rented our car and drove to Santa Cruz. We had lunch at the Crows Nest on the patio (great calamari!) and then headed down Hwy 1 to Carmel. Once in Carmel, we walked around town and on the beach. We stayed at the La Playa Hotel – it was just okay, tiny room. That night we had dinner at Pacific's Edge at the Hyatt Highlands Inn. Awesome view & dinner did not disappoint. I was a little concerned the meal would be all about the view, but we definitely enjoyed our dishes and wine recommendations. Really liked the Wind Gap chardonnay and the dessert that was basically a heavenly candy bar. Service was also great, but what's the deal with the bathrooms at this place? They felt like campground bathrooms – definitely need an update.
Day 3: I started out the day with a run on Scenic Drive in Carmel - so pretty - and then breakfast at Katy's Place - great choice & extensive menu. Loved my huevos rancheros, and we didn't have to wait long for a table.
We were originally driving to Cambria on this day, but we really wanted to spend some time in Big Sur, so we booked a night at Ventana Inn & Spa. I am so glad we changed our plans - what a treat! We hiked around Big Sur all day (Pfeiffer Falls/Valley View Trails & McWay Waterfall Trail), and then we ended the day with a relaxing afternoon at Ventana. That afternoon we took advantage of the Ventana wine & cheese reception followed by dinner at the Restaurant at Ventana. This was another solid meal – I loved my flank stank that was cooked perfectly med rare, and my significant other had the scallops & risotto – also perfectly executed. It was unfortunate that we couldn't enjoy the view, but this would be a great place to have dinner on the patio on a nice night. It rained during our dinner so we were inside.
Day 4: We had planned on hiking around the Ventana property this morning, but we woke up to a drizzly, foggy day. We had breakfast at Ventana (free continental breakfast), and then we decided to eat a larger Sunday brunch at Big Sur Bakery. Food was just okay. My SO ordered the burger, and it came out completely rare. They promplty returned with a med rare burger and an apology. I had a pizza that was fine, but nothing special. Where Big Sur Bakery really shines is their baked goods (probably a duh) - their brown butter bar was fabulous, as was the ginger cookie. We packed a couple cookies for the road and didn't regret our choice.
After brunch we made the crazy drive out of Big Sur down Hwy 1 using the Naciemento Fergusson Road detour. I'll be honest, this drive isn't for the faint of heart. It was foggy and a little drizzly, so the weather wasn't on our side. But it's a really cool drive/beautiful scenery if you're up for an adventure. But, by the time we got to 101, we didn't have the energy to make some of our planned stops (SLO) so we just continued on to our final stop at the San Ysidro Ranch.
Once we arrived, we walked around the property and then had dinner at The Stonehouse. It was a lovely meal on the heated patio, and the food and service were both outstanding. I love the romantic feeling of the patio - so pretty with all the lights, and it was perfectly comfortable with the heaters. I had the miso cod in dashi broth, good - a tad salty, and then I had cobbler for dessert with homemade gelato. The perfect ending to a special meal.
Day 5: Final day of our vacation. We woke up, had breakfast delivered to our patio (so nice!), and then we hit the hiking trails (we did the Girard Trail) right by the hotel. It was a challenging hike with outstanding views of Santa Barbara. After our hike we hit Hwy 1 back to LA. We stopped in Malibu for lunch at Malibu Fish & Seafood, and then we made our way to the airport. I loved Malibu Fish & Seafood. It's one of those perfect, order at the counter, enjoy the picnic tables & the view kind of places. I had the halibut sandwich followed by fried oysters & fries. It was a double-fried kind of day.
Overall, an amazing trip. I know we could have fit a few more things in, but I enjoyed the scenery and all the eating/drinking along the way and was happy to keep it a bit more relaxed.
Hog Island Oyster Co
20215 Hwy 1, Marshall, CA
Big Sur Bakery
47540 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Mission 6th Ave, Carmel, CA 93923
Ventana Inn Big Sur
Highway One, Big Sur, CA 93920
107 Sacramento St, Nevada City, CA 95959
Pacific's Edge Restaurant
120 Highlands Drive, Carmel, CA 93923
i've just done a similar trip.
after a few days in san francisco we drove south stopping in santa cruz for a burrito on the run (taqueria la cabana - the carnitas was much better than the veggie artichoke version) and then onto monterey for supper at passionfish. this was a great meal and we also appreciated the wine advice which embraced our request for something local and unusual. favourite dishes were the oysters with carrot & ginger granita, the squid with coriander sauce and the alaskan halibut with spring vegetables and a tamarind sauce.
the next day was spent exploring carmel and we ate at cantinetta luca - a lively italian with decent food but nothing amazing. i was disapointed there were no local wines on the list.
lunch at the post ranch inn was a wonderful experience the following day - the food was good but it was the setting that really made it a special meal. the best dish was a special - seared ahi tuna with crispy won tons, crispy sprouts/greens and a wasabi and soy dressing. cocktails were not great. it was interesting how many of the dishes were low carb!
onto cambria where we hadn't expected to eat but given how light lunch was we ended up in robin's. my calamari and lobster enchilada were good but the malaysian chicken curry wasn't great which is, perhaps, not a suprise.
finally onto santa barbara where we ate at julienne. we sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and did a 5 course tasting menu (with each of us choosing different dishes so we could try most of the menu) kicking off with a special of chicken liver parfait on toast which was heavenly. the food here was great with every dish perfectly judged. interesting local wines too. some of my favourite dishes were the smoked mussels, gorgeous scallops and confit lambcheeks with crispy chickpeas.
my favourite meals of the trip were passionfish and julienne followed by zuni cafe and chez panisse in sf.
We were just in the same area. Very luckily, we ate at The Black Cat in Cambria. The food is extremely good and it was one of our highlights during 2 weeks in California. I highly recommend it to anyone who's driving in that area.
Black Cat Bar & Cafe
10056 Main St, Penngrove, CA
The Black Cat Bar next to The Humble Pie in Pennegrove are worthy dining destinations so even though the link is incorrect for Cambria, they earn a Chowhound plug to if anyone is up the Sonoma way in Northern California. And thanks to a Chowhound tip for putting us on to The Humble Pie .....who are also the other Black Cat Bar owners.
what a fab-sounding trip! it's great that you took the time to drive through the Hiway 1 repair and construction and on to Big Sur. The local restaurants are having a hard time economically with the road closures, and I'm sure they appreciated your tenacity. http://bigsurkate.wordpress.com/2011/...
thanks for taking time to post your trip review--it was fun to 'travel' with you, enjoyed your descriptions of the chow.
re: toodie jane
there is work being done at two sites with controlled one way traffic, at 13.7 mi north of Big Sur St park @ Rocky Creek, and at .5 mi south of Lucia.
Highway 1 is closed completely ( no detour) 3.2 mi south of Gorda. It is closed on the south end about 32 mi north of Cambria at the slip-out at Alder Creek. This one will take another month or so. Very dangerous repair work.
So check your map for destinations as to whether you would be delayed. Not like there is nothing to look at while waiting...and the new bridge being built at Pitkin's Curve is an engineering marvel. Google it.
What a great trip report and what a great trip - you definitely hit some key high points along the way and I am glad they delivered as promised and as they should. Thanks for taking us along. Both San Ysidro Ranch and Ventana are venerable locations and keep getting better with age. Lucky you and your SO. Happy you enjoyed it all so much, and even our not so great weather didn't stop you or in its own intimate way made it even more memorable.