Pacific Grove and area in Oct?
I'll have a Saturday on my own (staying in Pacific Grove while my husband is at a conference) and need suggestions for where to eat/visit. Is it worth driving up to UC Santa Cruz to the Chadwick Garden? Is there a good Saturday Farmer's market to visit? Bread bakery you would recommend? Big Sur Bakery? Not-to-be-missed wineries? Any other thoughts for a day of solo eating in the area?
Chadwick Gardens is a very small but interesting plot just adjacent to Merrill College at UCSC. I think a visit to UCSC is worth it, because I doubt if there are many university campuses anywhere else in the country located in as beautiful and dramatic a setting. I don't think I would drive all the way from PG to UCSC just for Chadwick Garden, however.
There are many good restaurants in the Santa Cruz area, but honestly, none of the caliber of the top places in PG, Monterey, or Carmel. Linwood at Chaminade has a great view but very mediocre food. An inexpensive and "typically Santa Cruz" restaurant is the Crepe Place on Soquel Ave. An outstanding Japanese restaurant is Masaka at Mission and Bay on the westside, just down the hill from UCSC. A very good Mexican restaurant downtown is El Palomar.
One of our personal favorite bakeries in Northern California is Pavel's Bakerei on Forest St. in Pacific Grove. The farmer's loaf is one of the most flavorful breads we have ever eaten, and it's organic whole wheat as well. They also make rolls with the same dough, and they will soon begin making the bread for Whole Foods nationally (they currently distribute to the South Bay Whole Foods).
In addition, the pastries and cookies are most excellent here as well.
Between your sightseeing trip and your dinner at Passionfish (which I would definitely choose over Sierra Mar under the circumstances), consider heading out to the Inn at Spanish Bay to have a drink and watch the sun set over the ocean, all accompanied by a wonderful bagpiper. He/she plays nightly at 6:00, I think (double check the time), wandering the links for awhile. They have a couple of outdoor fire pits if it's chilly, but you need to get there early if you want a seat near them. It's about a 10 minute drive from there to Passionfish.
If you go, be sure to tell the guard at the entry gate that you're having drinks at Roy's to avoid the hefty fee. (It's the entrance to the famed 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach.)
Thanks to Junie D for this recommendation. We'd been on the 17 Mile Drive earlier that day and decided to return for the pre-prandial drinks and the piper. On that rather cool windy evening (October 18), the sunset was a dud, but the seas beyond the links were magnificent, the firepits much appreciated and the piper (a woman) just superb.
Followed up with a dinner at Taste in Pacific Grove, which was excellent by any yardstick. My wife had roasted red pepper soup and veal; I had an enormous salad and steak frites, all with an excellent bottle of wine and a friendly chat with the Patron. Memorable evening all round.
Horticultural highlights-Santa Cruz to Watsonville
The botanical gardens and Chadwick garden at UC Santa Cruz (go north on Mission St. (Highway 1), then turn right up to campus). Bot Gar is Mediterranean type
Very close by at 2281 Mission St, opposite Safeway, is a good nursery, The Garden Company; lots of goodies if you collect unususal ornamentals, good supply of quality tools.
In Aptos, just south of Capitola, is Aptos Gardens, tucked behind a pet store across Soquel Ave from Safeway, just 1 block east (north?) of Hiway 1. Nice folks, unusual plants, water plants and organically grown veggie starts when available.
Sierra Azul Nursery and display gardens-- on Hecker Pass road going east from Watsonville. Just across from the SC CO. Fairgrounds. Unbelievable display garden, and lots of Mediterranean plants. These folks are the retail arm of Rosendale wholesale growers sharing the same real estate. Display garden is ususally at best in late spring and summer, but worth a visit anytime for inpsiration! Experienced and friendly staff.
Solo eating--geez, what a quandry! I like Sushi on the Run, just down the street from Aptos Gardens. Take out sushi from a master chef in a tiny venue. Delicious and reasonable!
For good Mexican fast food--up the street on Soquel Ave is Gordo's (Gordito's?) in the posh shopping center just on the other side of the 'Safeway' intersection. Good, fast, cheap, spicey.
The Saturday farmer's market at Cabrillo College (on Soquel Ave as well) is great. Gorgeous orchids, homemade breads and cut flowers & veggies of all kinds.
Can't neglect to mention Wisteria--a gift and decor shop(with some plants, too) on Soquel Ave just north of Park Ave exit. An old home decked out in European chic, and not at all "shabby". Difficult parking sometimes but worth a visit if you like shopping for great home decor; good for inspiration. Great aging resident orange tabbys sprawl on $400 French quilts.
Have fun and get an early start! there's too much to do--go back with the girlfriends for an expanded weekend!
I have lived in Santa Cruz for about a year now and have never heard of Chadwick Garden, FWIW. If you're into horticultural stuff, it might be worth it, but I'm not so sure. Cabrillo College in Aptos (just south of SC) has a lovely and modern horticultural center w/ some greenhouses. Not sure about hours though.
On to the topic of food, Cabrillo also hosts a very good farmer's market on Sat. from 8-noon, which I regularly shop at. It's still buzzing right now, but will start slowing down as we head into winter. I think it will still be worthwhile in Oct. though. I'm not crazy about the prepared food vendors, so I mostly go for the produce, flowers, and eggs. There's a raw oyster bar that's yummy though...
The Buttery (www.butterybakery.com) is the best all-around bakery in town IMO. Croissants (ham & cheese, chocolate, or almond), peanut butter cookies, lemon tartlets are my favorite. Sandwiches are also very fresh. Across the street, Shopper's Corner, is my go-to local market that has some nice cheeses and wines w/ lots of local products for souvenirs and such.
The Big Sur coast is really beautiful too. I support the recs for the Big Sur Bakery for lunch or dinner! Did a dinner report w/ photos around June if you want to scroll down for that. We enjoyed Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn for lunch. Even though it's kinda pricey, food was well-executed, setting was lovely, and it was fun to walk around the grounds a bit.
Enjoy your visit and please report back on your discoveries!
re: Carb Lover
Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions! I think it will be a delicious trip. I am interested in the Chadwick garden (Alan Chadwick was a student of Rudolph Steiner and brought his own version of French intensive/biodynamic gardening to the US) but don't know anyone who has visited....
re: Junie D
I'm clueless about the field of gardening, but if you have avid interest in horticulture, biology, nature, then Santa Cruz fits the bill. There's also an arboretum on the UCSC campus, but I haven't been there.
If you're doing a half day trip up here, then the best thing might be to head out in the morning, stop in at the Cabrillo farmer's market to pick up some fresh fruit, taste lots of samples, and get a taste of the local scene. See if the horticultural center is open. It's at the crest of the campus and has an amazing view!
You could then stop in at the Buttery and Shopper's Corner to pick up a few picnic provisions like bread, cheese, salami, beverages. Then head up to the UC campus to poke around sites of interest and picnic up there or on the beach around Natural Bridges State Park or W. Cliff Drive. That area is very pretty and has decent parking, a meandering walkway, benches w/ great views, and beach access.
If you're going to be alone, I think this would be a great outing, assuming the weather cooperates. In contrast, Big Sur is beautiful but seems more remote to me.
re: Carb Lover
Ok, had to add a little more about local chow...
You may be tempted to visit the wharf and boardwalk, but there aren't any truly worthwhile eats there IMO. If you're craving some local seafood that's not fancy or pricey, then I like Aldo's at the yacht harbor. More of a casual fish shack type of place that serves breakfast and lunch and closes around 5pm on weekends. Nice outdoor seating area w/ beach access.
If you have time, I recommend heading downtown to stroll around. There are alot of free public parking lots (I usually head for the one on Cathcart and Cedar). Soif is a nice wine bar/restaurant that usually offers wine tasting from 3-5pm on Sat. Not sure if you'll be up for this given that you'll be driving on your own, but worth popping in and browsing their small but good wine store collection.
Since I know you from the HC board, I highly recommend Logos bookstore on Pacific Ave. downtown for used cookbooks (and more!). I've gotten some amazingly good deals there and seem to be the only one browsing cookbooks whenever I'm there. There's also a yuppie cookware store called Chefworks on N. Pacific where I like to window shop.
re: Carb Lover
I'm ready to pack my bags right now. I can't wait. It sounds like I should start the day at Cabrillo Farmer's Market, stop at the Buttery Bakery if I haven't already eaten enough, or even if I have, hit UC Arboretum and the Chadwick Garden, lunch at Soif or Aldos or picnic on the beach, depending on mood, then wander downtown before heading back for dinner with my husband - yes, a used bookstore with good cookbooks is my dream!
Now - dinner? From posts on this board I think will will have to eat at Passionfish, I am also leaning toward Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn. What if we had to choose between the two? Husband's colleague loves Sardine Factory so one dinner will be there.
re: Junie D
Since you'll be spending most of your day jaunting around Santa Cruz, you might just want to spend a relaxing evening meal back in Pacific Grove with your husband... and yes, why not Passionfish? I'm sure you've read many posts on what's good there and about their terrific wine program. FWIW, my husband loves the slow roasted duck. I heard they just put in new, more comfortable chairs, so relax and enjoy. It's casual, nothing fancy, and no view, but if you're going to the Sardine Factory, you'll get plenty of upscale there.
That said, Sierra Mar is beautiful at sunset and dinner and service is very good. You can order a la carte or they have a 4-course tasting menu for about $75 and I've mentioned the fab wine there. For non-guests, there are very limited dining times. We like the 5:30 seating, which works well with the sunset. But...the drive along Highway 1, although beautiful, is high, narrow and twisting. It takes concentration to drive and you don't want to rush it. I think it could be a bit too much to do, in addition to your day's travels to Santa Cruz earlier. We prefer to stay overnight in Big Sur when we wine and dine at Sierra Mar, it's just so much more pleasant.
re: Junie D
Sounds like you have a good rough itinerary already. Linked an info page below that should be of interest and has a link to the Aptos farmer's market at Cabrillo College (technically called Monterey Bay farmer's market). Wonderful grapes, crisp apples of all kinds, bosc pears are showing up among other things...
Note that Soif is only open for dinner, although the store is open around 11am and wine tasting is at 3pm on Sat. The Buttery has lovely sandwiches on housemade bread, so you could take to go or eat in. I find the space a bit cramped. Highly recommend popping into Shopper's Corner across the street to take a look around.
Another convenient lunch option is Kelly's French Bakery (corner of Ingalls and Swift) just south of UCSC and close to Natural Bridges park. I don't like their overall baked goods as much as the Buttery, but the soups and salads are very good and fresh, and I do like the pistachio macaroons and jam sables. I might nix Aldo's since it's not super special, is a little out of the way, and sounds like you'll have other opportunities for seafood.
As far as dinner, Passionfish and Sierra Mar are very, very different. PF has good seafood and a wonderfully affordable and interesting wine list, whereas SM for dinner would be more of a special occasion place (at least for me) w/ prices to match. Food and atmos. are more refined and elegant than at PF. If I were you and had spent the day sightseeing and driving, I think the best thing would be to not fuss and tuck into a good meal and great bottle of wine at PF.
re: Carb Lover
Agreed that PF is the better option given your schedule. Count on *at least* an hour each way on a winding road, on the side of sheer cliffs, to and from Sierra Mar (just in case you don't know Highway One), and once you get there count on spending quite a bit more (perhaps twice as much) as at PF. (although, of course, with that drive back, you won't want much wine if you do choose Sierra Mar, which would keep costs lower than they otherwise would be). The two restaurants really aren't at all comparable in terms of ambiance, price, style.
re: Junie D
I would also recommend Passionfish as a very Monterey Peninsula type of meal. And the wine. Let us know what you think.
And please report on the Sardine Factory. I haven't eaten there in years and I know it is very pricey, but I don't recall any hound giving it a review on these boards, at least not recently.
Enjoy your visit.
I'd definitely go with the Big Sur Coast!
Follow the great advice to have breakfast on the outdoor deck of California Market at Highlands Inn. I've enjoyed their omelettes. You're up on a hill overlooking the ocean and rocky coast of Yankee Point. Pt. Lobos State Reserve is nearly across the street from there. Spectacular natural beauty here if you care to check it out further.
I'd also make a reservation for lunch at Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn. The drive along the coast is as pretty as they come. I've enjoyed soup, salads, pizza and other simple, but well-prepared food on the deck and their wine list is phenomenal, including some good by the glass choices. Not to mention panoramic ocean views on the edge of the cliff almost 1,200 feet up! The entrance on Highway 1 is not far from Ventana Inn's entrance across the highway.
We had another good dinner at Deetjen's just a couple of weeks ago, and I highly recommend it (you need reservations), but our favorite dinner this time was Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant. Yes, their baked goods are top-notch, but they actually specialize in dinner. Who would have thought?
Their creamy chanterelle soup was as tasty as our server said it would be, though so rich even a half a cup nealy did me in. The rib eye, which was prime, came with an insanely flavorful reduction and the grilled wild salmon with Meyer lemon sauce was also fine. Their vegetable combinations are unusually good (I chose green bean and cauliflower with plumped dried cherries and sauteed almonds in garlic butter). The wine list is made up largely of excellent artisinal wines from the Central Coast, some by the glass, so you can do your local tasting there too. We chose a Roar Santa Lucia Highlands 'Gary's Vineyard' Pinot Noir--wow). Our server mentioned that Gary Pisoni, (legendary local winemaker) stops in frequently.
You can go for an early dinner there and probably get back to Pacific Grove before it gets too late. Enjoy!
Big Sur Bakery is indeed sublime - but it's a bit of a drive (it's ~25 miles south of Carmel). If you're up to it, consider making a day of it: drive down in the morning, pick up lunch at BS Bakery (I'm partial to the proscuitto-and-cheese croissants and choc chip cookies), take them to the beach, kick around all afternoon and then hit Deetjun's for dinner (a couple miles further south).
For what it's worth, in my opinion the restaurants at Post Ranch and Ventana are worthwhile only for their spectacular settings - not for great food. They're also excrutiatingly expensive. If you go to either, I recommend sticking to drinks and eating elsewhere.
There's a Saturday Farmers Market in Marina. I'm not sure of the exact location or times.
I'd head for the California Market at the Highlands Inn for breakfast or lunch with a fabulous view. My favorites for lunch are the burgers and the Fish Tacos.
The Big Sur Bakery has terrific breads and other goodies.
Two other places that I really like for lunch are Post Ranch and the Ventana Inn. The last two times I lunched at Post Ranch a Condor floated by the window.