Some notes from my most recent pilgrimage to Gualala and Saint Orres*...
Upper Crust Pizza
On Highway 1 right next to the Gualala Hotel
Acceptable pizza, not bad but not great either. We had a pie with sliced roma tomatoes and basil, both of which were nice and fresh. Crust was a little on the thick side but not grossly so. They make their own sauce. The side salad was fairly weak, and they only provide several mass-produced foil packed dressings (Kraft, if I recall correctly). While waiting for my pizza, about a dozen different locals came in, and just about all of them ordered meatball pizzas... apparently that is their specialty.
On Highway 1 in Gualala
I was surprised to find several bottles of Cantina Terlano Pinot Bianco "Vorberg" 1997 on the shelf. I decided to roll the dice and paid $17 for one bottle to see if they were any good. Unfortunately the wine had lost most of its life.
Laura's Bakery - Mexican Panaderia
In a small shack directly behind the Gualala Hotel
On Saturday morning there were several Mexican locals crowded into this tiny bakery and taqueria. They had only about a dozen different pan dulces available, missing some of my favorites: churros, polvorones (almond cookies), and empanadas de calabaza. They did however have several cream filled pastries (empanadas and shell-like horns), bolillos and several other sweets. We tried:
-an empanada de manzana -- very sweet and sugary white pastry dough, decent though clearly canned apple filling). Decent.
- an empanada de crema -- same dough, very rich vanilla puddingish filling. Good.
- an oreja -- a double spiral of flaky pastry dough. Good.
They also serve four different tacos: al pastor, carne asada, pollo asado, and one other which I have forgotten. We didn't get to try them (we learned too late that they are closed on Sunday). The al pastor looked very promising: at 8am, a very darkly colored, gnarly mass of pork flesh was seen slowly rotating in the back of the kitchen.
Navarro, Lazy Creek, Pacific Echo Wineries
Return visits to all wineries. Navarro was offering tours to their pre-release customers, so we got to see the vineyards and some of the crushing (Chardonnay) and other activities. They will soon be releasing their winter wines, including another sparkling wine like last year's Gewurtztraminer Brut.
Pacific Echo pours a decent group of sparkling wines. Our favorite was the Cremant, a little creamier and yeastier than most CA sparklers. Tasting fee is $3, waived if you purchase a bottle.
Lazy Creek is turning out some rich pinot noirs, full of ripe pinot fruit. Their "table wine" is a nonvintage (mostly 2000) 100% pinot, and a good buy at $15. Their other pinot is a 2001, much bigger body, and runs $35. Their gewurtz is much better than last year, but still too ripe and heavy; I prefer more acidic, aromatic, fresh styles.
Moya Taco Truck
On Highway 128, just east of central Boonville
Sells an assortment of Mexican fast foods: tacos, burritos, tostadas, tortas, etc., plus several non-alcoholic beverages. The menu is in English, so I had to ask the very nice taco man if "roasted pork" meant carnitas and if "BBQed pork" meant al pastor. He said they did, though I suspect the English translations are closer to the truth. 4 tacos ($1.50 each) were ordered:
- Pollo Asado -- Good but greasy, said Erika.
- Roasted Pork -- Dry, stringy carnitas-like meat, good flavor though. My favorite of the four.
- BBQed Pork -- tough little nuggets of chopped up pork. Not very good.
- Chorizo -- My second favorite. Not very spicy or tangy, but pretty good sausage anyway.
Also available are tripas, cabeza, carne asada, and perhaps a few more that I've forgotten (no lengua though).
I must say that the 4" tortillas used for the tacos are some of the best I have ever had. They were machine made, so not as good as anything hand made, but they were extremely fresh, soft, hot, and flavorful. Far better than any SF taco trucks or taquerias. I suspect they were made not more than 24 hours before I ate them, though a large crowded lined up so I didn't have the chance to ask the taco man about them. The salsa was good, fresh, and mild. The pickled jalapeños were very hot for jalapeños.
Several picnic tables sit under a canvas tent. Unfortunately the nearby dumpster sustains a large fly population that came to say hello to us after we sat down.
On Highway 128 in Booneville
Good selection of Anderson Valley Brewery beers. I tried the seasonal special Cream Ale (I assumed it was from Anderson Valley but I can't find it on their website). It wasn't creamy like a nitrogen spiked Irish Ale, which for some reason I was expecting, but was still very good.
An order of buffalo wings came with freshly made blue cheese dressing (mild blue flavor with large chunks of cheese), carrots and celery. The wings were fried well: super crispy, bubbly chicken skin and still juicy inside. The sauce was very vinegary and barely spicy. The other dish was a roasted vegetable sandwich, which was not bad but entirely forgettable. The side of fries were very good: thick cut and fried is some very tasty, obviously much-used oil.
Ice Cream Parlour next to Buckhorn Saloon
Tried the famous "Otto's Espresso Shake," with espresso ice cream (Double Rainbow) and espresso grounds. Not good. The grounds just made it taste like old, stale coffee.
However, we tried a bite of Double Rainbow's Pumpkin Ice Cream and have discovered a new obsession. It was like whipped, cold, spicy pumpkin pie filling. It even had little fibrous bits of pumpkin flesh. Try some near you.
Anchor Bay Store
On Highway 1 in Anchor Bay
The wine shop here offers tasting, but on the day we were there were only pouring two totally uninteresting wines. The shop has a pretty good selection of wines though, heavy on Anderson Valley but a good sampling of the rest of the world. The find of the day: Seven bottles of Navarro's 2002 Rosé on the shelf. This is an excellent Rose that was snatched up in about a week by Navarro's pre-release members. I would have bought them all myself had I not already exceeded my wine dollar and Miata-trunk-space allowances.
On Highway 1, no worded sign up yet, but look for the colorful painting by the side of the road, not unlike the image in the link below minus the woman.
I didn't eat there, but must report that the famous Pangaea Cafe has moved from Point Arena and is now open for business in Gualala. The locals and winemakers I spoke to claim that it is better than ever.
At the Sea Ranch Golf Link, near the Northern end of Sea Ranch.
Ate breakfast here after being denied more pan and tacos at Laura's. Eggs and potatoes were pretty devoid of flavor. Bacon was a little overcooked but still tasted good (it's bacon, after all). English muffin was very good with blackberry and strawberry jams. The bagel was some kind of bagged variety with an individual serving tub of Philly cream cheese. All in all, not a very interesting meal.
The centerpiece of our trip was a dinner at Saint Orres. I'm holding off on a write-up of our dinner there as I am doing some follow-up "research." For the moment, I will say that my positive recommendation is hereby withdrawn until further notice.