Yesterday my parents and I took a long drive down to Ano Nuevo to meet up with the ChowHounds. Along the way we stopped at Phipps Ranch in Pescadero, a whole farm dedicated to beans, and met up with Ruth Lafler. Well my mom didnt know beans about beans (she insisted I say that) and was in awe at the many different colors, shapes and sizes of the musical fruits. We finally managed to drag her out of the store (we were afraid shed buy all the beans in the world and create an army of little disgruntled lentils) and made our way to a tide pool area at Pescadero Beach that has since been dubbed Mussel Beach by Melanie. So we climbed out onto the rocks and started to pry the mussels from their seaside homes. Melanie was there to advise us in the delicate art and gave us instructions on cooking.
We left the beach with about 10 pounds of mussels, loaded the car, and headed for Ano Nuevo (a elephant seal mating ground), where Ruth is a docent. We headed out to the beach with Ruth in the lead and were greeted by the sound of a hundred seals bellowing, shrieking, and squawking. I was in awe, they were magnificent, they were majestic, they were rather fat (the males can weigh up to 5,000 pounds). So we stood there and marveled at these magnificent beasts until it started to rain. We hiked back to the cars, and headed for Duartes, a restaurant and bar in Pescadero.
We ordered a lot of food including several appetizers (after all, there were nine of us, and we were all chowhounds). To start off we had fried smelt, fried calamari, and fried oysters (detecting a theme?) and crab cakes. The smelt was very good. It was nice, crisp, and delicious. The calamari was good too, but it wasnt better than any other calamari Ive had, still good though. Now Im not the right person to ask about oysters, I never really liked the things, but it was pretty good (hey, what isnt when its deep fried?). The crab cakes were excellent. The crab cake sauce was very good too. We also tried their interesting soups; they had cream of artichoke, and cream of chili. Melanie, who had been there before, recommended we get half and half; a mixture of the two. So a few of us did and let me tell you, it was great. I really liked it, it was creamy, had a wonderful taste (the chili stood out the most) and best of all; was served very hot, which was nice since we were all thoroughly soaked. Melanie had the restaurant chill a bottle of chardonnay she had brought along and everyone had a glass, except for me, stupid underage drinking laws. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.
Then came the crucial decision: what to order. We ended up getting a plate of sand dabs, petrale sole, four cioppinos, crab tortellini, a crab sandwich, and a hot beef sandwich. I ordered the cioppino. It was pretty good, the tomato base needed to be thicker, but the crab was delicious. Anyone who was there is free to post on what they thought of their meal. As we began to finish our eyes strayed to the dessert menu. Everything looked great. I had a slice of strawberry and rhubarb pie a la mode. It was great, the crust was excellent, the fruits were fresh, and the scoop of ice cream was extra large. My dad ordered the Tapioca pudding and I took the liberty of taking a spoonful. It was pretty good, I liked my pie better but it was good. My mom and Melanie shared a slice of peach pie, they loved it, and my mom agrees they had great crust. It was getting late so we parted and took the long, wet drive home. Thanks again to Ruth for arranging everything and Melanie for bringing the wine and teaching us about mussel hunting. Now if youll excuse me, theres 10 pounds of mussels that are dying to be made into pasta.