Hit major traffic on the way out of LA this weekend but got to Cold Spring Tavern just in time to beat the lunch rush. I put a plug in for the french dip or bbq beef but was ignored by my signifigant other, who opted for a chili-cheese burger. Knowing what a beast this would be, I chose a bowl of tortilla soup so I could pitch in on the burger. The burger was swimming in chili and had to be eaten with a knife and fork. It was nothing special, neither was the tortilla soup. I didn't have to say 'I told you so' but really, the beef sandwich is the best.
We blew past Santa Ynez/Los Olivos and headed straight for the tasting room at Melville. It is a beautiful facility and I very much enjoy their wine. Unfortunately, I found the facility cold and loud, the acoutics were terrible and the girls behind the tasting counter were either completely obnoxious or unavailable. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.
The trip up the coast on PCH was awesome. It was the hottest weekend of the year but the beaches were temperate, some were downright cold (I am talking about you Guadalupe Dunes) - we even saw a snowy plover in addition to all the horses, cows and deer dotting the landscape.
We had dinner at Hoppes Bistro in Cuyucas, a beach town north of Morro Bay. To be completely honest, I was expecting great things, as this is a much ballyhooed gourmet destination. Things started out with promise. We were bowled over by the breadth of the menu and loved the wine list. We ended up ordering all apps and a 1/2 bottle of Feuillate Rose Champagne. The waitress, Kathy, started by apologizing that they were down a server - not a problem for us, we weren't in a rush. They weren't short busboys though and we had to finally ask for bread after more than30 mins and it had been noticed and promised by the server at least once before.
The timing of our order was wrong, instead of getting 2 apps at a time, everything came out slightly off. Kathy noticed some of the mis-steps but never was able (or willing?) to correct them.
The culinary highlights: foie gras and warm goat cheese salad, each were delicious
The lowlights: tepid abalone chowder, when we mentioned the problem, the waitress told us that it was how they served it and took it away, never even asking if we would like it re-heated!
the sauteed abalone with hazelnut mango beurre blanc which was delicious but just swimming in sauce. Abalone is a precious ingredient and certainly doesn't need its flavor shrouded in overpowering flavors. And the quail salad had way too much going on, particularly a gazillion overseasoned pepitas clustered about the plate.
My take on Hoppes, good food doesn't need overpowering accompaniments. Frankly, I find it an insult to my palate when things are doused in sauces and dry-spice rubs to the point of absurdity. This place is not even close to what fine dining is in LA, SF or Napa.
For breakfast the next day, we hit Big Sky in SLO. My meal was delicious - huevos rancheros over black beans. My s/o had the special, which was potato pancakes - they were gummy and not very good so at my encouragement asked for two eggs over easy and some toast. She got eggs that were barely cooked (still liquid albumen around the yolks) and a bit later, burnt toast! It was a total f**k you for not digging the potato pancakes. She didn't touch a bite of her order. I paid the bill and we hit the road. The thing is, I worked in restaurants for years, I was fully willing to pay for the potato pancakes and leave it at that but the gauntlet was thrown down. I still tipped the waitress on the entire order but - what a bummer way to start the day.
Luckily, we salvaged our culinary adventure with an early meal at Hitching Post II. I prefer HP I mainly because of ambience but Buellton is closer to home than Casmalia - and so it goes. We had a killer meal. Artichoke app, split the bone in ribeye, medium (although it was really med-rare which is fine by me) and had a bottle of the Hartley Ostini '04 Purisma Mountain Syrah, yum. The syrah was perfect with the steak. Everything was just great, expectations were met perfectly and we motored back to LA with full bellys and smiles on our faces!