Monday, April 20, 2009

California Is a Great Place

Okay, here is a digression. My wife and I were in California for the weekend and had such a great time, and great times cannot be had without great meals.


We visited the Monterey Aquarium and had a surprisingly excellent lunch at the aquarium restaurant. I was psyched to see a grass-fed burger on the menu, so I ordered that. It was delicious. That's bacon sticking out the sides, as you might have guessed.

My wife ordered a "Sustainable Seafood Salad", which was also excellent.


We spent Saturday in Big Sur and had one of the best days ever. We kicked it off with an amazing breakfast at Deetjen Big Sur Inn.

This is Egg's Benedict with local cured salmon, avocado, and tomato with home fries.

After relaxing on a state park beach, we headed to Big Sur Bakery.

You can tell from the sign that this place is awesome. We had a nice wood-fired pizza and a salad. The pizza was not made like an Italian pizza, but it was still very good.

We were 3 for 3 on restaurants so far, and I was starting to think that California was a magical place where every restaurant is amazing and completely in tune with my philosophies on food. But then the streak came to an end at dinner Saturday night at Nepenthe. I was hoping to top off the perfect day with a great dinner but we were robbed of that. And robbed of our actual money because the place was overpriced. It had the vibe of a place that used to be good or at least considered good, but has gotten lazy with success and stopped trying. The menu was boring. I couldn't think of anything on it that I wanted to order and I lobbied that we leave. But my wife made me stay. We ordered. We got our salads, and they were proof that the chef didn't care. Several handfuls of not-so-fresh romaine lettuce stuffed, and I mean packed pretty tightly, into cereal bowls. Other than that, there was one grape tomato cut in half. It tasted rotten.

The entrees were not good either. I had duck with Asian BBQ glaze. It was too salty and sour. It was served on a mountain of plain white rice and garnished with a bunch of cilantro thrown all over the top of the duck. I ate most of it, out of respect for the duck. My wife had salmon. Now here's the thing that drove me nuts about this place. Here we are sitting with a magnificent view of the Pacific ocean and the menu has two seafood items: 1) Farm raised salmon from Nova Scotia, which is almost 4,000 miles away on the east coast of Canada and 2) Shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. BOOOO!

Nepenthe is good for a cocktail with a view, but don't eat there.

Disappointing dinner aside, Big Sur is a magical place and the food is mostly local, fresh and organic. I can't wait to go back.

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