Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park
I'm laughing because I'll begin this post the same exact way as Not Derby Pie; we obviously had a similar summer vacation!
I had a conference in San Francisco and Eric tagged along for a birthday trek. I've always wanted to go to Big Sur for the majesty of it all, so we touched down on a Saturday and got right into a rented jeep and drove down Highway 1. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy was our soundtrack and it was perfect!
Our plan was to stop at the famous Nepenthe for dinner, but cars lined the street a mile down and the reviews all say that you should go to Nepenthe for the view, not the food. "Meh" food didn't resonate with us, so we went to Deetjen's, attached to the famous Big Sur Inn just a few miles down the road instead. It was 7:30 in the evening, but our east-coast-time-zone stomachs that had survived two Cliff bars, a bag of peanuts, half an airport sandwich and 3 apples wanted DINNER. And dinner we got. We both agreed that it might have been the fresh mountain air or the giddiness of being somewhere new or our super exciting celebrity siting- Zooey Deschanel in the empty parking lot- For real! Whatever it was, Deetjen's was our most favorite meal of the trip. (and it was a gift from my dad. THANKS DAD!)
We both had a glass of local cab, and the roasted tomato basil soup. They served a delicious tapenade with their bread. Then Eric had a seafood pasta with clams, mussels and shrimp, capers and a saffron cream sauce that had a certain umami about it that I can't replicate. I had a filet (!) with sea-salted green beans and a smashed potato cake. We practically licked our plates and agreed that one of the best parts of the decidedly upscale meal was that we were wearing sneakers and cargo pants. That's the thing about Big Sur; casual=fabulous.
We stayed at Treebones: an eco-tourism resort that offers upscale camping in posh, heated yurts. If you're going to Big Sur, STAY THERE. But call at least 6 months to a year in advance for a reservation. We definately want to return. It was so remote and yet incrediably comfortable and close to nature. They have their own extensive organic garden on site that participates in WWOOF and that provides all the vegetables for their on-site restaurant. After a day of hiking, we celebrated Eric's birthday dinner in the restaurant. Baby, I think 35 is the new 25 :)
We started with grilled artichokes from the garden seved with a zinfandel aioli. Then we shared the Moroccan Lamb Tagine for two, which could have easily been for four.
Then we opted for a trio of desserts: from right to left- a chocolate mousse, a key lime pie cheesecake cup, and this incredible, amazing, to-die-for thing called "Australian Sticky Date Pudding". It was so good that the next morning I begged the front desk attendant to call the old lady up the road who makes it for Treebones to ask her to send the recipe. Sticky-date-pudding-lady wasn't home. Does anyone know how to make this?
I also must note that we got a bottle of wine that was amazing and we learned why the California coast is an excellent environment for pinot noir. We LOVED this Poppy Pinot Noir.
Of course we also hit the Big Sur Bakery, but unfortunately we got there around 11:00 a.m. when their breakfast pastries were gone and their lunch options were just coming out. We shared a sweet onion and goat cheese foccacia which I really liked. However, sweet onion at 11:00 a.m. on what feels like a race track with a precarious drop off into the ocean? Eric couldn't take it. I'd like to give Big Sur Bakery another shot and perhaps have something soothing, such as a ginger scone!
A few tips if you travel to Big Sur: spring for a 4 wheel drive vehicle. You'll be happy for the extra weight through the twists and turns in the road. Go to Limekiln State Park for redwoods. Plan to spend money; there are only a few restaurants, places to grab food, and places to gas up. We also had our WORST meal of the trip here and were so angry that it cost us over $60 for something less than mediocre that would have cost $25 anywhere else. Also, Big Sur is a BIG place. We thought that we could stay at Treebones and go to Nepenthe for lunch one day. You can't. The drive is single-laned, twists and turns along the ocean. 30 miles takes 60 minutes or more. So stay in an area that is accessible to all the things you want to see.
Next: San Francisco!