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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Pescadero Food Tour: Where and What to Eat Off HWY 1

From now on when you think of Pescadero you should think of great lunch and dinner food and the cutest cocktail lounge I've ever seen.

Since it was just around the corner I took Carl to visit Harley Farms.

You may recall a few months ago I visited Pescadero to take a really cool tour at the Harley Farms Goat Dairy. It was my first trip to the area but I thought it was cute and quaint and had looked forward to going back again.

For our August Food tour my foodie friend Carl Mindling (you can read his blog recap of this adventure by Clicking Here) and I first thought we'd eat our way up and down HWY 1 from Half Moon Bay to Davenport. But at the last moment we decided Pescadero was the place to be. We expected to find Pescadero's famous artichoke bread and soup but we discovered so much more!

We made five stops that day along HWY 1 (aka the Cabrillo HWY) in the following order: Arcangeli Grocery Co. (aka Norm's Market and aka The Country Bakery), Duarte's Tavern (as seen on Diners Drive Ins and Dives), Mercado Taqueria de Amigos (which is also a grocery and gas station), the Pescadero Country Store (which is also a restaurant and cocktail lounge) and Costanoa (a KOA campground that's also home to Cascade Bar and Grille restaurant).

The reason I wanted to go to Arcangeli's Grocery was because I'd read about their Artichoke Garlic Bread online.

The store is cute and quaint, just like what you'd expect a country store to be like but it's different than most country stores because their bread is world famous and they ship partially baked loaves nationwide.

This is what we came for, the Artichoke Garlic Herb bread ($5.49). The description on the sign said it's an Italian bread topped with a buttery garlic herb mixture. I was expecting it to have small bits of artichoke chopped up and mixed into the dough. Boy was I wrong.

Carl couldn't resist getting a carrot  cake muffin ($2) from the self serve pastry case. I love that it had a mirrored back and caught us both in the act of Carl selecting and me photographing the taking of the muffin.

We headed out back to the store's picnic area to enjoy our bread and muffin.

OMB. Oh My Bread. Seriously? The bread blew my mind. The outside was nice and crisp and crusty and the bread inside was sweet and so soft and fresh it was just dreamy. But the artichokes. . . Remember how I said I thought small pieces would be mixed in the dough? GET OUT OF HERE! The loaf was literally stuffed with artichokes!

I can't get over how they make this bread. If you love bread, I do, and you love artichokes, I do, you will love this bread! It could seriously be a meal all by itself.

If you don't live in the Bay Area you can still have this bread by ordering it from their online store!

Next we crossed the street and walked on over to Duarte's Tavern (pronounced Do-art's) established in 1894 as a bar and became a restaurant and bar in 1934. Famous for their Cioppino, Grilled Abalone Sandwich and Cream of Artichoke Soup I'd done some research online and chatted with a friend before our food tour and learned that the best way to try the soup is to order both the Artichoke and the Green Chile Soups and combine them together.

Two flavors in one bowl: Left is the Artichoke and right is the Green Chile Soup.

We ordered a bowl of each ($8.75 for each bowl) and asked for extra bowls to combine them. You can order a bowl that's half and half with one soup poured into a bowl and the other flavor poured directly on top of it. But for aesthetic purposes we wanted to show them side by side so you could see the difference between the two flavors.

Carl was describing to our waitress about a restaurant he goes to that literally splits the bowl in half showcasing each soup. I wanted to give it a try and figured the way they did it was to pour one soup in, tip the bowl and pour the other in. Not too shabby for my first try!

Just stir together and YUM! I have to say between the two the Green Chile Soup was my favorite flavor but it was just a bit too rich and creamy. Adding the less creamy, more full bodied Artichoke Soup really made for a perfect flavor and texture combination.

How much did I love Duarte's soup? This much.

Duartes grows their own artichokes and have been turning them into their famous soup for decades. Watching the Triple D (Diners Drive Ins and Dives) video this morning I learned that the soup does have a chicken stock base so turns out it's not as vegetarian as I assumed it was which is exactly why I call myself an accidental ominvore and not a vegetarian :) I'll have to come up with my own vegetable broth based version of both soups.

Carl wanted to try the Mexican Cole Slaw ($3.50) which was a daily special. The dressing was zesty with we think some fresh lime juice and had plenty of ground black pepper to flavor up the crunchy, fresh cabbage.

I discovered our next stop when I was in Pescadero for the goat tour back in May. I wanted to get a bottle of water and stopped in at this meracdo (market) / gas station right on the corner of Stage Road and Pescadero Creek Road. Boy was I shocked.

We'd approached from the offside of the building where there is no sign that says there's a Taqueria inside. So imagine my surprise to discover there was a full blown Mexican restaurant inside the gas station.

I had to show Carl who was so blown away he had to order something. . .

He chose a vegetarian version of their classic Tostado ($2.99 slightly cheaper than the listed price since there was no meat). I asked and found out their best selling items are their Fish Tacos, Beef Tacos, Burritos and Chili Rellenos. Their customers love them! There is a small seating area off to the side that was packed while we were there and it seemed like everyone who came in for gas ordered food too.

Beans, Spanish Rice, Sour Cream, Guacamole, Lettuce and a crisp Tostado Shell.

These were easily the tastiest whole pinto beans I've ever had. I'm obviously not of Mexican descent but I'm pretty sure this is authentic Mexican food. It tasted nothing like Chevy's or Taco Bell. The closest thing I've ever tasted to Taqueria de Amigos' food was food a friend used to make using his mom's recipes. I definitely want to go back sometime and try several more dishes.

As we wandered back to the car we passed the Pescadero Country Store. Always curious we decided to take a peek inside. . .

There was a grocery store just as we'd expected but what the heck! There was also the cutest wine and beer cocktail style lounge I'd ever seen! Seriously? In a grocery store!

The exterior of the building gives no clue the very hip Mermaid Lounge is just inside the front doorway. The shades of blue evoke the colors of the ocean mixed with warm wood tones and gleaming silver accents. Grab your pizza from their pizza bar and enjoy it with a cold beer or glass of wine. This is dining in style.

The Pizza Bar and Sandwich Counter

And straight ahead was this cute restaurant area with a retro styled sandwich counter, brick oven pizza bar and a large seating area (not pictured).

Carl and I looked at each other and busted up laughing. We loved it! We scurried around the store, lounge and restaurant marveling at everything they had to offer.

We decided to stay and order a pizza. Carl left the choice up to me so I chose the Basil Pesto Pizza ($16.00).

It was delicious! It's easily in my top three best pizza's I've ever had. The pesto was so fresh and flavorful and paired with the freshly chopped basil the different yet similar flavors combined into a perfect duo!

The pizza crust was thin and crisp. Exactly the way I love it. This was a winner of a pizza and I'd love to go back and have it again another day.

The Pescadero Country Store has a large outdoor patio/picnic seating area.

Since the business section of Stage Road is only a single block long we'd run out of places to eat at. But not to fear. A nice lady sitting beside us at the gas station's taqueria suggested we had to go to the Castanoa campgrounds just down the highway. So we headed back out to Pescadero Creek Road and drove the two miles back to HWY 1.

At the end of the road is the ocean. We decided to stop for a breath of fresh sea air and a photo op.

Pescadero State Beach

There are moments when I really love that I live in California. This was one of those moments.  The blue sky, crashing waves, sea salt scented air and ocean breeze blew us both into a state of blissed out exhilaration. We stayed for a few minutes just soaking it all in before heading back out for our final destination: Dessert.

Just a few more miles down the highway and we saw the sign for the Costanoa lodge, KOA campgrounds and. . .

The Cascade Bar and Grille

I'd noticed I hadn't ordered any specialty drinks all day so this was my last chance. The non-alcoholic choices were limited so I ordered a Shirley Temple ($2.00) to go along with the Warm Chocolate Molten Lava Cake and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($9.00).

I was telling Carl the only other time I'd had a Shirley Temple I was around seven years old and it was the night I saw Hawaii's famous exotica, jazz vibraphone and marimba player Arthur Lyman perform a live concert. Carl was shocked! He has Arthur's most famous song "Yellowbird" in his itunes library!

My Dad and Arthur Lyman
As we waited for dessert I explained how I'd met Arthur.

My dad had grown up with him in Hawaii and the two were great friends from the time they were in grade school. Later in high school they were in the ROTC drum section together. My dad was the First Lieutenant and Arthur was a Corporal who often wondered why other guys were promoted to Sargent above him. "Look at yourself!" my dad would tell him. "You don't iron your clothes and your hair is too long." While his lack of grooming may have kept him from rising in the ROTC ranks his talent is why he became hugely successful as a professional musician. Wikipedia says he is known as "the King of Lounge Music."

After high school he'd heard my dad was MIA during the Korean War. Months and years passed and he, at some point, assumed my dad had died in the war.

One day my dad found out Arthur was going to be in our hometown to play some shows. He went and after the show asked if he could speak to him. The usher said "no" but when my dad explained their history the usher let him go backstage.

My dad said Arthur saw him and exclaimed "You're make!" (prounounced ma-kay which means "dead" in Hawaiian). It was the first time he'd seen my dad since 1949 and he thought he was seeing a ghost. My dad had to tell him it was really him and told Arthur to "pinch" him so he could see he was really alive. The next night we were allowed to attend his show and that was when I had my first Shirley Temple. The picture of my dad and Arthur together was from that tour when the long lost friends were reunited.

After that night they remained in touch and would get together to golf whenever my dad visited Hawaii until Arthur passed away in 2002.

By the time I'd finished my story dessert had arrived. I have to say. I've ordered more than a few Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes in my lifetime but none have ever been as good as the one Cascade is serving.

First of all I wish I'd videotaped the moment I took that first forkful of cake. The liquid interior literally poured out of the center exactly the way hot lava spills across the ground.

This is a dessert that all too often is first about showiness with flavor and quality trailing in distant second and third places. But not Cascade's Molten Lava Cake. It was obvious to me with one bite that they bake their cake from scratch. It was moist and delicious without being too sweet. I was so full but ate about 3/4 of it because I couldn't stop. It was warm, chocolatey, gooey and delicious all at the same time.

This is the kind of dessert I'll order as my appetizer on my next visit because I hate when I can't really enjoy dessert because I feel too full from dinner. The obvious solution is to eat dessert first. Right?


With that we headed back out to HWY and back to Santa Cruz where Carl lives and where I'd left my car at his place.

As we drove down the highway through Davenport and into Santa Cruz we spotted some Kitesurfing (aka Paraboarding) going on with surfers clustered together riding the waves. Carl pulled over and I took a photo with my Lumix LX3 which is what I'd been using all day for the macro lens that allows for all of my food close up shots.

But the surfers were so far away they were just specks. I pulled out my new Lumix GF2 with the 14-140 HD zoom lens. Suddenly what were tiny dots in the distance became discernable sufers, boards and colorful parachutes!

From the same vantage point as the first photo look how in a full sized image you can even see the lines connecting the surfers to their "kites." I love my new camera so much!

Ah, it was perfect ending to a great day! Another food adventure behind us and we're already planning our September excursion. We'll be heading away from the coast and further inland to another city that isn't as famous as San Francisco or San Jose.

If you enjoyed this post you'll probably enjoy our previous adventures this year:

A Bay Area Cheap Eats and Secret Menu Food Adventure

• A Palo Alto, Epicurean Food Tour

• Our May, East Bay, Berkeley and Oakland Food Adventure

• Meet the Kids on The Harley Farms Goat Dairy Tour

• Beyond Sushi: A South Bay Japanese Food Adventure

• Beyond the Beach: A Santa Cruz Food Adventure

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