Friday, August 9, 2013

California Week: Up the Coast

From Cayucos we took Highway 1 north, planning our next stop to check out the elephant seals. If we'd had time, we would definitely have stopped at Hearst Castle, but we had to make it to Half Moon Bay (an ambitious drive to say the least--it's just 30 miles south of SF) by dark. The elephant seals are easy to spot--there is signage telling you where they are. Sometimes they aren't around, but they were this time. They are amazing to watch, even if just for 5 minutes.

Next stop was the Big Sur Bakery. We didn't make it in time for lunch, but the cappuccino was fantastic.They also sell local jams and marmalades from Happy Girl, which are so good, and worth bringing home.

My favorite beach ever is the China Cove Beach (below) which is within Point Lobos State Preserve. I grew up going there, and its emerald water and white sand are breathtaking. Bonus, there's hardly ever anyone there. No, it isn't the kind of beach you swim at--it's freezing--but it's great to bring a picnic to. It's about a 10 minute drive to its parking lot off of Highway 1, and then a 10 minute walk to the beach.

Finally we got to the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, ate a delicious dinner in their restaurant (sourced locally and organic as much as possible), and fell into bed. The picture above was our view the next morning. It's one of our favorite places to stay in the SF area--it feels like you're in Scotland, but it's a quick drive to anywhere on the Peninsula, SF, or Santa Cruz.

Duarte's in Pescadero (about a 15 minute drive from the hotel) is a must-stop if you're in the area. We went for lunch and had some great local fish which we ate so fast I couldn't get a picture, and they are known for their artichoke dishes (above) and pies (below). If they have ollalaberry pie on the menu, by all means, order it.

We walked around the town of Pescadero and bought some avocado honey at a little farmstand. In a grocery store across the street from Duarte's they were selling it too, plus artichoke honey. While we didn't do it on this trip, something nice to do in town is visit Harley's Farm Goat Dairy--where the owner Dee Harley has over 200 goats, and produces some lovely goat cheese and body products. You can sign up for a tour, or you can just swing by and check out their cute little shop. Also in the area are beautiful beaches, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and Pie Ranch, both are south of Pescadero, so you might feel like you're doubling back, which we were. If you're not rushing as we were, you might want to build those in on your way between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. Another option for an overnight in the area is Costanoa, which has cabins, tent bungalows, and even camping and RV sites. We actually included it in a story on "glamping" when we were at Cookie.

Back at the Ritz Carlton, where we did nothing for the rest of the afternoon (we definitely were taking in so much in the previous days we just had to stop!), we took full advantage of the Club Lounge. If you are traveling with your family and staying at a Ritz Carlton, and intend to spend a lot of time there, not out and about...the Club Lounge is a worthwhile upgrade. I believe it's something like $150 per day, but it's basically like a cruise. There is food there all day long, and it is great food. And there is a bar. Depending on which location you're at, the offerings vary, but at this one, it was insane. Above is the platter of crab we ate (and yes that's Champagne in the corner of the shot)...we just sat there, took in the view of the Pacific, and ate crab for what seemed like the whole afternoon.
That's the open bar above.

We love Sushi Main Street in Half Moon Bay--an easy 8 minute drive from the hotel. I didn't get any nice shots inside, but they have a lot of amazing woodwork there--crazy driftwood chairs. We go every time we are there, and it's always good.

Above--Clara in the Ritz Carlton lounge area.

More Club Lounge shots...(I figure if you are considering it at some point, you might as well see how nice it is!)

Those are of course berries (local) above, but what we were really impressed with were the French yogurts they had--the kind that come in the little ceramic pots. They're so hard to find, and they are super expensive when you do find them. They're so so good.

That's a candy and cookie bar above.

The next day we drove north, heading to Nick's Cove, which is in Marshall, on 1, above Point Reyes. Word to the wise: if it's a gorgeous day, the kind where everyone might be heading to the beach...don't take 1 all the way up. We sat in 2 hours of traffic and went about 10 miles as everyone was headed to Stinson Beach. Instead, go up 101 and cut through to the coast at Petaluma, which is a cute town to check out anyway.

It's such a special spot--the rooms are lovely--if you can get one that is on the water, even better, but they are all nice. If you've been out exploring all day and you come back exhausted, what's also nice is that their restaurant is so good, so you don't have to think about getting in the car again. The pictures below are from their breakfast (so good) which is included in your stay.

Nick's Cove has their own chickens (Clara collected the eggs and brought them down to the chef), and their own organic garden. They use everything they harvest in the kitchen.

After breakfast we headed down to SF to meet up with friends for lunch. They suggested Piccino, in the Dogpatch area (near Potrero Hill). While we waited for our table, we checked out Dig, the awesome adjacent wine shop. That's his cool lighting fixture below.

The food at Piccino was excellent. As was the coffee. And since it's in this relatively sleepy part of SF,  on a tiny street, while we drank coffee, Clara and our friends' kids played outside in front of the restaurant and had a blast.

We loved this coffee spot in SF...Rapha. They have this nice outdoor seating area that the kids loved.

On our way to eat at Cotogna in the Jackson Square neighborhood, our friends saw a brand new restaurant called Roka Akor, which they new from London. We stopped in for a drink--they do them very nicely (above are some shots of what I think are infused vodkas). We would totally eat there next time.

And that's a wrap on our California trip. I know the SF part was short and sweet, but I've written plenty about it on this blog, so if you need my real list, it's here.

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