Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In a Golden State 4: Big Sur, pt. 2

Missed Part One? You can find it here.

Kamping with Kermit

Unless you're doing serious back country camping--the kind where it pays to travel light--it's awful nice to bring a bottle of wine (or two, or more--perhaps a lot more) along on your camping trips. We happened to be staying in the East Bay for most of the time we were in Northern California, so not only did we have an impressive selection of top-notch wine stores to choose from, we were able to make a special trip to one of the very, very best: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.

klwm 2 fig. a: putting on airs

Michelle immediately went about putting on her wine-buying airs, but, the thing is, she didn't have to. Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant wasn't intimidating in the least. In fact, they were downright friendly.  Aided by our incredibly helpful wine agent (not Kermit, unfortunately, but we hit it off with this guy like we were long-lost friends) we picked out a really nice selection of wines (including some Rieslings and some Bandols), but when it came to choosing a camping wine, we were directed to a 2009 Pascal Janvier "Cuvée du Silex" Jasnières.  We love the Jasnières style, and we can get some nice ones in Quebec, but Pascal Janvier was new to us, and we were strongly encouraged to make his acquaintance.

Anyway, the nice thing about camping with wine, is that you're not in your own kitchen, you're not in a position to necessarily make everything perfect, and, generally, you have to improvise.  Most importantly, we had to try to find a way to chill our bottle of Jasnières.  Luckily, the stream than ran near our campsite came with a handy, dandy natural wine cooling contraption

chilling 2 fig. b: wine cooler 1

that looped around the bottle's neck and simultaneously kept the bottle wedged against the bank so that it didn't go tumbling downstream.

chilling 1 fig. c: wine cooler 2

Within 30 minutes, our bottle was sufficiently chilled and ready to quaff.

I don't think that Pascal or Kermit, or anyone else, for that matter, would have come up with the campsite meal that we had with that beautiful bottle of Jasnières,

camping fig. d: camping spread

but, like I said, that's kind of the beauty of camping with wine.  And you end up developing an entirely different appreciation for the wine.  Oftentimes you discover the wine's range.  You also discover the importance of setting.  And, let me tell you, Big Sur is a pretty ideal setting for wine-drinking.

Molera Time

big sur 17 fig. e: frigid

Our days began with an invigorating dip in the frigid waters of the Pacific. Real "Ice Bears"-style.

Most of the rest of our days were spent on a series of hikes. We saw all kinds of nice things--again, it's hard to go wrong in Big Sur--but our favorite hike of the excursion was Andrew Molera State Park, where we basically followed four trails (the creamery meadow trail, the ridge trail, the panorama trail, and the bluff trail) in order to form a nice loop that took the better part of an afternoon and that was also wonderfully varied.

It started off hot and dry.

big sur 15 fig. f: hot & dry 1

But as we moved from the Ridge Trail to the Panorama Trail we found a stand of redwoods.

big sur 14 fig. g: redwoods

When we got to the heart of the Panorama Trail things were pretty windy.

big sur 13 fig. h: windy

The vegetation on that part of the hike looked pretty other-worldly, too.

big sur 12 fig. i: other-worldly

We paused to take a breather,

big sur 11 fig. j: breather

and, off in the distance, we began to see evidence of a little Shangri-La.

big sur 10 fig. k: Shangri-La 1

The lure of the beach got us to pick up our pace a little, but the route was not only windy, it was also winding.

big sur 9 fig. l: long and winding

When we got close to the beach, we found a logjam blocking the way.

big sur 7 fig. m: logjam

No silly logjam was going to stop us, though.  Not for a beach this nice.  Plus, at the time we were there, this beach was totally private.  We had it entirely to ourselves.

shangri-la fig. n: Shangri-La 2

Michelle started feeling a little territorial.  She had the idea that this stretch of sand should be named Marek Beach.

private beach fig. o: Marek Beach

When we'd had our fill of Marek Beach, we moved on and found an incredibly lush little valley.

big sur 5 fig. p: lush

Up on the bluff, things got hot and dry again.

big sur 3 fig. q: hot & dry 2

We split up at a fork in the trail, but, luckily, eventually the two trails merged again, and we were reunited.

big sur 2 fig. r: reunited

When we finished our hike at Molera State Park, it was definitely Molera Time.  Actually, it was more like Pfeiffer Time, because we left Molera S.P., stopped in a convenience store to pick up some beers, and headed down the Sycamore Canyon Road to Pfeiffer Beach.

big sur 1 fig. s: Pfeiffer 1

There we sat on the beach and watched the waves crash through the natural bridge (and the tourists pose for photographs in front of it).

travel scrabble, big sur version fig. t: Pfeiffer 2

Then we pulled out our travel Scrabble set and got to work.

Return to Big Sur Bakery

That very same night, we went for our only non-breakfast meal at Big Sur Bakery, the meal that we'd planned as the climax of our Big Sur trip.  Things got started right with a lola rosa & mâche salad, with peaches, pistachios, and feta, as well as a plate of "seven lucky oysters" fresh out of Big Sur Bakery's wood-fired oven, and they never let up.

wood-fired oysters fig. u: oysters & co.

Our favorite dish was the butter-braised halibut in white wine with herbs and caviar, but everything tasted absolutely perfect that evening on Big Sur Bakery's deck,

hills of big sur fig. v: Big Sur Bakery view

and the views didn't hurt either.  We really enjoyed our Big Sur breakfasts at the bakery, but dinner was where they pulled out all the stops. Easily one of our top meals of 2010.

Return to the Bay Area

The next day it was time to return to our base of operations in Oakland, but we took a bit of a roundabout way--we had to make a few stops along the way.

First of all, a stop at San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission (a.k.a. Carmel Mission) to smell the roses,

mission carmel fig. w: rose

gaze at the stars, and soothe our souls.

mission carmel fig. x: constellations

Secondly, a stop in Castroville,

open for business fig. y: open

to pick up artichokes.

artichokes fig. z: 12 for $1

12 for $1. No joke. Lovely ones, too. (We had them later that night, braised, with pasta. And a steak.)

Thirdly, a stop in Morgan Hill,

Andy's fig. aa: Andy's

to pick up the best peaches and plums money can buy, at Andy's Orchard. (We ate plenty of them fresh, but the next day Michelle turned the rest into the best preserves.)

andy's by michelle fig. bb: Andy's by Michelle

And, lastly, a stop in Pescadero,

Phipps Farm beans fig. cc: Phipps' beans

to buy beans at Phipps Country Store and Farm, where they sell over 75 varieties of exotic and heirloom beans, many of which they grow themselves (check it out!). We were astounded by the selection. We bought a whole bunch of different varieties, but those Zuni Golds (pictured) were among our favorites. They made for some pretty tasty frijoles. (Many thanks to RP for the superb tip!)

Let me tell you, the fun never stops when you're in Northern California.

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, 1605 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA, (510) 524-1524

Big Sur Bakery, 47540 California 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), Big Sur, CA, (831) 667-0520

Andy's Orchard, 1615 Half Road, Morgan Hill, CA, (408) 782-7600

Phipps Country Store and Farm, 2700 Pescadero Road, Pescadero, CA, (650) 879-1032



michele said...

I guess you can take wine on a camping trip why not. It was nice that you found a place to taste wine that was not intimidating as some can be.

Anonymous said...

Those artichokes! I was getting all excited about the trees and the deserted beaches but big beautiful artichokes for cheap are nothing to sneeze at.