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Califormia coast, cusine and conferences

We last left the intrepid explorers in Paso Robles having thai food; the next day we slept in and brunched at Artisan where I still think they should have the chanterelle and egg on brioche toast for lunch but the sandwiches are awesome... Simon had the cuban and I had the poached shrimp BLT with avocado and caper thyme aïoli because that's just brunch food, and then we set off to see if we could reach Highway 1 despite the landslips. That involves a scenic drive out of Paso on the Interlake road - between lake Naciemento and another distant lake on one of those swooping hillside roads, and the hills were green and lovely. The road dropped into meadows as we crossed the army land and then ran between deep banks and them up; slowly but surely we twisted up around blind corners and hairpin bends along the edge of hills that became mountains that gained height and showed off views and vistas then plummeted into deep green depths and climbed again. The disadvantage - apart from doing it in the land yacht (Behemoth, as I have nicknamed our Mercury Grand Marquis) - was the people coming around the corners in the middle of the road looking like deer in the headlights. We crested the ridge and swung around rocky curves encrusted with flowers and pierced with rivulets and accomplished wonderful views of the coast - and realised why the uphill drivers looked so uncertain. They were turning off Highway One onto what was marked as a diversion and most of them didn't realise this was the Scenic Mountain Route...

It was still a mostly warm evening so we stopped at Nepenthe to watch the birds and enjoy dinner and ended up huddled by the firepit; the local pinot noir is nice there and I think I rediscover it about every third visit...

Since then we have been bouncing around Silicon Valley between seeing friends and attending conferences (LAUNCH and Velocity) and having meetings and filing copy (we're both wearing a plethora of personal tracking devices from tweet-your-weight scales to pill bottles that flash when it's time for pill popping and I have more styles of stylus than I can count).

Highlights: wine tasting in Sonoma/Kenwood with spikeiowa and voidampersand and Lillian and the Andrew we keep meeting or almost meeting. I really liked Enkidu for their wide range of utterly excellent wines of all varieties and styles; really, it's all good! The Convict zin from Paradise Ridge was also good. We had dinner at Petit Sirah in Santa Rosa, which does tapas-size and larger plates for a variety of dishes that I should have written up in detail at the time - all yummy.
(low point; food poisoning that night, which I put down to a slice of elderly pizza earlier in the day)

hanging out and eating Laotian Thai food in Berkeley with Iain and Monica: I want to go back for the Vientiane duck but we liked the pressed rice with egg anchovy topping and peanut sauce.

wining with spikeiowa again in Santa Cruz; excellent pressed sandwiches at the bakery near Bonny Doon, tasting 1998 and 1991 wines from Santa Cruz Mountain Winery and from the barrel hedgehog table wine at Sones (and really liking their in-barrel ancient vine Zinfandel).

celebrating national donut day with a wine and donut pairing from J Lohr and Pyscho donuts; between 7 of us, no two people had the same favourite wine or donut! The rosewater pistachio was good, the plain chocolate was - in my opinion - best - but the cab sauv that came with the coconut chocolate donut was the nicest wine.

Mobo Sushi in Santa Cruz and a prowl round Bookshop Santa Cruz and chocolate at Chocolate with elimloth and spiritmoving; Mobo is ecletic - it does trad sushi well, but the esoteric stuff is nicer, including combinations with shiso leaf in with the eel/avocado, a tempura calamari roll and salmon/snow crab/orange/macadamia. Chocolate looks nice for lunch but does a selection of specialty hot chocolates including the honey cardamon ginger one I had, and large chocolate mousse truffles. They all looked good, I had dark rose. Simon had a sundae that was a slice of cake in a sundae dish with ice cream below and fudge sauce and all the whipped cream above.

Too many tasty dinners to count with Jon & Tamzen of the delightful spare room, in return for which we're valiantly helping them plough through their wine mountain (a terrible job, but somebody has to do it..) Including dinner with mr_kurt and saffronrose where Tamzen's cheesecake converted me back to liking cheesecake after all these years.

Between us being busy and her being ill we've still managed to catch up with rowanf twice and we had an evening in San Francisco and saw our lovely friends there... and we still have Michigan to go before we come home.

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full steam ahead
marypcb
Mary Branscombe
Simon & Mary

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