Elise's Central CA Trip Report

Filet Mignon
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2006/02/02 08:31:24 (permalink)

Elise's Central CA Trip Report

I drove up the coast late last summer, but I didn't really think the trip was eventful enough for a "trip report". However, the area has been discussed a few times lately, so maybe this will help other travelers a little, especially Cornfed. And it is refreshing to look at a nice, sunny BBQ during these cold winter months...so here goes...

Morro Rock in the distance

We drove up the central coast of California last weekend to celebrate my mother’s birthday in Cambria, a little resort town between Morro Bay and Big Sur. It’s a beautiful drive, with tantalizing glimpses of the Pacific Ocean, and giant rocks that look like petrified dinosour bones. The trip is mostly through Sycamore trees, with tufts of yellow grass and Pampas growning inbetween. When passing through a city, everything turns to Oleander. Occasionally you are graced by a sweeping panorama of ocean, and on this trip I spotted a whale and a school of dolphins. It must already be time for migration.

Our first stop on the way up was the Candy Shop, just south of Santa Barbara. It is in a little strip off the freeway, at the Santa Claus Lane exit. There is no reason for it to be called Santa Claus Lane. Santa Claus is long gone. Namely, the gigantic bust of Santa Claus that used to adorn the roof of the Candy Shop is long gone. Santa Claus now resides in a vacant lot somewhere in Oxnard. The Candy Shop makes their shakes by hand, with fresh milk and ice cream, and quality mix-ins. Only perfectly ripe fruit is used in their shakes. So I decided to throw caution to the wind and order the infamous date shake. I had always thought dates were too dry, with their papery skins, to make a good shake, but was curious after having read a Sterns’ review of date shakes near Palm Desert. I was concerned when I saw the girl scraping the last dregs of dates out of the container. My worst fears were confirmed when I kept getting dried bits of date skin caught in my throat. Maybe date shakes are good when the dates are moist, but I will never know. I went back and ordered my usual banana shake, which was again, perfection.

Our next stop was for lunch in Beullton at Mother Hubbards, as recommended by a fellow Roadfooder. Unfortunately, lunch did not live up to breakfast’s reputation. My French Dip was dull and skimpy on the meat. My husband didn’t even eat his Caesar salad, but he was a little out-of-sorts anyways. The décor was typical small-town diner, with a surprising number of healthy, live plants. I liked the special hat racks for hanging up your trucker hat. The daily special perplexed us… “pineapple-maple glazed hamlets”. We asked the waitress for a definition of “hamlet” and she said, “They’ve explained it to me a million times and I still don’t understand it…OK, fine, I’ll ask ‘em again.” She returned and recited, “It’s like a drumstick, but it’s the hem.” I was thinking, “Ham? Hen? Ham? Hen?” She repeated more slowly, clearly enunciating, “It’s like the drumstick, but it’s the HEM.” I tried to order it, but they weren’t serving dinner specials yet. Later, my brother and mother, who were making the same trip in a different vehicle, happened to spot our car in the parking lot and stopped by. We all gathered in front of the “specials” board to collectively ponder the word “hamlet”. My mom volunteered, “Well, a piglet is a little pig, maybe it’s a little ham.” “Maybe it’s like a cutlet, but with ham,” I volunteered. My husband opined, “It’s the DRUMSTICK, so the drumstick of the ham would be like the foot.” “That would be a ham hock” I rejoined. Stumped, we returned to our respective vehicles and continued on our journey up the coast.

Cambria Pines Lodge is a beautifully landscaped wedding factory. One of those places that just churn them out, three a day. Instead of the weddings being disruptive, they were kind of fun to watch from afar, because some people were dressed like cowboys or wore top hats like Abe Lincoln. One couple inexplicably had hand puppets. And kind of creepy hand puppets at that.

Mom at Cambria Pines

My family all met for dinner at Cambria Pines’ restaurant. It was fantastic, which surprised us a little. The crab cake appetizers were plump little buttons, with crispy outsides and perfectly done centers. Even the vegan ravioli were sumptuous and velvety. An appetizer platter of make-your-own crostini was earthy and fun. For entrees, my filet mignon was tender and buttery. I don’t like salmon, but my brother insisted I try it. It had all the flavor of salmon, with none of that metallic intensity that can be so off-putting. Later, my mother complained that her prime rib special was awful, but I was unclear as to what was wrong with it. I wish she had mentioned it earlier, so I could have split my filet with her.


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