The coast line of Big Sur is awe inspiring. Wales is not wanting herself for beautiful coastal views but the colour of the Pacific, the heat and the Tri tip at the Big Sur Roadhouse are a spectacular combination that run my homeland very close. On the internet most blogs suggest a visit to Nepenthe for your lunch because apparently the views are amazing, I heard that it was expensive and that the food was ok, so we drove past it and on to the roadhouse. This was NOT a mistake. The place has an eye for design which results in a rather unexpected interior for a roadside barbecue joint. The food is locally sourced and really worth not taking the advice of other blogs for.
I went with the smoked and BBQ’d tritip with horse radish creme fraiche and pico de gallo on a roll. Soft,smoky meat with that delicious salty crust. If you’re eating outside you get to watch your food being cooked at the outdoor grill by guys who look like they’ve been doing it all their lives. Worth the stop.
Santa Cruz is a vibrant college town. Lovers of The Lost Boys will instantly recognise the boardwalk. We stayed at the Dream Inn right on the beach. Great hotel with a bar that was first set up by Jack O’ Neill. It doesn’t have much of that surf vibe anymore but it’s still called O’Neills and the hotel is definitely worth thinking about if you’re in the area.
Leaving Santa Cruz we journeyed up, over the Carquinez bridge, saving the Golden Gate for the drive back down to San Francisco and we arrived at the Embassy Suites in Napa. A short walk in to Napa town, you get a little suite of rooms for a relatively reasonable price. Napa hotels seemed to be enormously pricey but this place was great, with a Colorado lodge feel. You shouldn’t really leave Napa without doing a little wine tasting. There are places all over town where you can taste a flight of wines, either from a number of vineyards and others – wines from a single vineyard. It costs about £25 per person for a flight, a great way to sample the offering of this famed wine making region. A must for Oenophiles. We tried the Vintners Collective– old school with some excellent tastings, wine from a number of vineyards in the area (easy to spend lots of money) and Mark Herold Wines which had a fun, sociable vibe, they also had an option to wine match with chocolate. You may not get much wine in the bottom of the glass but trust me but the end of the two tastings we were enveloped in a delicious, gentle hum. I suggest NO DRIVING. California is well known for its Cabernets and Zinfandels but we tasted some very ‘French’ wines at the Vintners and brought home a bottle of Acha from Mark Herold which is 100% Tempranillo- inspired by the Rioja’s of Spain’s Ribero Del Duero.
The guy at Mark Herold pointed us in the direction of a “mind blowing” tapas place in Napa town, called ZuZu – so that’s where we meandered off to for our Supper. This place is a little pricey (like the whole of the Napa experience) but I couldn’t recommend it enough. Fresh, seasonal, innovative and traditional all at once.
Plate de Jamon- the fat melted between our fingers, sweet and nutty. 15 bucks but the quality of that acorn fed pig is evident.
Seared tuna with pesto and a courgette and tomato salad.
Grilled peaches with manchego.
If you’re hankering after some oysters (despite the two dozen or so she consumed we didn’t seem to be able satiate Kate’s need all holiday) then nip into Hog Island Oysters in the Oxbow market – which incidentally is jam packed with great food and drink. Eat some Pacific coast natives. Do this after you’ve done some more tasting, this time of spirits at the Napa Distillery. Oh, how we have been drinking them all wrong, for so long, and hence experiencing them in black and white instead of technicolor. Forget the slug of fiery liquid, the whoosh of raw spirit followed by a grimace. Embrace instead the soft and distinctly flavoured warmth of beautifully crafted spirits. Some handsome, awesomely mustachioed guys will talk you through this tasting process. We came away with some Old Hollywood Ginn – 9 botanicals and a hint of oak- smooth as you like! I LOVED this. Seriously, this will change the way you drink forever.