Menu Plans / Restaurant Reviews Miscellaneous

monterey and napa delights

It’s been a BUSY year. ::::

In the course of a few weeks, I became a temporary single mother as Eat moved to start a new job this summer, then I moved across country with Peach to join him, took my first (of two) medical boards exam, gave birth to Baby Grub, sold a house, and am now looking for a job (this is what I do). Eat started his new job with vigor, with 12-14 hour days, enthusiastic but exhausted. I have been left again feeling like a single mom, now with two kids. After six months of this, we decided it was time for a VACATION.

Two kids running amuck makes vacation planning a little tricky. Spending time in Napa at the wineries? Not likely. What about some late romantic dinners in a quaint restaurant by the sea? Nope. Sleeping in? Not a chance. We planned for some fun activities for Peach that were grown-up friendly and some grown-up fun that was kid friendly. Win-win. Big Sur for hiking. Monterey for the beach and aquarium. Napa for some good food. Davis to see relatives.

Thwarted by the Highway 1 road washout, we had to skip our trip to Big Sur entirely. Big disappointment, seeing as I really wanted to go to the Big Sur Bakery. (See my post on the blood orange tart for a little taste of what that might have been like.) Luckily, the hotel called 10 minutes before we hit the road to tell us they were totally inaccessible. Can’t say I would have been too disappointed being stuck in Big Sur for a few days with the unspoilt land and the quiet if we’d made it there before the road disappearing. Oh, wait. Kids. Things are never quiet.

We started our trip a day later than expected, initiating ourselves with beachiness by visiting Half Moon Bay for the day.

Peach got some good use out of her bug boots and fiddled with seaside life at low tide. Sam’s Chowder Housewas our lunch stop, and we shamelessly gorged ourselves on the lobster rolls. The soup du jour was Shrimp Bisque: sweet shrimp and butternut squash paired with a drizzle grassy olive oil, quite honestly the best olive oil pairing I’ve had in eons.


Monterey Bay was a highlight, rather its Aquarium was. We watched the entrancing jellyfish undulate in large glowing tanks, touched starfish and chitons in the touch pools, and saw penguins gliding underwater. The fat harbor seals lolling about on the beach, basking in the sun, had the right idea about vacation — sleeping — not that we did much of that. We drove to Napa from here to experience some family-friendly wineries (alas, no wine for me!) for cheese and bread and a trip to the Bouchon Bakery.
Only we didn’t go to Bouchon. We skipped it. Totally. After our somewhat disappointing time at The French Laundry in February, (plus, when trying The French Laundry Cookbook recipes, the stunning grape and yuzu jellies never gelled right! Stupid jellies! Damn you, apple pectin!) Bouchon was not high on Eat’s list of places to check out. As much as I love dainty french macarons, perfect baguettes, and lovely brioche, I agreed and we went elsewhere.

It was serendipitious that we found ubuntu. And it was the biggest surprise of the trip. Of the month. Of the last two months. Even more shocking: my carnivorous husband omygosh-I-can’t-get-enough-sausage-in-my-diet-drool-drool raved about this place: a vegetarian-vegan cuisine. And a yoga studio. Weird? A hard sell? Doesn’t seem like it anymore. They promote seasonality in the cuisine, and delve into their own garden for produce. We went for the prix fixe menu so we could try a little of everything.

Here are some of the highlights:

We loved the shot of green garlic soup. And I appreciated its art.

The spiced orange-carrot juice was exquisite. That’s cumin on the glass rim.

A steamed bun stuffed with burrata and coated with sunchoke dirt. Persimmons and green tomatoes added to the taste. I had to exclaim aloud that “This dish makes me happy!” when it was set before us.

I about died eating the warm foccacia: topped with truffled pecorino and apricot/almond agrodolce, ‘ping pong’ radish slices and rainbow chard. And so pretty.

Better still: kid-friendly restaurant. Crayons. Awesome mac and cheese. Raspberry lemonade. And Peach’s dessert? Carmelized bananas, ice cream, and chocolate sauce. Our dessert was such a blur of sesame and chocolate amazingness, the photos didn’t turn out. And the kicker: the apricot jellies with earl grey sugar. Someone, please, GET ME THIS RECIPE! Heaven, pure heaven.*

After some dabbling in visiting relatives and gorging on dim sum for two more days, we came back to reality. Work. Bills. A credit card bill from an expensive restaurant that was totally worth it. The normal stuff. *sigh* Time to look for an apricot jelly candy recipe….

* Although there are no Bible verses to support it, I am sure that bergamot wafts through Heaven. It causes one to raise hands and sing praises to God.

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story of a kitchen