Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Coastal Getaway

In what is starting to become a tradition, Eddie and I escaped to the coast for our anniversary getaway. Last year we had a great spa weekend at the Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach. This year we traveled a bit farther, up to the Central Coast. After a later-than-planned start last Friday, we arrived in Cambria just in time for our dinner reservation at Robin's restaurant.

Even though the night was a bit chilly we opted to sit out on the covered patio, with a heat lamp nearby. We started off by sharing the Crispy Vietnamese Lumpia with house-made kimchee and sweet chili sauce. The lumpia was fine, but the real standout was the kimchee. They should bottle some and sell it. We'd buy it.

Eddie had Porcini Pappardelle Pasta with squash fonduta, roasted wild mushrooms, toasted pepitas and crispy sage. I almost ordered this, but chose not to in an effort to avoid carbs. The joke was on us though because the pasta was a spelt or multigrain version. Not exactly Eddie's preference, but I thought it was yummy. The fantastic mushrooms made it up for him.

I had Pork Osso Buco with celery root-potato puree, braised greens, cranberry-port demi glace and crispy parsnip. Everything was delicious, but the braised greens were outstanding. I wish I had the recipe.

For dessert we had mango sorbet and tiramisu. The sorbet was light and obviously used fresh fruit. The tiramisu was good too.

After dinner we checked in to our room at the Moonstone Landing Inn. Our room was spacious and comfortable, with a balcony and fireplace. We also had a fantastic view. This is what I woke up to last Saturday morning:

After a light breakfast provided by the Inn and watching the surfers for a while, we drove to Hearst Castle for a tour. We opted for the Experience Tour, which is recommended for first-time visitors to the Castle. We fit the bill. After arriving at the visitor center we got on to a shuttle bus for the winding 5-mile trip up the hill.

The tour started with admiring the exterior of one of the guesthouses:

Even guests had a marvelous view.

We then moved on to view the Roman pool. The piece on the left was actually imported from Rome. The other columns and statues were custom built to fit the theme. The pool has always had the capability to be heated, which was quite a big deal back in the day.

This is just a sample of one of the rooms in the primary guesthouse.
This is the exterior of the main house. William Hearst's theme for the main house was "Catholic Church" even though he was not Catholic. I think he accomplished his goal.

The fireplace of the main sitting room where guests would mingle over cocktails before dinner. William Hearst had a lot of famous friends including stars of screen and stage, artists, oil barons, writers and even Einstein.

The north end of the sitting room. Really, a point-and-shoot cannot do the Castle justice. The opulence, artwork and attention to detail was astounding. According to our guide, William Hearst made an average of $50,000 a day. That's a lot of money by current standards and a phenomenal amount of money for the 1920s-40s. The Castle truly reflects that.

Despite his wealth, it is said that William Hearst was a down-to-earth man who didn't like pretentiousness. Hence the table setting with plain old ketchup and mustard right on the table in their respective bottles.

Our final stop was the indoor Neptune pool. There are four tours available at the Castle. Each one covers approximately 25% of the property, but every tour ends at the Neptune pool.

The tilework in the pool area features 24K gold.

After a quick lunch at the visitor's center, we drove north on PCH to the elephant seal vista point.

At this time of year females who have just given birth and young seals dominate the population.

There were a few male seals around trying to get their groove on early. Mating season is still a few weeks away.

This pup's mom needed some alone time; she had moved 20-25 feet away. Her pup was determined to catch up though.

Finally! Back with mama.

I think this is the closest that seals get to a dogpile.

We headed back to our hotel and crossed the street over to Moonstone Beach.

Eddie's the adventurer. My feet were (somewhat) firmly on the ground.

The ground was not sandy, but was covered in smooth pebbles instead. There were quite a few people searching through the rocks for additions to their collections. Since it was low tide, we were able to wade fairly far into the water.

After picking up complimentary snacks and drinks from the Inn's lobby we watched the sunset from our balcony.

Going ...

going ......


Saturday night's dinner was at The Sow's Ear. Dinner here was just okay, especially since we had enjoyed Robin's so much the evening before.

There was a lot of pig kitsch around, but this little piggy chef tucked away in the corner was my favorite.

We started with Herb Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms broiled in lemon garlic butter and white wine.

Eddie had Chicken Fried Steak with country sausage gravy.

I had Coffee Crusted Kobe Steak with a port wine glaze and blue cheese. The steak seemed a little underseasoned. I think I should have gone with my initial ordering instinct instead, which was the Lobster Pot Pie. I ended up having several bites of Eddie's dish after abandoning mine.

For dessert Eddie had the Ollalieberry Granita. He said it tasted a little syrupy. I had the Warm Cinnamon Bread Pudding. It was nothing like the great bread puddings I had in NOLA. Boo.

The town of Cambria gets quiet early, especially in an off-season month. After dinner we got the fireplace going in our room and watched What Happens in Vegas, which we had picked up from the Inn's DVD library.

Sunday morning was just as gorgeous as the previous day. I took a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk. How can you distinguish the locals from the visitors? The locals say hello to everyone they encounter along the path. When you live in such a lovely location I guess it's easy to be warm and friendly. As much of a city girl as I am, I could totally live in a low-key beach town. We couldn't go all the way up to the Central Coast without heading to a few wineries in Paso Robles. Well, okay, I couldn't head all the way up there without going to a winery or two. Our first stop was Opolo, which I had thoroughly enjoyed visiting last May.

We were the only visitors on a Sunday morning, but this adorable little ball of fluff generated a lot of conversation between us and the pourer. Layla was thrilled to have a couple new adorers.

Our next stop was Jada, where I neglected to take any photos. What makes the tasting unique at this winery is that they pair a cheese with each pour. I wish they sold some of the cheeses they use for pairing. If anyone knows where I can find a cocoa-dusted goat cheese, shoot me a message.

The final winery we visited was Dover Canyon. Rebel Rose greeted us at the car door and showed us the way to the tasting room. This was the smallest winery we visited, but the staff was extremely friendly. The reggae music in the background gave the tasting room a kickback vibe.

Of course she got a reward for a job well done!

By this point I was pretty boozy, so I handed the keys over to Eddie before we drove to lunch. After a leisurely lunch at McPhee's Grill, it was time to leave the mellow coast behind and start the long haul home.

We already have next year's beach getaway planned. More details in the months ahead, but I seriously can't wait. :-)


WeezerMonkey said...

How fun! I may pick your brain if we do a similar trip. :)

JD 2 B said...

Looks like a great trip!

A Feminist Gold Digger said...

Oooooh all of the cute dogs are killing me! I'll be up in Paso Robles in a couple weekends; can't wait! Did you go to the Justin winery?

dapotato said...

sounds like a GREAT anniversary trip. yum to the cheese paired wine tasting.

Serendipite said...

I guess now we know why I am raving about Robin's and couldn't remember a thing about the Sow's Ear.... Glad you had a good time, but you should have stopped by Pasolivo!! Maybe I will bring some to our next GTG

10yearstogether said...

Looks like you had a great time! The food looked excellent and the view was breathtaking. I think we went on the same tour of the castle and you're right, pictures just don't do it justice. There was such exquisite and beautiful detail in every nook and cranny of that place.

amber said...

i love weekends like that! fun trip!