-John Steinbeck (Cannery Row)
While it may not be customary for a couple, right after a move, to go on a little trip, that's exactly what the Greek and I did. Thanks to a LivingSocial deal that needed to be used before the New Year, it was just the way the chips fell. However, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened--after a week of cleaning, packing, unpacking and more cleaning...
My former building manager, who knew we were going on the trip, recommended a few places to us. As I said before, he's a gem and his culinary suggestions are always spot on. This time, he told us to go to this hole-in-the-wall falafel place in San Jose--I can't call it a restaurant since it's more of a drive-in, literally called Falafel's Drive In--and it was truly some of the best falafel I've ever had--both crumbly and spicy. And, although a somewhat strange touch, with an order of a large falafel, you get a Banana Milkshake. Believe me when I say that falafel and bananas are not inherently linked in my mind, but this place really pulls it off. It was also, to my pop-culture brain, a nice Arrested Development Bluthian touch.
Stuffed with falafel, we continued on our way down the coast to Carmel-by-the-Sea. By the time we got there, it was already quite late and raining, but we made it in time for the Cobblestone Inn's nightly offering of cheese and wine to its guests. We had a table by the window, where it was nice to relax.
Of course, our trip was not without reminders of moving and what awaited us at home. As we were leaving the hotel to explore Carmel and find a place for dinner, we stumbled upon this pile of boxes. I obviously couldn't resist taking a picture.
We went to a lovely place, La Bicyclette, and, should any of you ever end up in Carmel for a few days or even just for a night, I would highly recommend stopping by this lovely little place. Since it was so cold outside--the air was damp and the rain was not letting up--I suggested soup for dinner. Their soup of the day was a Roasted Sunchoke (I had never had a sunchoke before; is vacation not for new experiences?) and, since the Greek ordered some too, I was really charmed when they brought out the soup not in bowls, but in a copper pot for us to share and serve ourselves. Maybe it's just the fact that I've always loved the look of copper pots and pans (they are, in my mind, elegantly rustic), but it really made the dining experience feel quite homey.
Our big adventure for the next day depended on the weather--to go to Point Lobos or to go to Monterey and to the Monterey Bay Aquarium ? Since it was again cloudy and rain was clearly a possibility, we set off for Monterey and Cannery Row, which was as beautiful as Steinbeck's somewhat terse prose promised.
I was really excited to see Doris Day featured on Carmel Magazine; I'll never forget watching Pillow Talk when I was maybe 14 or so and loving her fiery exchanges with Rock Hudson. Today's romantic comedies--if you'll forgive my inner-50-year-old woman speaking--just don't "sparkle" like these older movies do. The dialogue just lacks conviction.
On a similar note, we found ourselves at the Monterey Town Hall, where they had recreated the scene of the writing of the California Constitution. It amazed me to hear how they managed to compose this document in six weeks. In my humble opinion, today's politicians should review their American history. They might be reminded that there was once a time when compromise was not such a dirty word.
These musings aside, the day in Monterey was well spent. The aquarium was truly one of the coolest places I've been to in California. We watched them feed the penguins (even though this is a food blog, I feel the need to give you a penguin fun fact; in two words: Projectile Defecation) and the sea otters, which was nothing short of adorable. There were interesting things to see in every corner of the aquarium--from gorgeous jellyfish to the miniature seahorse.
It made me feel slightly guilty to go and have a seafood dinner later that night at the Wharf in Monterey, even though both of our food choices were sustainable: wild salmon and lobster and shrimp. We ate at Kocomo's, the more casual sister restaurant of The Old Fisherman's Grotto, and it was well worth it. I will say, however, I could imagine this place being better suited to the summer months since it's essentially an open space...Definitely not the best thing for a rainy, more than crisp fall evening.
However, the next day--our last--was gloriously sunny. We drove down to Point Lobos for a quick hike before returning to reality, stopping by the Carmel Mission on the way. There's something about California architecture (Spanish-style, really) that I just find aesthetically appealing. This building embodies my feeling perfectly and largely thanks to the flowers and old stone.