Home, let me come home,
Home is wherever I'm with you
Our home, yes, let me come home,
Home is when I'm alone with you
~Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
The venerable National Geographic Magazine once described California's Central Coast as the "Middle Kingdom". And, in this intermediary zone, where the south coast chaparral starts to give way to a greener lusher landscape, and Giant fans begin to outnumber Dodger-backers, lies one of California's regional treasures. It's a land of volcanic cones and wild, wind-blown beaches, of strawberry fields and eucalyptus groves...
~ Richard Pollock, for The Coffee Press in 1992
No matter how far and wide I may roam, I will always call California's Central Coast my home. Say! That makes a rhyme. And, I may as well add, since you're thinking it already… not a great one. But having lived the majority of my life in this beautiful place, it is always the spot on the planet that entirely resonates with my heart. When returning for a visit, like I did this past July to celebrate my birthday, when my friends ask where I am headed, I simply tell them that I am going home. I pause to savor the feel of stretching that "o" out as I say it with relish. "Yes, I am going hōme".
|… and so sexy at sunset.|
|A famous Morro Bay landmark… however creepy. This power plant was built in|
the 1950s and is eerily out of place with the rest of the natural beauty of the coast.
|Downtown Solvang... my home for 13 years.|
Our first morning after arriving in Morro Bay, we set off to spend the day in the Santa Ynez Valley which is an hour's drive to the south on Highway 101. We stopped for for huevos rancheros and Bloody Marys at my favorite breakfast spot on the outskirts of Solvang... the River Course at the Alisal. This golf course has a beautiful patio that is built with river rock fixtures, and it also has views of rolling hills and the gorgeous oaks that this part of California is known for.
|I adore the views of the oaks and rolling hills from the patio at the River Course. I also lust to have that grill set up in my own backyard for serving up Santa Maria style barbecue.|
|The Bloody Marys at the River Course at the Alisal are always a great way to |
start a weekend morning or a vacation.
|J Woeste in Los Olivos is a favorite stop of mine.|
|I always see something that inspires me for my garden.|
|The Santa Ynez Valley provides breathtaking views anywhere that you look.|
I lived in Cayucos for about three years in my recent past. My friend Richard was renting a great beach apartment with a panoramic view of the ocean, and I would leave my weekday home in San Jose at the time, and head for the beach every weekend. On Friday mornings I would have my coffee on the pier and then buy vegetables at the farmer's market for dinners for the weekend. For old time's sake, and because Mark had never been, we had coffee on the pier and then, since it happened to be Friday, we stopped by the farmer's market to ogle all the produce that the local farmers were unloading onto their tables. Cayucos is still unspoiled in my view. It is mostly devoid of ostentatious beach palaces, and it still has the flavor of a small and slightly shabby beach town, which makes it a favorite of mine.
|My morning coffee on the pier with the fog just beginning to lift... what could be better?|
|The farmers setting up in the beach parking lot on Friday morning.|
|With the beach and a skate park nearby, Cayucos offers many |
activities that will keep kids entertained.
Morro Bay is more of a tourist destination than Cayucos, and there is also more lodging available than in Cayucos, so it makes a good centrally located base camp for traveling around the Central Coast. Be warned, the Central Coast gets plenty of foggy days during the summer. I enjoy this because the generally cool temps make it a good choice for coming back to after being out and about in the often hot temps of the Santa Ynez Valley or Paso Robles area. Morro Bay has lots of restaurants to chose from and there are many small local shops with offerings of clothing, jewelry, art and tourist trinkets.
|The Shell Shop is one of my favorite gift shops. They have been in Morro Bay since 1955.|
|My personal favorite restaurant in Morro Bay is Windows on the Water where we |
celebrated my birthday. Featured above is the Ocean Rose Abalone appetizer.
The abalone is raised locally in Cayucos.
|A young hipster cruises the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. There is lots of fun people watching |
to be had... a favorite pastime of this photographer.
|Sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding and whale watching are popular activities in Morro Bay.|
|Mark has a sip of birthday wine while gazing at the sun setting just behind Morro Rock.|
|The sun sets behind Morro Rock on the last day of our birthday vacation... beautiful and bittersweet.|
|The delicious steamed clams served at Off The Hook on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay.|
Mark's Steamed Clams
|A spider makes it easy to scoop the clams from the stock pot.|
|Hot and steamy goodness!|
2 dozen Littleneck clams
1 cup finely chopped onion or shallot
2 garlic cloves crushed
2 Tbsps olive oil
2 cups white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, or something similar)
3 Tbsps unsalted butter
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
fresh chopped parsley
1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Sauté onions until translucent, about four minutes. Add garlic, and continue sautéing another minute.
2. Now add wine, thyme, bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and add clams (clams should be tightly closed, scrubbed clean and without any cracks in the shells) and cover. Reduce heat to medium. Cook until shells open, about 5-7 minutes.
3. With a spider strainer, or wide, slotted spoon remove clams from the stock pot to a serving bowl (discarding any clams that do not open). Stir in butter and add fresh parsley to taste. Simmer for one minute and pour over clams.
Enjoy with warm sourdough baguette slices and a glass of dry white wine or bubbly if desired.