Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thunder Road: California Campin'

After a disappointing stop at Costco on Sunday morning...they've reduced their liquor supply to one short aisle of standard-but-still-half-what-you'd-pay-here selections...we packed up and headed to the coast for four nights of tent camping. Finding the Humboldt Brews in Arcata closed until late afternoon, we decided to head for our first campsite at Patrick's Point State Park, about five miles north of the lovely little town of Trinidad, right on the southern edge of the Redwoods.

Situated at the top of a bluff, the campground is fairly large with several different sections and has amenities like potable water, showers and flush toilets. South of the point the coastline is jagged and rocky, but to the north there is a winding trail down to a long, curving beach that stretches several miles and is perfect for long walks and nice wave-watching. There are several trails for hiking, but they (technically) don't allow dogs on the trails or the beaches, but that was so ludicrous we ignored it since we always keep Rosey on a leash and pick up after her.

For dinner we headed to the nearby Larrupin' Café, a quirky art-filled space where every surface, including your table, is covered by wonderful Oriental rugs. By the way, the word "larrupin" or "larruping" is a regional slang term that means "delicious." The food is fresh and regional, with a definitely Asian-fusion twist to most dishes, though there are also some odd Swedish touches like the "appetizer board" accompanying the entrees that must come from some previous incarnation of the restaurant.

Since there were four of us, we had a good sampling of the menu and it's definitely worth coming here, with local seafood and lamb featured prominently. We started with an appetizer of house-smoked albacore with a 2005 Sacred Hill Marlborough Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from their wine list, which was a reasonably-priced selection of mostly California wines. Then the Swedish appetizer board comprised of dark chocolate rye rounds alongside a small crock of chicken liver mousse and a small wedge of nearby Arcata-based Cypress Grove chevre. For main courses we had the lamb chops (both spicy and mild versions), which were perfectly grilled (i.e. medium rare) and smoky, and the justly famous house brisket, several cross-grain slices of melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. My brother had brought along a bottle of 2003 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-de-Pape that perfectly complemented the mild dishes but was sadly lost on the more spicy entrees. One warning if you go: Strangely, these guys operate on a cash-only basis, so don't go with cards or checks in hand. You might end up doing dishes.

We rode back to the campsite and our tents happy and full, ready to do some hiking and slacking the next couple of days. We did venture to Eureka's Lost Coast Brewing the second day for lunch, but were sorely disappointed by their lackluster beers and merely adequate pub food. Having been there a couple of years ago, either it's lost some ground in the brewing department or we're increasingly getting spoiled by the quality and selection of our local brewmeisters.

The second night, we played several rounds of Mexican Train, a domino game, and enjoyed a Susanna Balbo Malbec Rosé while the fire burned down so we could grill New York steaks. Dave made onion, garlic and smoked paprika-spiced fried potatoes to go with them, and it was all washed down with a 1998 Sportoletti Cabernet-Merlot. I hate roughing it, don't you?

Read the rest of the posts in the series: Thunder Road Redux, Stop1: Jack's Grill, Stop 2: The Sundial Bridge, Back in Oregon

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