Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Central Coast: Food & Stuff to Do

Notes from stops along the way on the Central Coast...
Watsonville
Food: Gizdich Ranch 
Moss Landing
Food: Phil's Fish Market
Santa Cruz
Relax: Well Within

Watsonville
55 Peckham Road, Watsonville, California
It's all about the pie. Yes, they have sandwiches, but how on earth do you expect me to focus on some bread with stuff in the middle of it when the air is aroma-fied with apples, cinnamon, ollalieberries, and other good things? Here's a hint. Don't expect me to focus on the sandwich or even remember it exists. 
The first time I went, I had straight-up apple pie. These things are so loaded with apples that the crust is probably eight inches high at the middle, the crown, the summit, the apex of pie-ness. Most recently, I had the apple-ollalieberry pie. You can do the whole a la mode thing, but I don't like to dilute my pie with unnecessary dairy products. It's a personal decision. Respect or don't. It's my pie, not yours.

I don't know if it's really a pick-your-own fruit bonanza that happens to have pie or a pie palace that happens to have acres and acres of apples and berries. It's a working farm that happens to have all of these things happening while the real work happens. It's not fancy. The bake shop is in a big warehouse, but I don't need fancy, especially when I can see the trees from which the apples were picked and sit at a picnic table with the orchard to my right and the scent of fresh pie wafting from the left.
 
 
Moss Landing
Phil's Fish Market
7600 Sandholdt Rd., Moss Landing, California
I find myself tracing my dad's footsteps. I'll tell him about somewhere I've been and he'll already know all about it, what's best to eat, and probably the best backroads to get there. Phil's is one of those places. It's nothing fancy -- another warehouse, in fact -- but they're busy feeding lots of people. Order at the counter, grab a number, and food magically appears. You can sit inside, in a covered porch area, or outside at picnic tables.
If fried artichokes are on the menu, it's mandatory that I order them (unless they're made with marinated, canned, or otherwise tortured artichoke souls). The batter at Phil's is heavy-handed for my taste, but they artichokes aren't bad. Skip the mayo and ranch -- they're best unadulterated by goop that masks the actual flavor of the 'choke. (Note to self: Must embark on quest to find the best fried artichoke hearts on the central coast.)

TG and I split the char-grilled halibut. It was plenty of food for a light-ish lunch -- a big, perfectly grilled piece of fish with salad, rice, and garlic bread. As it should be in a fish market, the highlight is the fish and the rest of the stuff on the plate is pretty standard stuff.
If you're not a native or long-time resident of California, you may wonder about our obsession with A-vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, avocados... Stop wondering, accept that you've missed something in life, and pick up a fork. 

Santa Cruz
417 Cedar Street, Downtown Santa Cruz, California
Make a reservation for a massage and follow it with a soak in a hot tub. The tubs are in private rooms with shoji screens that open to a peaceful Japanese garden with a waterfall that masks the noises of the rest of the world. I've been here several times over a five-year span and every massage has been good. It's clean the staff knows their stuff and it's a great way to shed real-world stress.

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