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California Country


Rebel Rose
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California is a big state, with a variety of culinary and cultural backgrounds. Has anyone here eaten at the Basque restaurants in Bakersfield, where food is served family-style on plank tables? What's your favorite spot for shark tacos, deep-pit goat, barbecued tritip, and homemade tortillas with pit-roasted pork and mui caliente guacamole?

I hereby nominate the Pozo Saloon for their pitchers of beer with two inches of green olives at the bottom.

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Z Pies in Placerville has damn good pot pies. Good flakey crust, simple ingredients, and friendly people - what's not to like?

Womacks BBQ in south lake tahoe serves unbelievable sweet potato pie. The bbq is good too.

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When I was living in San Diego (20 years ag), there was an odd little hamlet called Alpine. Back then, Alpine had nothing BUT Basque restaurants. I have no idea if they are still there and apparently from a bit of research, the bulk of them are now in Bakersfield. Did the entire Californian Basque community move?

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Murphy's http://auberge1899.com/, Sutter Creek Susan's Place. All great places in the Gold Country. Placerville http://www.zacharyjacques.com/\:

Edited by winesonoma (log)

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I've never thought of Alpine as particularly odd, at least compared with its neighbors, and I don't ever remember a Basque restaurant there. I only remember the cutesy little places with fairly bad "home cooking."

The only experience I've had with Basque restaurants was in San Francisco a long time ago at the old Des Alpes and the place that used to be across Broadway from it. They both used to serve up very good, four-course dinners for about $5.95. I remember good soup, clams and rice and lamb stew.

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I think we need to elaborate a little here about the delights of Basque food.  And Basque drink.

I remember little, unfortunately.

All I remember about that was in Nevada and it was over salted. Good Picon Punch, though you can no longer get AmerPicon in the States.

Edited by winesonoma (log)

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Murphy's http://auberge1899.com/, Sutter Creek Susan's Place. All great places in the Gold Country. Placerville http://www.zacharyjacques.com/\:

Some links not working Later Bruce

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Here is a map showing the locations of the Basque restaurants in Bakersfield. Note that the Basque Club (in south Bakersfield) isn't really a restaurant but is a members-only Basque club.

The three restaurants in the upper right, located in "Old Town Kern" in East Bakersfield, are the more famous ones. The Basque have been here since very early on. Many of the first sheepherders in the area were from the old country.

If anyone is interested in making Basque food, by clicking on "sitemap" on the above web-page, you can find the link to the Basque recipe section of the site.

There are many other non-Basque restaurants in town that are very good (Bruce, I still owe you a list!). Most offer standard eats, though, we did have goat tacos at the Kern County Fair one year. :shock:

There is a "Little Saigon" opening on Union Avenue. The Pho Vi eatery is already open though I don't like their pho as much as the pho I've had at Far East Cafe on White Lane (a chinese restaurant that also serves Vietnamese food).

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Very cool connection. Thanks, Toliver!

The reason I can't remember much about Basque food has to do with their stamina for drink. Last time I encountered a Basque group was here in Paso at a going-away party at Eberle Winery for winemaker Bill Schaeffer and Robin Zazueta (Basque daughter) on the eve of their departure for a wine-working tour of New Zealand and Australia.

"How do you know Robin?" a grey-haired aunt asked me. "Oh, for years, blah, blah, blah . . ." Next thing I know, I'm pulled into a circle of respectable-looking aunts, uncles and grandmas sitting around a frigging 10 foot bonfire just off the crush pad. Handed a jug of Tequila that everyone was passing around, drinking straight from the bottle. Not to be surpassed by someone the same age as my eldest aunt, of course I kept up. For awhile . . . then they decided to dance.

Now I know why Gary Eberle had sofas, rugs and coffee tables moved into the cellar for this party. He had at least four complete sofa groups in the cellar. It looked like Napa-Ikea. It's my understanding that the Basques left before 7 am in their motorhomes, leaving a litter of sleeping Paso Roblans behind.

The food, as I remember, was heavy on sweet and salty shredded pork, herbed cheeses, and homemade sausages.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not sure if this is the appropriate thread, but I'd like to mention Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, where I have never failed to have a fabulous, outrageously memorable meal.

Two of them were Thanksgiving dinners, the last just a few days ago.

The meal was predictably fabulous. I'm convinced it had to be the best "traditional" Thanksgiving meal in the country. I wish I'd taken notes because I can't remember what the first course of oysters were poached in (had something to do with duck, as unlikely as that may sound) but it was so good I could have stopped right there.

It is not possible to make turkey taste better. The dressing was ambrosial. Green beans, brussel sprouts, yams (sweet potatoes actually) all done in ways that seemed a revelation. And a fabulous wine list and perfect service, of course. God. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkin pie....?

Sigh.

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Not sure if this is the appropriate thread, but I'd like to mention Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, where I have never failed to have a fabulous, outrageously memorable meal.

Two of them were Thanksgiving dinners, the last just a few days ago.

The meal was predictably fabulous. I'm convinced it had to be the best "traditional" Thanksgiving meal in the country. I wish I'd taken notes because I can't remember what the first course of oysters were poached in (had something to do with duck, as unlikely as that may sound) but it was so good I could have stopped right there.

It is not possible to make turkey taste better. The dressing was ambrosial. Green beans, brussel sprouts, yams (sweet potatoes actually) all done in ways that seemed a revelation. And a fabulous wine list and perfect service, of course. God. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkin pie....?

Sigh.

I have to out you right now, Randall, as I had recommended you to Marie-Louise, a longtime eG poster who went there and had a bad experience. I hope it was an anomaly. From the sounds of it, it probably was, because I know you've been there a bunch.

And I'd stake my turkey against anyone's, pretty much. It's not the fanciest thing in the world, but I've been preaching the gospel since 1994. The few people I know who'd made it swear it the best turkey they've ever had.

Wanna bet?!

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Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero.  A cold and rainy late on a Sunday afternoon, drinkin' and eatin' in the bar...and finishing with olallieberry pie a la mode...

Preceding the pie for me would be either artichoke or green chile cream soup wiht their home made bread--and an order of fries thrown in. Nice to eat in the bar area if it's not too crowded--mingle with the locals and check out the 100 year old plus bar.

Another favorite place is Volpis in downtown Petaluma -- for dinner or lunch in the restaurant I can't comment--but the little Italian deli attached to it makes great, generous and reasonably priced Italian sandwiches with wonderful bread and cold cuts--proscuitto, mortadella, sopresseta, provolone, peppers, you name it. One of my favorite places to pick up a lunch for a day in the wine country or en route up to Mendocino.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I've been hearing good things about a Czech restaurant located *somewhere* out on Inverness. The peasant in me is dying to go on a road trip to find it.

Vladimir's Czech Restaurant

12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Inverness, CA 94937

(415) 669-1021

Exquisite Czech cuisine since 1960. Roast duckling, Wienerschnitzel, Moravian cabbage roll, klobasa, apple strudel. Full bar, outdoor patio & bocci ball court, banquets. Closed Mondays.

How can place called Vladimir's that has been around for over 40 years NOT be amazing?

Anyone in the Bay area care to join me???? I think a small holiday gathering is just what we need, eh friends?

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I've been hearing good things about a Czech restaurant located *somewhere* out on Inverness. The peasant in me is dying to go on a road trip to find it.
Vladimir's Czech Restaurant

12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Inverness, CA 94937

(415) 669-1021

Exquisite Czech cuisine since 1960. Roast duckling, Wienerschnitzel, Moravian cabbage roll, klobasa, apple strudel. Full bar, outdoor patio & bocci ball court, banquets. Closed Mondays.

How can place called Vladimir's that has been around for over 40 years NOT be amazing?

Anyone in the Bay area care to join me???? I think a small holiday gathering is just what we need, eh friends?

Or Mankas. http://www.mankas.com/mankas/intro.html

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I've been hearing good things about a Czech restaurant located *somewhere* out on Inverness. The peasant in me is dying to go on a road trip to find it.
Vladimir's Czech Restaurant

12785 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.

Inverness, CA 94937

(415) 669-1021

Exquisite Czech cuisine since 1960. Roast duckling, Wienerschnitzel, Moravian cabbage roll, klobasa, apple strudel. Full bar, outdoor patio & bocci ball court, banquets. Closed Mondays.

How can place called Vladimir's that has been around for over 40 years NOT be amazing?

Anyone in the Bay area care to join me???? I think a small holiday gathering is just what we need, eh friends?

Or Mankas. http://www.mankas.com/mankas/intro.html

Hmmmm... I haven't heard enough good things about Mankas to want to spend that kind of money. If I'm going to blow a hundred + a person on a meal, I'll do it somewhere in Napa.

Nope - gotta be a Czech excursion, just for the novelty of it!

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Oh, I'm easy on when to go. It is an hour-and-a-half drive from Napa so a weekend might be easier just because of the travel time for those us coming from this direction (so far, Shawn, me, and Wolfert!). Maybe a late Sunday afternoon excursion?

Okay, I'm going to repost this as a new topic!

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  • 4 weeks later...

I-5 is a wasteland, and finding good, nay, edible food within a few miles has been a life-long frustration. One notable exception is Woolgrowers Hotel in Los Banos. Since it's pretty much dead in the center of the state, we try to time trips south from Humboldt County so that we spend the night there, because Basque is not eat-n-go food.

Recently, though, we found a place that has been right under our nose. Louis Cairo's, 558 7th St in Williams is just a few blocks off the highway (the intersection of I-5 and 20), and we had a superior road lunch there in September. For those who are looking for exotic, I'm not sure it will be the ticket, but they butcher their own local Angus beef and lamb, and they make everything in-house.

Like Woolgrowers, you have to bravely walk in through a working-class bar, and the dining room is not fancy, although the brands of local ranches on wall plaques adds a nice touch of local color. Cairo's has been around since 1945, and Patty Jo Cairo is the daughter of the founder.

Besides steaks and chops, there are chicken livers and sweetbreads on the dinner menu, and two levels of intensity for garlic bread. There's also an appetizer called "Garlic Bulb and Brie." Italian, not Basque, but the soup we had was definitely in that league. Clearly, though, beef is what's for dinner.

We're on our way back on Jan. 1, and we'll stay over, have supper, and report back.

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I-5 is a wasteland, and finding good, nay, edible food within a few miles has been a life-long frustration.  One notable exception is Woolgrowers Hotel in Los Banos.  Since it's pretty much dead in the center of the state, we try to time trips south from Humboldt County so that we spend the night there, because Basque is not eat-n-go food. 

Recently, though, we found a place that has been right under our nose.  Louis Cairo's, 558 7th St  in Williams is just a few blocks off the highway (the intersection of I-5 and 20), and we had a superior road lunch there in September.  For those who are looking for exotic, I'm not sure it will be the ticket, but they butcher their own local Angus beef and lamb, and they make everything in-house.

Like Woolgrowers, you have to bravely walk in through a working-class bar, and the dining room is not fancy, although the brands of local ranches on wall plaques adds a nice touch of local color.  Cairo's has been around since 1945, and Patty Jo Cairo is the daughter of the founder. 

Besides steaks and chops, there are chicken livers and sweetbreads on the dinner menu, and two levels of intensity for garlic bread.  There's also an appetizer called "Garlic Bulb and Brie."  Italian, not Basque, but the soup we had was definitely in that league.  Clearly, though, beef is what's for dinner. 

We're on our way back on Jan. 1, and we'll stay over, have supper, and report back.

The Apricot Tree on I-5 makes the BEST apricot shake in the world. They whip up a shake using their apricots, ice cream and milk. There is not another good thing at this place. The food is worse than bad, but oh that apricot shake.

Another I-5 find is Tita's Pupusaria, off the Buttonwillow exit. It has authentic and tasty Salvadorian and Mexican food.

IMO, Tita's would be a major find in SF, LA or San Diego. The pupusas are thick handmade discs filled with cheese. In addition there are pupusas with loroca, a salvadorian flower, fried pork or refried beans. It is accompanied by an tasty corrido, that vinegary slaw of onions, carrots and cabbage. Spread it on top of your pupusa and dig in.

There are also excellent house made aqua frescas. The tamarindo was deep ruby red and had a smokey under taste. I liked the horchata and the arrayan, a Salvadorian fruit from my understanding. Usually there's a flavor of the day, like coconut or pineapple.

If you don't like Salvadorian, there is a choice of American and Mexican dishes. You can get a burger, fries and even chicken fried steak with biscuits and gravy. Haven't tried these though because I really liked the Salvadorian dishes.

There are nightly specials that sell out early like Babacoa and menudo.

The yucca con chicarrones is a standout, but I wouldn't suggest it if you are a burguer and fries type.

The tamales can be ordered Salvadorian style or Mexican style. I ordered the Salvadorian style which are moister. There are tamales de elote, pork or chicken.

I enjoyed the empanada de plantano, a fried banana stuffed with pudding. Also liked the plantanos con frijoles y crema.

I have yet to try Tita's homemade flan which is made with three different types of milk.

There are bottles of Jarritos which are Mexican sodas as well as Cola Champagne, a Salvadorian soda (it was ok, but I wouldn't order it again ... besides the fresh agua frescas were so much better.

Tita's is open from 7 am until 10 pm seven days a week. I haven't tried breakfast there yet but in addition to American breakfasts you can get Sincronizado con tosino. There is ham, cheese and frijoles.

Meals come with good chips and a hot hosemade salsa (not too hot, but hot enough to give it character).

Tita is a friendly woman from El Salvador. Occasionally the daughters help out. You will feel welcome.

The tables are covered with lovely white tablecloths embroidered with flowers. The walls are decorated with framed Central American money, 3d pictures of animals by a waterfall that gurgles. The picture of the last Supper is under a plastic grape vine. I thought that was a nice touch.

To get there, take the Buttonwillow exit and hang a right (you want to pass Starbucks. Don't go in the direction of Carl's Jr. When you get to the end of the street, take a right to Buttonwillow which is located amid cotton fields.

It is a short 5 miles up the road. Tita's is on 350 Front street which is the main drag. Once you make the right toward Buttonwillow, you won't need to make any more turns.

But wait, as they say in the infomercials. There are actually more good restaurants in Buttonwillow. Talking to some other diners, it seems there is a Mexican restaurant that makes guacamole at your table.

I think it is El Jacalito which is a deep reddish pink building.

Buttonwillow originally had a large, for the town, Italian population. JC's pizza Shak is a holdover from those days. It was sold about a year ago, but I hear the pizza is still authentic. Haven't tried it though.

The residents are mainly Hispanic and on a Sunday afternoon, Mexican music drifts out of the houses in this tiny town.

I you are interested you can see the Buttonwillwo tree for which the town was name. A lonely large tree in the middle of open fields. According to a plaque placed by the Kern County Historical Society, it is a "lone tree on an old trans velley trail. It was an ancient Yokuts Indian Meeting place.

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  • 7 months later...

An interesting post in Food Media & News! Alton Brown (FoodTV) will be looking for refreshment along Route 66.

For newcomers to the route, here's a refresher:

California Route 66 Preservation Foundation (The old map is kind of cool . . .)

U.S. Highway 66

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Mary Baker

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