Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: In-N-Out of California and beyond
Nepenthe, a restaurant in Big Sur, Calif., offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. (MIKE COTE/Union Leader)
Twitter: "If you retweet it and you have '0' followers, was it retweeted?" That caption from a cartoon by Bruce Eric Kaplan in the latest edition of The New Yorker underscores how much the quick-hit social media tool has permeated our culture. News that the San Francisco company plans to go public dominated headlines last week, including that of the San Jose Mercury News, the local newspaper of choice for our hosts, which dubbed it "the most anticipated Silicon Valley initial public offering since Facebook."
Fried artichokes: Sorry, Castroville - the artichoke-growing capital of the world - but deep-fried artichoke hearts, however tasty they may be, hardly move my soul the way New England deep-fried clams do. But now I can cross this visit off my bucket list. (Actually, artichokes are better enjoyed boiled and then dipped in a ranch dressing laced with California-made Tapatio hot sauce.)
Sterling Vineyards: On several previous trips to California wine country, I visited family-owned vintners so this self-guided tour of a big production winery in Calistoga, owned by London-based conglomerate Diageo, was more akin to touring a beer plant. While there were plenty of oak barrels, we also saw giant stainless steel tanks. The tour features a gondola ride with striking mountain views and for a few bucks more per person, a private tasting room with a more personal touch than the sampling stations along the way.
Schramsberg Vineyards: This winery traces its roots to 1862 when German immigrant Jacob Schram bought a large tract of land on the mountainsides of Napa Valley, joining other Germans who had moved to the region to produce wine. In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies rescued the property from near-abandonment and then had the nerve to specialize in making sparkling wine, one that has long been a staple of White House dinners with international dignitaries, as a photo gallery in the vineyard tour depicts.
Morimoto Napa: A visit to a restaurant owned by Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto can be an expensive one, but it's worth the experience. Among our table favorites were the appetizers: sushi tuna pizza with anchovy aioli, olives and jalepano; and rock shrimp tempura with spicy kochujan sauce and wasabi aoli. My crispy whole fish with spicy tofu sauce was a wonder to eat and to view.
Andaz Napa: While staying in historic hotels, such as San Francisco's Fairmont, offers a certain cache (translation: bragging rights), there's something special about a new hotel with sleek, modern furnishings. The Andaz Napa, which opened a few years ago downtown and is now owned by Hyatt, offers the kind of experience that made us relish the friends-and-family discount we secured from our local hosts. Do you really need two 40-inch flatscreen TVs in your room? Probably not. But for the premium rates these rooms usually secure, it's a luxury to be expected, along with the giant marble bathroom featuring the walk-in shower and the rainfall shower head.
Dametra Cafe: This small Mediterranean restaurant in Carmel by the Sea was our favorite dining spot during the trip, not just because the food was delicious and reasonably priced, but because the gyro, the Jerusalem Kafta Kebab Wrap and the Moroccan tea (offered gratis by one of our hosts who said we could get it nowhere else) was served with the kind of warmth you can't fake. During our lunch, the head chef serenaded the patrons, walking from table to table, as another restaurant worker played a traditional stringed instrument.
Dr. Seuss: Artwork by the late children's author Theodore "Seuss" Geisel is a major feature of Petri's Fine Arts in Sausalito and the star of The Art of Dr. Seuss at Carmel by the Sea. Geisel, who lived in La Jolla, created a body of work that stretched far beyond his best-known characters the Grinch and the Cat and the Hat, including his "unorthodox taxidermy" series, a collection of imaginary creature sculptures he made in the 1930s using real animal beaks and horns.
Nepenthe: This Big Sur restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean offers one of the most stunning views in California or anywhere for that matter. You could serve microwave pizza and hot dogs and still have people waiting in line at this mountain locale. While Nepenthe's menu prices might reflect a scenic view premium ($8 for a basket of french fries would be off the charts at In-N-Out Burger), the baby back ribs lunch special was well worth the $21, even without the breathtaking vista of the mountains and the ocean.
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or email@example.com.
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