Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Love CA!

I realized today that I haven't posted an ode to my adopted home state in a really long time. To be honest, part of the reason is because lately I haven't been feeling the love for Cali like I used to. It's hard times in the Golden State with eight (I think) cities making Forbes "20 Most Miserable Cities in America" list and most state agencies cutting back on hours and staff to the point where  there's very little here that still works like it's supposed to. I mean, four months to get your new driver's license mailed to you? And that's on top of the two hours you had to wait in line at the DMV to renew it! 
Yeah. Not exactly efficient. Good thing we're as laid back as we are...never mind all the road rage you've heard tell of.

This is not the state I fell in love with all those many years ago (never mind how many! ). This is not the state I celebrated in book after book after book, or whose loss I mourned loudly and obnoxiously every single muggy day of the year-and-nine-months I had to live in Florida.

Sorry, Florida. It's not you, it's me.

Recently, I've even given serious thought to making my home elsewhere. Hawaii, for instance. Or Belize, Ecuador, Tonga, New Zealand...or any of the other places my peripatetic, empire-building hubby has his eye on.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get my dog out there...

But this week, I think I might be falling back in love with California. It helps that the sun's finally out--after a solid year of unusually cold and wet. It helps that the cherry blossoms and daffodils are in bloom. But what really sealed the deal was the cuisine.

See, I'd been having a bad week. A really bad week. I'd already given myself a fat lip and a twisted ankle--in separate household accidents. I'd lost the insurance card to my jeep (still no idea where it could have gone) and nearly blew up my son's car when the coolant ran low and the hood release malfunctioned. 

Then, every computer in the house apparently decided that, President's Day--it's not just for humans anymore! And staged a work stoppage. Really weird glitchy things which spontaneously corrected themselves for no apparent reason.

And it was still only Tuesday morning!

So, when my daughter (brilliant young woman that she is) suggested we drive up to Sonoma for lunch I jumped all over the idea.  Right after my insurance agent emailed me a replacement insurance card, of course. Have I mentioned lately how much I love, love, love the internet? Well, when it's working, anyway.

The drive up was gorgeous (even if entirely too many of the other drivers were insisting on taking the meandering country roads at unsafe speeds, imo). The grass was green. The mustard was in bloom. The grapevines were budding. And the hills were dotted with painted, wooden cut-outs of sheep...

Yeah, that part was a little odd, actually.

We made good time and found a parking space (no meters--yes!) right smack in front of one of our favorite restaurants, the Plaza Bistro.
See that black car? That's not ours, but that's where we were parked.

The bistro features "wine country cuisine".  Translated, that means their dishes rely heavily on local fruit and veggies--whether fresh, dried or roasted; seafood (it's complicated); organic meat--especially lamb...which may account for the sheep cut-outs, I guess; edible flowers; as well as olives, great bread and goat cheese. Lots of goat cheese. And also, of course, wine.

You can order a glass of zinfandel (and I've been on a serious zin kick lately) with your cheeseburger and fries (or your open-faced grilled portabello sandwich with roasted red peppers, spinach and chevre on focaccia) and no one will bat an eye.  Trust me on that.

We got a table by the window, looking out at the town square. We drank great wine, (well, one of us did, anyway) ate great food, eavesdropped on incredibly silly conversations. By the time the  last of the creme brulee with fresh berries was eaten I couldn't even remember what I'd been worked up about. I was as relaxed as if I'd just spent the day at a spa. 

Although, for the sake of accuracy, I suppose I really should drive up to Calistoga next week and spend a day at the hot springs, just to compare...


Meg Benjamin said...

Oh, Sonoma Jack--how I miss it (and don't ask me why I can't find it in the foothills, must be a Colorado thing). Yes, yes PG, you must drive to Calistoga. How else will you be able to make a truly informed comparison!

PG Forte said...

lol! Thank, Meg. I knew I could count on you for support.

What flavor of Sonoma Jack? I'll try to bring some to RT.

Meg Benjamin said...

Just about any flavor! I used to love it fresh and so soft you could actually spread it. Sourdough, Sonoma Jack, and dry salami. Give me a glass of sauvignon blanc and I'm good to go!

Juniper Bell said...

Aw man ... when we're in CA for RT, can I go to lunch with you?? That sounds sooo good! Here in Alaska it's all about the salmon burgers. ;(

Kelly Jamieson said...

PG you're making me weep!! I want to be in Santa Barbara eating a BLTCA on the deck at Derf's.

PG Forte said...

lol! See? This is why I hate the thought of ever moving away. And, yep, we'll have to get Skylar to point us in the direction of some good local eats when we're in LA.

I'm devastated by reports of Gladstone's 4 Fish's new menu. :( That used to be my go-to place for awesome breakfasts. *sigh*