Monday, February 13, 2017

COLUMBIA, THE GEM OF THE... California High Country

California High County

In the fall of 2016 Richard and I winged our way north on the I-5 in search of gold country, not in a covered wagon, but in my Highlander Hybrid SUV.  We stopped in Sacramento to connect with brother Bob and sister-in-law, Nguyen then made our way to California High Country and our latest road trip adventure...  We camped at Angel's Camp, Mark Twain's old stomping grounds.  Well, not exactly "camped" as we had a two bedroom, two bath condo at the Worldmark resort with a fabulous terrace overlooking a gorgeous 18 hole golf course... 
 ... where deer wandered below...
...but back to the topic at hand...

... we toured the High Sierras 
 and various mining towns, lunched amid the sequoias, waded in glacial lakes...

 ... and lived through a horrific traffic jam situation at Yosemite which prevented us from entering the Valley (another story - another blog).. but on our last day in Gold Rush country we discovered, almost by accident, the historic mining town of Columbia, and a gem it is.

And, to our surprise, the old City Hotel Restaurant, in the still operational charming City Hotel was open for lunch...
The hotel and restaurant's decor was perfect, taking you back to a different time we only know from books and movies (unless you're very, very, very old)... 
The menu by chef and co-owner Christopher Segarini was a cross between today and yesterday - from tomato bruschetta made on grilled Kalamata roasted red pepper bread with pesto, baby heirloom tomatoes and drizzled with Hurst Ranch olive oil and reduced balsamic... to fish & chips and burgers... a food writer's delight.

We had bloody Marys to start, then I had to try sarsaparilla, a kind of root beer with licorice "notes."

Dressed in period garb, Clover (the perfect name for the era) was our warm and friendly waitress.  Our lunch consisted of a couple of crisp wedge salads with blue cheese, bacon and tomato...

 Some Cajun fried chicken legs and thighs...

And for me, the cheese-aholic, grilled Colby cheese that oozed out of toasted sourdough bread and into your mouth when you bit into it.  Heaven.

It was a drizzly day, but that didn't stop of us from touring the town...take the tour with me.

The assayer's office

The assayer's office
The blacksmith
Boarding house where miners stayed
even a bowling alley
 candy store - most candies made in the "back"

the emporium

A location for "High Noon" - that's the buckboard used in the movie

Inside the jail

The schoolhouse
My favorite building - the newspaper office
The livery
Even the Masons came to town
The old General Store
The hearse inside the wagon stable
exterior of the wagon stable
inside the wagon stable
Wells Fargo, of course

If you find yourself exploring California's High Country and mining towns make sure you don't miss Columbia.  Say hello to Clover for us.

Thursday, January 5, 2017



It's winter!  Even in Ojai. The holiday season is over.  Blizzards abound.  Well, not in Ojai.  We're just happy if it rains, but the temps dip low and logs have been burning in our fireplace.  It's cassoulet weather.  Recently Richard made a great one.  A few years ago he made a Christmas Cassoulet for one of our holiday parties and worked on it for days, because, well, that's what you do with a cassoulet.  But this recipe is for a quickie.  Cassoulet in a flash.  Takes about a half hour.  And I'm here to report that it's good enough to share with y'all.  Good enough for company.
So here goes.

3 ounces of duck sausage, casings removed.  Richard couldn't find duck sausage in our little hamlet so he substituted pork sausage.

2 ounces center-cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped carrot
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3 ounces) boneless duck breast half (optional - Richard chose not to include the duck breast, although on another occasion he substituted a chicken breast.  He figured that afficionados would forgive him).

Cooking spray

2 (15.5 ounce) cans, no-salt added, white beans rinsed, drained and divided
2 tablespoons no-salt added tomato paste
1-1/4 cups no-salt added chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons walnut oil


1.  Preheat the broiler to high
2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage and bacon to pan; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally to crumble sausage.  Remove mixture from pan using a slotted spoon; place in a bowl.  Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in pan; reserve remaining drippings for another use.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add onion and next 4 ingredients (through minced garlic) to drippings in pan; saute 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add onion mixture to sausage mixture.

3.  Remove skin from duck (or chicken) breast and discard.  Cut breast into 1/2 inch pieces.  Return pan to medium-high heat.  Lightly coat pan with cooking spray.  Add duck breast; saute for 3 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from heat.

4.  Combine 1/2 cup beans, tomato paste, and stock in a food processor; process until smooth.  Add pureed bean mixture, sausage mixture, remaining beans, and pepper to pan w/ duck; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook 2 minutes.  Spoon 1 cup of bean mixture into each of 4 (8 ounce) ramekins lightly coated with cooking spray.  Combine panko, parsley, and oil in a small bowl; toss.  Divide panko mixture evenly among ramekins.  Place ramekins on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until browned.  Richard says watch carefully.  The panko browns rather quickly and usually under two minutes.


Serves 4 (serving size: 1 ramekin)
Calories - 383 (w/ duck breast)

Bon appetit!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Recognize this?

The Birds

Our excellent adventure was winding down, so Bob, Nguyen, Richard and I got back on the coast highway and made our way to the town of Mendocino for a leisurely afternoon.  We had done this drive twice already, so I knew what to expect and when to close my eyes so my heart wouldn't race as I imagined us careening off the cliff in the Pacific Ocean below.  I barely whimpered.

Once in town, we strolled the main street, filled with quaint buildings an interesting shops and galleries.

We walked the side streets with its picturesque homes surrounded by white picket fences.

And checked out the Art Center for a little local culture...

... and the theater...

Hungry, we had a late lunch in the beautiful yellow, three story hotel where Richard and I stayed some years ago..

...then after shopping in the town's fabulous gourmet market for the dinner Richard and Bob would made that night, we headed back to our cabin.

On our last excellent adventure day, the weather was dreary, so we stayed close to our cabins and explored Point Arena, the little town where we were staying and ended up at The Chowder House, an upstairs tavern for lunch...

... by the town's fishing pier.

By the time we got to the lighthouse for one more look, the sky way blue.

The next morning we had to say good by to our cabins in the woods...

... and head back to Bob and Nguyen's house in Sacramento - but not before stopping at The Dog House in Bodega Bay for dogs and square burgers where our excellent adventure first unfolded.  After lunch we drove to the town of Bodega (not to be confused with Bodega Bay) and stepped into a Hitchcockian nightmare.

There's the church!!!

And the schoolhouse!!!

and Tippi Hedren with a bird picking at her head!!!

The Buckners didn't get us, but will the birds?!?!?"

I cowered behind Hitch til he promised me they'd behave.  Richard and Bob reassured him I wasn't crazy, while wondering why Hitch seemed to have just arrived from Honolulu.

We said goodbye and headed back to the coast highway going south toward sea level.  Our excellent adventure was over.  But I still kept a lookout for birds!