Friday, August 16, 2013

Travels with Chili: Three Nights on the Road, Pt. 1

How much can you reasonably cram into a three-night, four-day road trip? We'd been pining to go back to Jack's Grill in Redding, but between work and dogs and myriad commitments a long, leisurely drive down the coast wasn't in the cards.

Welcome to our cozy cottage!

I spent a couple of hours on the phone doing research and came up with a plan. We'd drive down to Arcata, a little bayside town just south of the redwoods and a smidge north of Eureka, spend a couple of nights, then drive due east through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to Redding, stay another night and come home. A fast trip, to be sure, but eminently do-able.

The drive down was uneventful and, because we cut off from I-5 at Grants Pass, was a pastiche of small towns, kids playing softball on school fields and roadside cafés advertising pie and barbecue. I'd arranged to stay at a "cozy" cottage in Arcata's Northtown neighborhood, chock full of drool-worthy restored Victorians and with its own little cluster of shops and restaurants.

Small, but perfect for two nights.

Ann Wallace converted a woodshed behind her Victorian after a young poet, who'd lived there in appropriately poetic simplicity for eight years, moved out. It's tiny, as befits its original use, but now has a sitting area and kitchen filled with light from the windows that wrap around the end of the building, with a bedroom and bathroom tucked into the back. The view from those windows looks over the town below and out to the bay and ocean, and we witnessed a spectacular sunset our second night there.

Salmon and ratatouille…a combo worth stealing.

The first evening we arrived late and chose a nearby restaurant recommended by Ann, Folie Douce, which advertised its organic and local bona fides and looked like a sweet spot. Warm and colorful, it reminded me of Lucca with pizzas and entrées of fish and lamb from area farms. We chose to split the tomato salad with roasted corn, a variation on a panzanella with thin rounds of rye soaking up the juices and feta from a local dairy scattered across it. We also split the fillet of roasted salmon on ratatouille, a delicious combination I'm stealing for later this summer.

Eddie Tanner of Deep Seeded Farm.

The next morning I'd made arrangements, again courtesy of Ann, to tour Deep Seeded Farm, a CSA-supported venture owned by Eddie Tanner, a young, friendly bear of a fellow. Rather than focusing on wholesale or farmers' markets to make a go of it, he'd leased land right on the edge of Arcata, making it a snap for subscribers to pick up their produce. The land, an ancient river bed that had once been a pasture for dairy cows, had most recently been used for growing hay, which stripped the land of nutrients, making it necessary for Eddie to rebuild the soil for his vegetables and fruit trees. While not certified organic, he's taken pains to use organic methods, shunning pesticides and sprays in favor of compost and organic fertilizers. Currently boasting 200 subscribers, he said the number of local families the farm feeds runs around 350 counting shared subscriptions.

By afternoon the sun had burned off the morning's clouds, so we opted for a walk on the beach with the dogs (top photo), then a stop at the town co-op for vegetables to sauté and toss with pasta for dinner. There was still a half bottle of wine from the night before, just enough to close out our last night in Arcata before heading inland into the heat that was waiting for us in Redding.

Read Part 2 of this post.

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