I don’t often sleep before big trips. Whether in attempts to force a dreariness upon myself to get through a plane flight, or simply to soak up every last bit of fun in town, waking up fresh isn’t really my thing. This next exciting adventure of mine was no different especially noting my best friend had just arrived home after a sixteen day cross county road trip. Luckily caffeine was highly accessible & gave us both enough energy to catch up in our way. Let’s just say we get distracted easily.
Distractions usually luring us to food. Having grown up in San Rafael, but momentarily living in my parent’s Napa house, any chance to return to my roots is welcomed, especially to the Thursday Farmer’s Market on Downtown 4th street. Although it was winding down once we arrived, I still managed to fork out $3 in quarters for a well charred ear of corn. Black specks reminiscent of my brace face days settled into my teeth, but in best friend fashion, Mara so kindly alerted me of my mouth’s accessories.
Once a few powerful swishes of water were put in order, my still present appetite was directed toward Crepevine. Featuring a massive chalkboard colorfully presenting an array of sandwiches, sweet & savory crepes, breakfast galore, and various beverages to wash it down, you could say it took a little while to decide what would best fulfill my hunger. Finally settling on the savory Milano crepe stocked with spinach, grilled eggplant, mushrooms, topped with marinara sauce and coupled with rosemary waxy potatoes, laughing between bites caused the time to get away from us.
Knowing I still had an hour drive back to the vineyard homeland, we reluctantly said [many] goodbye[s].
With all this being said, being woken up the following morning was a struggle. Lucky for me though, my puzzle packing Dad had strategically managed to fit my substantial load of stuff into the car. All I had to do was squeeze my tall self into the compact setup. #tallpeopleproblems
Once on the road, my highly caffeinated Mom jabbered away as I offered a few half asleep ‘uh huhs’, ‘oh yeah’, ‘yup’s before fully allowing myself to submit to slumber. Opening my eyes every once in a while to view the nothingness of Redding, the sparkly surface of Lake Shasta, and the snowy glaze of Mt. Shasta herself(appropriate for National Donut Day), once lunchtime rolled around, quick energy surged my fingers to peck away on Yelp.
Through the in and out cell service, I managed to discover a few quality spots in the town of Dunsmuir. On their main drag(which really was only a few blocks), a few names were recognized from my findings, but my heart was set on the Dogwood Diner a street down. Once parked outside their block letter sign, we were told to sit wherever we wanted in the quaint setting. A row of framed photographs courtesy of local artists spanned the soft green walls, complimenting the floral cotton napkins brought to our table. On the vegetarian friendly menu, I soon found myself in my usual 50-50 struggle. This or that. I’ve found my best solution is to use my persuasive skills to lure my company into choosing one of the options. “I think I’ll try that Eggplant sandwich Annie.” Check.
Although her ciabatta roll was well spread with homemade tomato jam, fresh arugula, and nicely grilled eggplant, I definitely was satisfied with my final choice. The Macro bowl certainly lived up to its name topped with two hefty hunks of pan fried tofu shimmering a golden brown hue and covered by a generous pour of toasted pumpkin seeds above brown rice, white beans, salted greens, arugula, roasted root vegetables, porcini mushrooms, and lemon- tamari vinaigrette. Not so stealthily stealing the additional ‘ketchup’ or sweet tomato sauce, a few large swirls into the bowl really made the dish on par.
Settled into a momentary food coma, we hopped back into the Ford Focus. Cue a lovely nap.
Getting in touch with my eat, sleep, eat, sleep, I’m a dog routine, when I was alerted of our arrival at the Holiday Inn Express, it dawned on me that I would have to leave my mini hub in the backseat. I was very much okay with this fact.
Once dropping a few bags in the spacious room and ooing & ahhing at the shampoo and conditioner brands in the bathroom, we were set to explore Ashland, OR. My initial perception of the town stemmed from my high school’s drama team going to the Shakespeare festival, so although I had heard of it, experiencing the lively town was another story.
Downtown packed several rag wearing, guitar strumming, violin playing musicians of all ages on the sidewalk, but also in their thrift stores, gallery openings, and restaurants. Imagine Hollywood Blvd.’s ‘talent’ competing for street space, but revised to fit an authentic dose of undiscovered voices and players. Sure their instrument cases were laid out in front of them, but judging by these performances, they’re not in it for the money; their mission simply is to spread their joy for music.
The live soundtrack to this day clearly cued the good nature of its happenings. Wandering in and out of local shops not only was relaxing, but once we stumbled upon Paddington Station, I knew I could love again. Without sounding overly dramatic, this store was made for me. & being two stories? Let’s just say we spent a fair amount of time exclaiming, ‘Wait, this is the coolest thing ever!’ Every kitchen utensil imaginable, aesthetically packaged perfume and beauty finds, locally made jewelry, Urban Outfitters-esk book selection, and an entire wall of Republic of tea and hilarious loose tea shapes among other fun finds. I was this close to getting a Manatea…
Somehow I left the store buying only a long necklace with a gold claw grasping a turquoise ball and a reusable ‘red cup’, but my appetite had certainly returned. Trusting my Dad with the dinner decision, we continued walking toward the setting sun until finally reaching the Sesame Asian Kitchen. Seeing that it is Summer and all, we gladly accepted outdoor seating.
Presented with burnt orange. scaled menus, my design senses were tingling. A minimalist sans serif logo on a light neon green overhang let me breathe a sigh of foodie relief. But breathing in deeply soon followed, and several more inhales of the Asian dishes expelling aromas off the neighboring plates.
When edamame is on the menu, you order it. You just do. So that was settled. Yet these were quite unique, grilled and peppered with flecks of red pepper and sea salt offering an almost bbq smokiness to the appetizer. Delicious indeed, but again, my 50/50 syndrome took control. This was soon remedied however by choosing both. Sometimes to get the best of both worlds, choosing each is the answer.
Starting with one of my favorite appetizers, Summer Rolls, I was pleasantly surprised by the build.
Without being overstuffed with vegetable goodness or too thin of rice paper, not one strand of vermicelli noodle, cucumber, carrot, red leaf lettuce, daikon, mint leaf, or cashew spilled anywhere but my mouth.
When the Rocket salad arrived, my immediate reaction was one of respect. For an amateur chef who spends [too much] time perfecting the plating of any one edible creation, this presentation certainly was beautiful.
Having ordered shrimp as my protein, the skewered seafood crossed in an X over the fresh rocket, sweet sesame brittle, strands of jicama, and futuristic ‘lotus chips’. What really is the star component of the salad is the lime-coconut vinaigrette. The lime is subtle to the coconut body, yet when melded with the salad, awards the ingredients with a lush richness. I wish they sold this stuff by the bottle.
Being only the first day of our pre-adventure before leaving me in Seattle, I can only imagine the glorious foodie treasures awaiting me in our next destination; I’m coming for you Fred in the land of Portland.