Carmel Valley Day Three

Being written at 2 p.m. (Pacific time). So yesterday morning we went to breakfast in the little dining room at the motel. Then Kathryn and I repeated our walk, finding ourselves at the office for the Country Garden, which we thought was much farther down the road. I arranged earlier checkout, and our great manager, Sunil, gave us passes for complimentary wine tastings.

I came back and hung around until Larry started watching the men’s basketball game, then took another walk and used one of the passes, at the Twisted Roots tasting room, which is attached to an antiques shop. The antique lady who ran it was wearing a great cloche with a huge purple and red flower attached.

Young wine tasting guy is moving to Chicago because he and his girlfriend are musicians. He grew up in central California but has lived in Montana and so is ready for the cold. He said he’s 7/8 Irish and 1/8 Native, from a tribe in upstate Washington. The gf is from Philadelphia, and we agreed that the local denizens are loud. The wines: a Chard, which was OK but a bit oaky even if it resided briefly in oak casks; a Cab, also OK; a petite Sirah, the most popular, was better than those old vine zins, lower in alcohol and no overpowering slap on the tongue.

I had already said goodbye to Carol and Susan, who were driving back to L.A., and was surprised to run into them at the local market. They had waited to see Julian and Tristen so I ran back up the hill and got to see them before they went back to Berkeley so they could pack for their trip to Puerto Rico on Monday.

When I returned to the room, Larry was jumping around like a little kid on a pogo stick because the Huskies  were ahead and stayed that way. The team was ranked seven, meaning it had to go through teams perceived as six layers better to claim the NCAA crown. As Larry recovered from his hyperventilation, I called Deb, who was screaming. He called Uncle Willard, who was equally thrilled but just a tiny bit less ebullient.

After everyone had gone off to the bonfire on the beach – a bit too cold and too windy for our tastes – we drove to Café Rustico for dinner. A recommendation from Kathryn’s sister Liz, who lives in town, it presents as a very French bistro with an Italian menu and French waitstaff except for the cooks who were all from Latin America. (I found out later they might come from the Philippines.)

Highlight of the evening: this little woman whose face was more of a Botoxed, face-lifted mess than Joan Rivers’ and with a dyed mass of orang-y hair, came in escorted by a small man. The young woman at the hostess station looked at the manager and said, “You go.” Larry and I burst out laughing. She looked a bit embarrassed. We asked if they were regulars. She said yes, and that when they are inside her perfume overwhelms the other diners and that the escort can be a bit of a pain. They ate outside. We were inside at a table by the window looking out on a pretty garden.

Larry had goulash, having said he wasn’t hungry and changing his mind from pork loin. He consumed the entire enormous portion. I had a Caesar salad large enough to give me lunch for today and an eggplant Napoleon with mozz, kalamata olives, pine nuts, heavenly dressing surrounded by greens and radicchio. I walked back to the motel and enjoyed the frogs croaking in the fountain at the Cowgirl Winery for the first few hundred yards. The only downside: There are no lights along the road to the inn and not many on the main drag. Thankfully there is a sidewalk but the uneven sidewalk and flip-flops underfoot made for a bit of adventure.

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