This afternoon, I meandered my way south from the San Francisco Bay Area to Pacific Grove, one of my favorite “home towns”.
Along the way, I stopped at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Steinbeck’s home town. John Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite authors and the Center tells the story of his life and times very well. Literary Traveler profiles the Steinbeck Center. This year (2002) is the 100th anniversary of his birth.
At the bookstore, I picked up a copy of a small book titled “Steinbeck Country” by David A. Laws (2002, ISBN 0-09723874-0-4, Windy Hills Press, PO Box 7215, Menlo Park, CA 94026). I was curious about the book because the author must live very close to me. It’s a guide to exploring the settings of Steinbeck’s stories in and around Salinas, Monterey, and environs. The book is very nicely done — obviously Steinbeck and the Monterey/Salinas areas are some of David A. Laws’ favorite subjects!
Had to resist buying any new copies of Steinbeck’s books at the bookstore — even though one of my favorite things to do while in the Salinas/Monterey area is to read one of his local books. At home, I especially enjoy the three volumes of Steinbeck’s works published by the Library of America.
Out in the rotunda of the National Steinbeck Center, I noticed a flyer for “California Stories“, a project sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities. They’re sponsoring a statewide program during the month of October for citizens of California to read Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath“. During a vacation in Hawaii a couple of years ago, I was totally engrossed in reading Steinbeck’s masterpiece – after ignoring it in high school! Highly recommended! I also enjoyed the driving tour of Steinbeck’s Pacific Grove.
Salinas was having a classic car display on the streets surrounding the Steinbeck Center sponsored by the Salinas Valley Street Rodders — the whole thing sorta had that “American Graffiti” feel to it with colorful cars, cool 50-60’s people, great music, all under a glorious northern California end of summer crystal blue sky.
As I was heading southwest out of Salinas on Highway 68 towards Pacific Grove, I discovered KRML at 1410 on the AM dial. I really enjoy finding local radio stations while driving — and this one’s a very special treat. Too many stations are now part of the big conglomerates (Infinity, Clear Channel, etc.) and they all sound the same. KRML is different. Home of Clint Eastwood in “Play Misty for Me”. Local, AM, Jazz. Smooth.
Tonight for dinner it was Passionfish on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. Wow. A good friend had recommended Passionfish — saying it wasn’t a fish place. That’s sorta true — about half the menu is fish but not your typical farm-raised Atlantic salmon. The other half is meats of various kinds — slow roasted, grilled.
For dinner, I had the pork tenderloin — it came with sweeps of grainy mustard, sauteed vegetables and a side of classic macaroni and cheese. Delicious. The apppetizer was equally great — seared rare tuna with wasabi slaw (apples sliced into strips with wasabi — yum!) and an amazing ginger sauce. Service was crisp and tight.
Passionfish has an amazing wine list. They price their wines at “retail” — meaning they mark them up 50% above what they pay wholesale for them and then add $1 to cover wine glass breakage costs. The result is the cheapest but most extensive wine list you’ll find anywhere! I had a split of the Rombauer ’00 Carneros Chardonnay — it was just delicious with the pork.
Life doesn’t get much better than this!