Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Road Trip: Half Moon Bay, Pescadero and San Gregario





It’s an easy drive from San Francisco south to Half Moon Bay on Highway 1, now that the new under-mountain tunnel is in place. What used to be a steering-wheel-gripping maze of twists and turns on sea cliffs is now a pleasant half hour journey. Don’t worry… the sea views are still there and still beautiful on a fog-free day.

Going on a weekend makes the road a bit more crowded but is a wise move to truly explore the region since many of the area’s venues—such as the local cheese and goat farm—are only open on weekends. You can’t miss the hand-painted girl and goat signs to Harley Farms in Pescadero (www.harleyfarms.com) which is only open Thursday through Sunday. Naturally, there’s a cheese shop.

Indeed, many of the area’s activities are for families—farms where you can ride horses or ponies, elaborate play yards built on the grounds of country stores and many pick-it-yourself fields lining the roadside for those who want more activity than loading up at the farm stand.

As it turns out, this part of coastal California is a portion of the state’s fruit bowl. Both agriculture and floriculture thrive in the black dirt and foggy air—orchids alone bring in over $15 million in revenue to the area.

Pumpkins are popular all year round and while there is a pumpkin festival in October, there are pumpkin flavors and products all year round. Here it was the middle of June and I saw plenty of fat juicy pumpkins on doorsteps to farms and homes.

Our first stop was lunch at the iconic harbor-side Barbara’s Fishtrap in Half Moon Bay. There are several seafood restaurants in this area but I’m partial to Barbara’s for their award winning chowder and the best shrimp, oysters and scallops on the West Coast. Seniors and children can order from an extensive price friendly menu.

After lunch, we drove around the hood, discovering many farms and flower fields near the junction of Route 92 and Highway 101, which sort of serves as the heart of Half Moon Bay. The “historic downtown” isn’t very exciting, but the farms and greenhouses on Route 92 are brimming with color and bargains.

We popped into ePlantWorld (www.eplantworld.com), an orchid grower with a greenhouse packed solid with a variety of orchids. Up front near the cash register was an assortment of large—and I mean giant—stems and roots and branches filled with pale rusty cymbidium blossoms, on special for $15. The most expensive (and expansive) of plants in the greenhouse was $15; I bought an orchid—slim but elegant with one long branch of seven white flowers in a small tub—for $5! In all, my bill for six orchid plants was less than $80; this shop doesn’t accept plastic so go prepared with your checkbook or plenty of cash.






Before returning to San Francisco, we left Highway 1 for the back country and tiny towns of Pescadero and San Gregario, linked by tiny Stage Road. Both are charming not in their charm (they actually have very little natural charm) but in the fact that they remind us of the heart of America and what’s real between a family, the land and the products they harvest. In Pescadero we stopped for coffee at Duarte’s tavern, famous to many, which was adorable as a movie set but the menu was so-so. The high point was Norm’s Market where we bought still-warm-from-the oven loaves of artichoke and garlic bread to take home.








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