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On Valentine’s Day, we drove to Pescadero, CA, a small coastal town with a bit of that barren, wind-swept feeling that you might find around Fort Bragg and Mendocino.  Some enjoyable places to visit in Pescadero are the Arcangeli Grocery Company, Duarte’s Tavern, and the Harley Farms Goat Dairy.  While these are all worthy destinations, we were in Pescadero to visit our friend, L., who lives on a little horse ranch with a beautiful view of the ocean.   Elke and I first met L. when she hosted our AirBnB visit.  Elke connected right away with L and her horse work.  L. has a technical background and loves good science fiction, which resonates with myself.  L. is such a lovely person to spend time with!  For our visit, L. brought out some nice snacks and shared her homemade schnapps, which is made with olallieberries and other fruits!  Yummmy!

After catching up with L, Elke spent a little time with the horses.  She brought carrots.  Horses love carrots!  A little old shaggy farm dog followed us around.  The weather started to get a windy and cold, which it does very quickly in Pescadero.  We mime-hugged L., observing safe COVID distance but wishing we could truly hug her, and we said our farewells.  Then we drove a few miles south to Costanoa for our Valentine dinner.

Costanoa is a little coastal campground with amenities.  There, you will find the Cascade Restaurant and Bar.  Just about everything we’ve previously eaten at this romantic restaurant has been fresh, local, and delicious.  Valentine dinner was pre fixe, which means that it was a fixed menu with limited options.  Elke and I both chose the same items.

While Elke is a vegetarian, I am less so.   I enjoy sharing both food and experience,  When we eat, I try to explore the vegetarian side of menus so that we can share the experience.  With this dinner, there was an optional wine pairing for each dish.  We ordered one wine pairing so that we could both get a little taste of what the chef thought was appropriate for the choices that we selected.

The first dish was titled, “Amuse-Bouche” (pronounced ahmooz-boosh, French for “mouth amuser”).  It was a truffled cauliflower souffle, made with mascarpone, walnuts, and chervil.  Chefs make so many interesting dishes with cauliflower these days, and this was no exception.  It was like a tasty, savory little custard.  The first course was a golden beet carpaccio.  It had candied endive, goat cheese, and clementine oranges.  As is often the case, we ate this dish and got lost in conversation, and so no photographic proof exists.   While I liked this dish a lot, the candied endive was a dream in someone’s imagination that didn’t turn out so well in reality.  The chef sauteed small endive bulbs in brown sugar and butter. The endive was only sauteed on one side, which it made it look rotten on its bottom.  The saute didn’t improve the flavor of the endive, which was bland.  This dish was served with an Aperature 2019 Chenin Blanc, from Clarksburg, California.  I can’t remember when I’ve ever tasted such a bitter wine.  When I looked it up online, I found only glowing reviews.  I look forward to tasting my next Chenin Blanc to see if this is the taste I should expect from this wine varietal.  Maybe the cork was bad.

The second course was Pappardelle (flat noodles) with Wild Mushrooms.  It was made with arugula pesto, dried blueberries, and pink peppercorns, which popped in our mouths, exploding with peppery goodness.  All things considered, this dish was good, but not great.  Finally, we were served a dessert of Pinot Noir-Soaked Strawberries, made with chantillis (whipped cream), chocolate, and walnuts.  The flavor was surprisingly bland.  Even though the food didn’t meet my expectations, the time with Elke was fabulous.  There is no experience that the lovely Elke can’t make better.

Truffled Cauliflower SoufflePappardelle With Wild MushroomsPinot Noir-Soaked Strawberries

I have to recommend that if you visit the Cascade Restaurant and Bar on a regular night, try the roasted Brussels sprouts, which are amongst the best that Elke and I have ever tasted!