Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Road Trip!

Put me behind the steering wheel of my Prius for more than three hours, and the fantasies begin. No, I don't dream about Thelma and Louise-style adventures. I don't even give too much thought to the high price of gas since I'm averaging more than 50 miles to the gallon. What I fantasize about is food.

When I'm on the road in West Virginia, my favorite drinking while driving indulgence is RC Cola. If I can find it in a bottle, so much the better. Pair that with salty, crispy Wise Potato Chips (available only on the East Coast), and I really do think I'm all that and a bag of chips.

But when I'm on the road from LA to Sacramento and SF on that endless stretch called the I-5, I don't find general stores stocked with ice-cold pop or Wise Owl potato chips. So what did I munch and sip while driving along this arid route, where dust clouds are more common than cumulus clouds?

I filled a Nalgene bottle with home-brewed, sweet green tea. It's the drink of choice of half-Japanese, all Hillbilly transplants from West Virgnia to California. And instead of chowing chips, I munched on high-protein snacks like beef jerky, pistachio nuts and dried mangoes. It's all healthy, but somehow it seemed a little wrong for the road.

When I arrived in Rocklin (a suburb of Sacramento), my friend Barbara made sure I had my favorite breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh berries, orange zest and a tiny bear squeeze of honey.

In San Francisco, I tried Bar Tartine for dinner. I paired a glass of White Bordeaux with raw scallops and thinly sliced radish and seaweed in a delicate sauce. When I was down to the last little scallop, I cut it into teeny-weeny bites so that I could draw out the experience. The lady sitting next to me at the bar had the same dish, and our simultaneous "mmmmm's" of pleasure were becoming a little embarrassing.

The rest of the menu blended sophisticated, high brow ingredients (e.g. quail egg, foie gras) with down-home, low-brow items (e.g. ramps, bone marrow, pork belly). Yes, you read that correctly - bone marrow.

Canines have been sucking out the fatty marrow from bones for centuries. My friend Mara uses the roasted marrow bones for the base of the richest soup you'll ever taste. And I learned last year that bone marrow isn't just rich in flavor. It's packed with stem cells, the miraculous little components that become red or white blood cells and platelets. What I didn't know is that you could roast three small bones, put them on a plate with a tiny scooping spoon and two pieces of toast and call it an appetizer for $13. Live and learn.

(I thought briefly about performing a "bone marrow transplant" by moving the bone from my neighbor's plate to my own, but I stayed focused on my scallops. Sometimes I can't resist a little cancer humor.)

Dessert was an across-the-brow favorite: chocolate souffle with a side of sour cherries, a crackling of toffee and a topping of homemade vanilla ice cream.

The real treat came after dinner, when Valencia St. became the parade route for the pre-Gay Pride parade on Sunday. Thousands of proud revelers packed the streets. When the scallop-loving woman next to me announced that there were "dykes on bikes," I looked askance, but she assured me that was the group's official moniker.

I won't describe all of my SF meals, but I will say that breakfast at my friend Sisi's came with one of the best views in the city.

A Room with a View

On the way back home, I was out of iced green tea, pistachios, mangoes and jerky, so I devoured miniature chocolate chip cookies from Tartine Bakery. When those were gone, I refueled at Foster Freeze with chilli cheese fries and a root beer freeze. Now that's road trip eating - junk food guaranteed to put some junk in the trunk.

What's your favorite road-trip indulgence?


Paula L. Johnson said...

I know you're busy, but I must insist you write the following: The Happa Hillbilly Cookbook.

Don't forget to include complete details on the Sweet Tea Ceremony, and how to make sushi fritters, sobu noodle casserole, etc.

Glad you had a nice trip.

Susan Carrier said...

I love The Hapa Hillbilly Cookbook!

Don't forget teriyaki road kill and ramps tempura. Ramps are wild, stinky onions that grow "ramp"antly in West Virginia. Now that the ramp is considered chic, I wouldn't be surprised to see that one on the menu of Matsuhisa.

Susan Carrier said...

And when in doubt about how to turn Hapa into Hillbilly, fry, fry, fry.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I love the idea of a Hapa Hillbilly Cookbook! Let's see, the sushi would have to be catfish. Of course, you'd don a kimono or overalls? in order to perform the elaborate tea ritual of stirring a pound of sugar with matcha. Your tempura veggies would require cornmeal. And teriyaki opossum sliced in wafer thin pieces so you could grill it on those fancy hot stones tableside. I could get with the peach cobbler mochi. Or cherry blossom pie mochi. Ramen with chitlins. Think of all that porky goodness.

Susan Carrier said...

Hi WC, You're really getting into the spirit of this. What great suggestions! My mouth is watering, which must prove that I am a true Hapa Hillbilly.

Piper Robert said...

Hey, Sis. Emily and Big Will are here visiting, so here are our favorites.

Big Will loves Newman's organic raisins and water. Period.

Emily wants a Starbuck's mocha frappuccino.

I have a standard road menu. Pepperoni rolls, pretzel/cheddar Combos, Heath bar, grapes, Fiji water, and multi-grain Sunchips. If a Tim Horton's is close by, I spring for an iced cappuccino.

Paula, we love the idea of The Happa Hillbilly Cookbook. The timing is perfect. Emily and I just finished eating tempura hotdogs on a stick. Tempura and ketchup are a big hit with us.

P.S. I just signed a contract for my house with an anticipated closing date of August 15 (Happy birthday). Looks like mid September is a good target date.

Susan Carrier said...

Pepperoni rolls: The best ones are in West Virginia

Ketchup and tempura: Now that's just gross!

Hurrah for the offer!

Ann said...

Susan, You have to write this book! I agree about the tempura and ketchup. It must be a guy thing because I've seen my brother decimate an entire plate of tempura hotdogs smothered in ketchup. Blah!
Congratulations to Robert on the house!

Petrea said...

"What I didn't know is that you could roast three small bones, put them on a plate with a tiny scooping spoon and two pieces of toast and call it an appetizer for $13."

W.C.: teriyaki opossum made me laugh, too.

piper robert! I don't know you but I know how exciting it is to buy a house. Congrats.

Now that I think of it I don't know *any* of you, and here I am telling you what I think. Gotta love the web.

Susan Carrier said...

Ann, I've talked it over with my Hapa Hillbilly brother Robert, and we've decided to make you an honorary Hapa Hillbilly, even though I don't think there are many hills in Baton Rouge.

Petrea, actually Piper Robert is selling his house in WV and planning a September wedding here in Altadena. (And now you all know.)

Petrea said...

Even cooler! (I got married in Altadena. It's a guarantee of success.)

Piper Robert said...

"Petrea, actually Piper Robert is selling his house in WV and planning a September wedding here in Altadena. (And now you all know.)"

Yes and all the blog family is invited.

Susan Carrier said...

OOOH - better be careful about inviting the "blog family." Check out the map in the sidebar of cancer banter, and you'll see that there are readers from all over the planet, including four from India.

Piper Robert said...

Emily warned me Bonnie could be reading this also.

Oh well.

I've got lots happening in the next few weeks. Knee surgery, rehab, packing/moving, buying ring, planning honeymoon.......hmmmmm, I hope she says "yes".

Em and Big Will say hello.

Frankie said...

I love your blog!!!!! It's the best aphrodisiac around :o)

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