Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Road Trip Recap

I recently traveled across 15 states on a cross-country road trip to California, where I will now be living with my boyfriend. Jenny and Malia agreed to accompany me on what was a once in a lifetime experience! JAM traveled north, west, and south in search of good eats along the way. I will proceed to recap some of our tasty travels.

Day 1 - Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana

Our first day was a little chaotic, as we moved our departure date up a day due to heavy storms. We headed north through Pittsburgh, stopping to say hello to my aunt Lisa, uncle Gary, and our cousins, Jenna and Brett. While we weren't fortunate enough to eat at the Matson's pizza place, My Brick Oven, we had lunch at a nice Italian restaurant. We finally spent the night in Indianapolis, sleeping in a hotel with a live train station set below it! Luckily the rumbling trains didn't keep us awake too long.

This was right outside of our hotel room!

Day 2 - Indiana, Illinois, Missouri

Blue Springs Cafe - Highlands, IL

Our second day feature much more promising eats. Right before lunch we spotted a sign for "mile high pies". Dessert before lunch, sure! These pies were piled high with merangue and came in chocolate, lemon, coconut, and banana flavors. Jenny chose chocolate, Malia banana, and myself coconut.

Scrumptious coconut cream pie. Baked daily!

The famous "Arch" in St Louis.

We attempted to find Top of the Riverfront, a restaurant in the Millenium Hotel with amazing views of the city. Alas, they were closed at lunchtime. We wandered over toward the stadium, ending up in a small block with a couple restaurants. While the neighborhood wasn't the nicest, we did find a place with some good Louisiana style cooking. The crawfish bisque is a must, with large chunks of crawfish in a spicy, rich bisque. We split a mufaletta, but were somewhat disappointed with the use of american cheese. The restaurant was decorated for mardi gras, and old album covers adorned the ceilings. If you're looking for live music, hit up this place in the evenings.

Ribs with fries, toast, and barbecued baked beans.

Our main goal for day 2 was to find some awesome bbq. Upon arrival in Kansas City, we asked the concierge for tips on some local places to eat. Jack Stacks came highly recommended, with emphasis on the tastiness of their bbq baked beans.

Excited for some delicious meat!

Jenny and Malia ordered the pork ribs dinner for two with sides of french fries and bbq baked beans. I ordered up some "burnt ends" - which are the delicious charred ends of a meat brisket. I got the pork and the beef ends with a side of baked beans. We ordered salads to start - as if that could offset the fat content of our meal! The meat was moist on the inside, with wonderful caramelization on the outside. The sauce was to die for. We all agreed we could have lived off of their baked beans which are swimming in their tangy, sweet sauce and meat.

Day 3 - Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas

While there wasn't much to see in Kansas and Oklahoma, besides grass and general dull sky, we knew we had more meat to consume in Texas. Jenny had done some research and found a charming steakhouse that offers a 72 oz challenge. If you can finish a steak that large you get your meal for free. Somehow I don't think the steakhouse loses that challenge very often.

We love Texas!

The Lady's Fillet - 6 oz filet served with fried okra, jalapeno, and bread.

We all agreed the steaks were moist and tender. Jenny chose the prime rib, ordering it up "mooing", I mean medium rare. Malia and I went for the filet. The fried okra tasted frozen, however the rolls were warm and soft.

Strawberry shortcake was big enough to feed four!

Desserts are Texas-sized, feeding up to four people. We decided on the strawberry shortcake, but this left a terrible chemical taste in our mouths. Better to go for something chocolate or just skip dessert altogether.

Day 4 - Texas, New Mexico, Arizona

There were some beautiful red mesas in New Mexico.

Chicken taco.

Los Cuates was recommended by Jenny's dad, a big fan of mexican and spicy food. We were pretty hungry, and were greeted with some chips and their housemade salsa. This was more like a chili paste! It was spicy, and sweet and rather addictive despite the burning sensation it left on our tongues. Jenny compared it to a mexican sriracha.

Blue corn tostaditas with avocado and salsa.

Jenny and I ordered the tostaditas and chicken tacos. When you're on the road that long together you start to think alike. These were simple yet delicious. The beans were super flavorful and the blue corn provided a nice crunch. The salsa again was very spicy and super fresh with bits of tomato, onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Jenny wanted to take this home with her!

Oregano's - a charming pizza bistro an hour outside of the grand canyon national park.

We were so close to the grand canyon, yet in need of some grub before we checked into our hotel that night. Oregano's has been featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives". The ambience was charming and family-friendly with large wooden booths and 50s and 60s memorabilia adorning the walls. Malia and I split the oregano's favorite salad. A nice combination of romaine, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, onion, raisins, and feta cheese. A junior size easily feeds two people. We split a thin crust pizza (it takes the shortest amount of time to cook) with spinach, garlic, onions, and sundried tomatoes. It was crispy, cheesy, and robust. The perfect end to a long drive.

Spinach, onion, garlic, and sundried tomatoes on thin crust pizza!

Day 5 - Arizona, Nevada

The Grand Canyon in all its glory!

We hiked around the Grand Canyon that morning and headed into Las Vegas for the night. We ate a wondeful meal at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio in the Venetian. We shared some wondeful oysters that tasted like the ocean. I love them with just a splash of lemon. I ordered the barbecue salmon with fried onion rings. The salmon was tender and buttery. The barbecue added a nice acidity and sweetness. The fried onion rings were exactly what an onion ring should be, crisp and light. Malia's halibut was tender and flaky and Jenny's fruti di mare was fresh with wonderful handmade fettucine.

Day 6 - Nevada, California

Cobras y Matadores - Los Angeles, CA


We arrived in LA on Day 6 to visit Katy! She and Jenny had never had spanish tapas before. Katy made a reservation for us at Cobras y Matadores upon rave reviews from friends. This restaurant is incredibly popular, so make sure to reserve a table a week in advance. We got stuck with a 1030pm reservation. We had to wait an extra 40 minutes to be seated! Despite the crappy service the food was excellent. The goat cheese with almond pesto and cherries is a must have! The perfect pairing of sweet and savory. The albondigas and strip steak were favorites with everyone. The staff tried to make up for the service with dessert. The churros were overly sugary. The french toast was incredible. Crispy and fluffy, with wonderful caramelization. Served with whipped cream and caramel sauce. I would certainly order this again. Would I travel here again? Only if I had an early reservation and was prepared to wait.

Goat cheese with almond pesto and cherries.

Day 7 - Up the coast of California

Our views from the car were spectacular on our last day, as we chose to drive up the PCH/US-1 highway. We stopped in Cayucos right on the coast. We ate lunch at the Sea Shanty, a charming beach restaurant serving up fish, burgers, and incredible desserts.

View of the ocean in Cayucos.

Fish and salad.

Malia and I both ordered the snapper, mine grilled with a salad and fresh fruit, hers on a sandwich with a side salad. My fish was moist and flaky, could have used a little more seasoning. Jenny agreed her fried fish could have used more seasoning in the batter. We noticed some newspaper clippings on the wall touting the sea shanty's desserts. After our last strawberry shortcake in Texas, we were looking for redemption. The sea shanty's shortcake was wonderful! This was no sara lee pound cake, but a real butter flaky shortcake with fresh strawberries, vanilla bean ice cream and real whipped cream. Delicious!

Strawberry shortcake done right!

That concludes the road trip. While not everything we ate was to die for, it was such a great experience. I got to see places I never would have traveled too and felt a great appreciation for the people and cultures in this great country of ours!


Gastronomer said...

That is one kick-ass road trip! One of these days I'm gonna get me some burnt ends! I just might have to stop off at the Shanty for some shortcakes when I drive up the coast in two weeks with M. Schiller ;-)

Ariel said...

The Shanty is definitely the place to go for beautiful scenery and kickass desserts! It will be cool to finally meet you. :)