Alan Brown’s food and travel blog, day 10: Eureka to Calistoga
Probably THE highlight of the 101 comes as the road leaves the coast not far south of Eureka and is renamed the Redwood Highway. Between Pepperwood and Philipsville one can jump on and off the highway and take the smaller road aptly named the Avenue of the Giants. To see some of nature’s tallest living beings is a privilege and humbling experience. Yet another thing to do on a return visit, to explore some of the hiking trails amongst the giants.
Something the guide books fail to explain is the route over the mountains leaving the 101 to join the ‘1’ on the Mendocino coast. Even on the map the road looks relatively straight(forward). Reality is 22 miles of 10 and 15 mile an hour twisting turns on steep gradient and a narrow road with no barriers….a sigh of relieve as one hits the coast, even if there is a low slung sea mist…until one realises it is now more twists, but this time just drops to the sea, no ‘nice’ trees to catch one…..
But maybe it’s like this for a reason, they are just dissuading folk from coming over this way, because it is stunning. If you are going to do the coastal journey but don’t have at least a few days, then this is the section to do, from Rockport to Mendocino and then picking up the 128 just south of Mendocino to begin your wine trail odyssey as this route takes you all the way through divine countryside into Sonoma and Napa. But stay a while on the coast first.
Before reaching our stop for the day we had an appointment which we were late for due to the above wiggly roads. Andrea Mugnaini is an astute business woman with a 25 year and ongoing mission. She is passionate about wood fired cooking and has been teaching folk, both domestic and professionals what they can do in ovens and how to do it effectively, sustainably and safely. She has even succeeded in having a state law passed concerning the safe use of wood fired ovens.
We stopped in at Andrea’s domestic oven cooking school in the Sonoma wine country just outside Healdsburg. This is an area not to be missed. What an idyllic setting in which to learn, not to mention the wine her husband makes on the property and supplies the visiting students and the wild game he hunts which the students then learn how to cook every bit of, not just supermarket cuts.
Andrea describes wood fired cooking as sensual, her greatest satisfaction derived from the epiphanies experienced by students as they embrace this most ancient and natural form of human culinary practice. I am perhaps waxing lyrical, but only because I wholeheartedly agree and am excited by the extent that cooking with fire has and is taking hold everywhere we go on this coast.
But on to Calistoga at the top end of the Napa to end the first half of our 101 coastal adventure. We found a recommended restaurant across the road, Jo Lé, and settled in for a glass of local wine and a few tasting plates of more garden to table freshness.