I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Morro Bay, California.
Greetings from Cambria, California
N 35° 33.8681′ W 121° 4.9141’ Elev. 75’
Here’s another installment from my recent Central California Coast adventure.
Hearst Castle is a massive, rambling hacienda-on-steroids that sits atop a 1,600 foot high hill overlooking the teeny-tiny oceanside village of San Simeon. While the views are spectacular, the estate itself is so massive and so over-the-top that I suspected it was probably a pitch-perfect reflection of Hearst’s personality. In other words, the place was kind of creepy.
Afterward we made our way to Linn’s Restaurant in Cambria, a local institution that’s been here for 25 years. Linn’s is famous for its pies as well as its fruit preserves, especially its signature Olallieberry, a hybrid cross between a blackberry and a raspberry.
They first brought out slices of baked-on-premise whole wheat bread and a wonderfully garlicky focaccia, along with butter and a ramekin of Olallieberry preserves. The Olallieberry preserves are so great that I really should’ve bought a jar. Unfortunately, I’m just not that forward thinking, especially after dinner when I’m stuffed.
One of my friends ordered Polenta with Roasted Vegetables ($18). The polenta was topped with what looked to be mostly roasted zucchini and yellow squash, with a little red cabbage and mushrooms, dressed with “Linn’s Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette, Swiss cheese, Parmesan shavings and a balsamic glaze.” She said it was very good but bemoaned the fact that she’s been eating squash from her garden for the last couple of months and was getting kind of tired of them.
My other friend — designer of the TWEA graphic header — ordered a Hearst Ranch Burger ($15), “Half-pound patty, Brian’s artisan bun, smoked Gouda, lettuce, tomato, onion, garlic aioli, french fries” [on the side]. Judging by the way he kept saying “Oh, man!” after every swallow, I’m guessing that he enjoyed it immensely. I was sort of disappointed, however, that he didn’t opt for the Apple-Olallieberry Slaw instead of the fries. It sounded sort of interesting and I’d have liked to’ve tried it.
Hearst Ranch Beef is quite a big deal locally. (The 80,000 acres surrounding the Castle is still a working ranch; they have another 71,000-acre spread on the other side of the Santa Lucia Range near Cholame, California, site of James Dean’s fatal car crash. The ranches, by the way, are operated by Hearst’s great-grandson, Steve, who is renowned for NOT being a spoiled brat nor a quintessential weirdo. Indeed, he’s regarded by everyone I know who’s ever met him as being a “normal guy.”) Billed as free-range, all-natural, grass-fed and grass-finished beef, I can personally attest to the superb quality of Hearst Ranch Beef. Its reputation and cachet are well-deserved to the uttermost. I can also attest to it being somewhat pricey.
I ordered one of the day’s specials: “Locally caught Albacore tuna, blackened (medium rare), served with pineapple salsa, Jasmine rice, black beans and Linn’s grilled Shishoto peppers.” I think it was $28.
I don’t remember if the giant hunk of Albacore was 6 or 8 ounces, but it was a very big, very thick steak. It had a nice outer crust while the inside was largely uncooked; I would have preferred it to’ve been a little more done. Still, it made for a nice combination of textures, alternately crispy and buttery. The melt-in-your-mouth tuna was complimented nicely by the tanginess of the pineapple salsa.
Equally tasty were the grilled Shishoto peppers. I’d never heard of these Japanese peppers before. They were very fresh, probably grown on the Linn’s Original Farmstore farm located five miles east of town. Although slightly salty, these mild peppers were very tasty, somewhat like a cross between a green bean and a pepper, and went nicely with the rest of the accompaniments.
Behind the restaurant, Linn’s has three outbuildings: the Easy As Pie Cafe, Linn’s Gourmet Goods, and Linn’s Homestyle Gifts & Sale Loft. Because of the theme-park looks of the buildings I kept thinking that if they had a narrow-gauge train chugging along the perimeter they could be well on the way to establishing something akin to a Knott’s Berry Farm North. Thankfully, they don’t.
While both the food and service at Linn’s was exemplary I think I would go somewhere along the coast next time. It’s going to be about the same price and, more than likely, of similar quality. Moreover you could enjoy a view of the Pacific and have a much better possibility of seeing large marine mammals, like otters or seals or whales. There were no otters or seals or whales on Main Street in Cambria.
And so we roll.
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.