Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fish and Chips at the Coast

Nothing says “The Coast” like seafood.

The Pismo and Morro Bay area is my favorite section of the California Coast. I’ll admit that could be because I haven’t been to any of the more southern beaches, but until then, I’ll pick the San Luis Obispo area.

We went to Pismo Beach or thereabouts about once a year when I was a kid. I can still see and smell and taste the evening there. We would be sitting around a low campfire, quietly talking, listing to stories from my dad. Mom would be in the camper, or over the Coleman stove getting dinner ready. Soon our plates were ready, with fresh boiled shrimp and cocktail sauce, a wedge of iceberg lettuce and a lemon slice, and maybe some cottage cheese.

For lunch the next day, we usually went by a fish and chips place. We didn’t have a favorite one; we liked to try different places. Clam chowder, fish and chips, steamer clams, those were the usual fare. We would always take a turn through Giovanni’s Fish Market and see the live crabs and rows of fresh fish behind the glass.

A couple weekends ago, I went to Pismo with 2 of my daughters. Even though I’d kept the tradition with my sisters and our kids, Melinda and Loreleigh hadn’t been since they were little. We had a nice little tent spot on the far edge of Pismo North Beach campground where we struck our three tents.

We made easy dinner, out of cans mostly, but did try to enjoy a little campfire. I’d brought some wood and kindling from home, but just couldn’t get it going! It smoked and sputtered all evening. I thought I had brought wood that was too green, but when the same wood burned brightly the next night, I realized that the misty fog was keeping the humidity too high for a good burn.

Morro Bay is a great place for a seafood lunch. We loaded up Bingo and Melinda’s puppy Tess and drove up there, just skating in before the lunch rush. One of the best things about Morro Bay is that the parking is free! We got a spot in the lot right across from the heart of the strip.

A digression: have you ever seen a ruder parking situation as the black pickup who takes up 4 (four!) parking spaces by covering the “four corners?” And it’s not like it was a new pristine paint job either!

Rose’s Landing seemed like a good place for lunch. The dog-friendly patio was perfect, with a great view of the bay, glass fronted to protect from the wind, and great service. The service surprised me, since it had been so bad the last time we were there. Obviously something had changed. The fish and chips were battered. I usually prefer a more breaded texture, but these were so hot and crisp and obviously seconds out of the fryer that they were very nice. The girls order clams and chips. Sometimes fried clam strips can be like rubber bands, but these were tender and flavorful. A little pricey, but a lovely lunch.

Afterwards we drove out to the Rock, climbed up on the “Do Not Enter” area to look down at the wild sea, which wasn’t particularly wild that day. Sometimes you can see the spray flying up over the top of the rocks, but not today. We parked at the lot looking up at the Strand to watch the windsurfers and a cute little “wind buggy” madly tearing up and down the beach.

Back at the campground, we gathered up beach blankets and books and took the dogs out to enjoy the sunset over the sea. It was hard to get settled for very long, since the tide was coming in, and Tess became a digging maniac.
She reminded me of “The Diggingest Dog,” a kid’s book that I hated but my children loved, so I had to read it over, and over, and over…

Later, back at the now merrily burning campfire, I opened a bottle of Rosa D’Oro Muscat Canelli for after-dinner glasses. A fruity sweet-tart wine, nice for a not-too-heavy dessert.

If I was allowed just one indulgence, I think I would spend it on cinnamon rolls, those big, yeasty spicy specialty bakery ones, with frosting and nuts. There is a shop in Pismo that sells those. We walked up the beach to town on our last morning for our cinnamon rolls from “Old West Cinnamon Rolls” bakery. Warm, nutty, cinnamony, but not cloyingly sweet. It’s a good thing I don’t live near this place!

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