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The Food Party!

By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Humboldt Grown

Uploaded: Jan 22, 2016

I love a January road trip. Misty, grey, open roads calling you to drive onward into the alluring abyss. It’s the perfect time to travel because few others do.

Last week was up to Humboldt county, my first time back in over 10 years. I lived in Arcata for a few years, moving there from LA after the 1988 California State Peace March. How wonderful it ‘twas to be back.

There’s something adventurous in crossing the Ukiah/Mendocino line and heading north. It’s another world up there; one where the trees call the shots. An alternative economy that is getting more mainstream every day, surprisingly untouched with lots of hippies, homeless and happenin’ folks still around town; plenty to see and do.

January offers time to ponder what new adventures await us. Consider a trip up to Humboldt this year. Here are a few things to do when you get there:

Have lunch in this entry town to the wild, wild north. A classic hippie hangout - this is your welcome to the region. Funky shops and local flavor everywhere.

An old logging stop worth a jump off the freeway just to gaze and amaze at the remnants of a town built solely for the ever-decreasing logging industry. Drive around the processing plant and gasp at the piles of timber still stacked as far as you can see. This picture comes no where close to capturing the view.

Humboldt Brews for Happy Hour
It’s fun to arrive in new towns at happy hour and catch how the locals do it. This is that spot. I wasn’t there for more than a ½ hour when I ran into 3 people I knew including the old boyfriend who blew off my calls to catch a drink when I got into town. Wasn't he surprised to see me just sitting there in my cute rainboots? Maybe he didn’t respond back ‘cuz...well... Mr. Rock Climber of Days-Gone-By stacked on a few too many extra pounds? Uh huh… I didn’t think it was about me. -856 10th St., Arcata

Trinidad Head
Jimmie, my longest California friend, fellow Peace Marcher, and gracious host took me on our first morning walk around Trinidad Head in the cute town of Trinidad (16 miles north of Arcata). Have breakfast on the pier when you go, then walk around the Head keeping an eye out for traveling whales.

Lunch at Wildberries
When I lived in Arcata, the Co-Op was the community store and hangout. I earned some chops in Spoons back then. Now it has rightful competition from Wildberries. There’s an extensive takeout deli and indoor patio to enjoy your meal if it’s raining (which it was). This is a local foods extravaganza with good prices. - 747 13th St Arcata

Dinner at Tomo
Sushi is standard fair in Humboldt – there are many options. Tomo is a local favorite, it was packed when we went. Who knew sushi could be so fun? Interesting veggie options include the Humboldt Hunny with Tofu, Broccoli, Carrot and Almond Butter. - 708 9th St, Arcata.

The next day first stop was Arcata Saturday Plaza Farmers Market, open year round from 9 AM – 2 PM, rain or shine. (We know, it was raining again)

Then a morning hike in the Arcata Community Forest. Just blocks from the Arcata Plaza, this 790- acre paradise offers easy paths thru amazing old growth redwoods. A must see! We stumbled upon David Bowie in the trees, and the sun even came out while there. Spectacular!

Then a quick jaunt to Fire & Light, THE local artsy glass company. Started in 1995, it was partnership between the Arcata Community Recycling Center and community members who wanted an innovative use for crushed, recycled glass. Last year, Fire & Light turned the equivalent of 500,000 Snapple bottles into fun-colored dinner plates, cups and bowls. They are sold in many local shops, or visit the showroom for discounts on seconds. 45 Ericson Court, Arcata.

Saturday lunch was picnic supplies from Wildberries to enjoy at the Arcata Marsh, a world famous wetland system used as a wastewater treatment and wildlife refuge. Bird watching tours every Saturday at 8:30AM, or go on the history tour that we enjoyed at 2PM; both free. The Marsh is open anytime for a picturesque bayside walk.

On the way out to the coast, we did happy hour at Richards’ Goat Tavern and Tea Room, a cute new café offering shots of homebrew and locally-made kombucha on tap.

From there we traveled thru the “bottoms” to Mad River Beach via the Hammond Coastal Trail (this is the closest beach to Arcata, about 2 miles outside of town). The road is flanked by wide-open farmland, interesting houses, and old bridges. It’s fascinatingly serene and worth the drive even if you don’t make it to the beach.

Dinner was at Larrupin in Trinidad, another classic Humboldt haunt. Larrupin is famous for it’s signature Mustard Dill Sauce, a product of my time still sold at Whole Foods and other specialty shops.

Our entrees (Tofu Saute $24, Stuffed Portabella Mushroom $28, and Creole Pork Tenderloin $29) were nothing out of the ordinary and a touch overpriced for the complexity of preparation, but the complimentary appetizer plate featuring local cheeses and meats made a lovely addition, and the restaurant is just so romantic and cozy.

Dessert was a Cypress Grove Goat Cheese and Whipped Cream Soufflé. Yum Yum! Cypress Grove is an Arcata-based company that produces the famous Humboldt Fog cheese you all love. Visit their cheese-making creamery at 1330 Q Street, Arcata.

We danced the night away at the Blue Lake Casino (a new and surprising addition to this sleepy town) and the famous Logger Bar (standing since 1899), that's two rockin bands in one night in the small town of Blue Lake, just 6 miles east of Arcata. Both places showed off the locals in fine form with cheap drinks (vodka soda $4) and free music that went till 1 AM. (Don’t forget to tip the musicians.) The Logger Bar is a hoot – filled with chainsaws and all kinds of logging paraphernalia.

Ok Food Partiers! So this is your hog call to get out to see and eat the world.

Signing off… this is Lauralies (that's leees like the treees).

High from Humboldt

Local Journalism.
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Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Jan 22, 2016 at 3:43 pm

I lived up there for 11 months, as an Americorps volunteer for the US forest service in 1995. It's a good place to escape from the rat race; every time I drove back to the Bay Area, I could feel the conformity wash over me. Awfully gorgeous up there, particularly Patrick's Point State Park, and the coastal road just south of Trinidad. I'm not sure, if I returned, I'd fit in up there ... I'm just too *normal*.

I did know some people who spent a little bit too much time tokin' and taking harder stuff; brains got a bit mushy. There was a guy running around our apartment complex once with nothing but underwear - worn on his head. I don't want to be too uptight - but Humboldt County sometimes has a problem.

My favorite bumper sticker I'd see: "US out of Humboldt County!"

Posted by Del Norte, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jan 22, 2016 at 5:17 pm

I've been going up and around there at least 3 times per year for about 30 years. Winter is by far and without a doubt the best time. Zero crowds, lodging is always drive-up available and everything is so much more dramatic.
Yes, if pot bugs you, you'll need to be good at ignoring it, but even though I don't use it, I've always found the relaxed "who cares" attitude towards it refreshing. That said, it's certainly NOT a den of weed up there, in fact most towns are highly conservative, stemming from their logging/ranching past.

What you should focus on is the fantastic "small farm" organic beef and dairy they have up there, or season seafood. Get a double bacon cheeseburger at the No Brand Burger Stand in Ferndale and then head right from town, strait up into the King Range and eventually out onto the Lost Coast. It will feel like you're on the edge of a much wilder world.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Jan 22, 2016 at 7:43 pm

Del Norte, What choo doin going up there 3 X a year for the past 30?

Posted by charles reilly, a resident of another community,
on Jan 23, 2016 at 6:35 am

Very much enjoyed this post. I'm a 3rd generation native Northern Californian. Nothing says "home" like a redwood tree !

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Jan 24, 2016 at 8:20 am

Thanks Charles! Alan, funny you mention "every time I drove back to the Bay Area, I could feel the conformity wash over me." When I lived there I felt the same! Also loved that bumper sticker - I was looking for it this time actually but did not see it.

Posted by Del Norte, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Jan 25, 2016 at 2:39 pm

@Laura, between the push of salmon into the rivers beginning in Sept followed by the steelhead run in Dec, it's a wonder I'm up there ONLY 3 x per year. Haha.

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of another community,
on Jan 25, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Del Norte, Take me with you! Actually you sound like a professional food partier. Maybe we should interview you and learn of your adventures?

Posted by Billfish, a resident of another community,
on Jan 25, 2016 at 9:08 pm

Lauralies, Try to make time on your next trip north to see Shelter Cove. It's due west from Garberville on a two lane twisty road that climbs and then descends (have well-maintained brakes) down to the sea. There's a Black Sand
Beach and the coastline is beautiful and dramatic. It's an intersection point for one of the faults that run through
California. Earthquakes are common there. There <might> even be a restaurant there, who knows? The North Coast
is uniquely wild and beautiful.

Posted by Marcher, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Jan 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

What were you peace marching about?

Posted by Lauralies, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Jan 25, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Oooo Billfish and Marcher,

Funny you should mention. We were peace marching for the end of nuclear testing which was still happening at the Nevada Test Site. I didn't know anything about the issue until I went on the walk. On the wacky, inspiring way down, the group as a whole got to Petrolia, but then a small, hearty part broke coastal south. Destination, Shelter Cove. Much was learned on the way, and we even got to stay in the now-gone Smith's Cabin right on the beach. Has anyone ever stayed there? It was magical.

Posted by Shantaram, a resident of Castro City,
on Oct 10, 2016 at 2:11 am

Shantaram is a registered user.

Super! Really nice post!

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