This past Friday I was able to escape to the seashore for a much needed visit... With the wind tousling my hair and a huge smile plastered across my face, I headed down highway 92 in search of coastal pleasures, to that laid back little slice of heaven, Half Moon Bay. I was lucky that day, the sun was on my side, the fog had burnt off early in the morning and the wind was resting for a few hours. Needless to say, it was gorgeous. Originally I went in search of new foods, flower shops and some general sight-seeing, but my day turned out to be one of the best I've had in a very long time, outside of needing writing material. Thanks to the kindness and warm hearted individuals I encountered along the way, my love of Half Moon Bay was solidified, through and through.
For those of you who don't know me very well, I possess what I like to refer to as a "borderline obsession with surf culture." I do not claim to be a surfer, although I have feebly attempted the sport, but I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the people that are involved in these communities. Often times I will drive miles upon miles to observe and enjoy, in awe, these maniacal watermen and their love of the sea. I am envious of their abilities, bravery and determination, their passion and devotion to riding waves and enjoying the sea itself. I have always felt a strong connection to the ocean, having grown up in Northern Sonoma County, 20 minutes away from the hundreds of beaches that line the California coastline. Daytrips to the beach have been a part of my life since I was a small child, feeling as normal and comfortable as any backyard BBQ would. When I was young, we would camp on the cliffs, play on the sand and spend a good amount of time out at towns like Jenner, Bodega Bay and Point Reyes. These are the places I escape to when in need of respite in my adult years. They are home.
Admittedly, it was my first trip to Hawaii that got me hooked, about 9 years ago. Lucky enough, having friends who live on the islands, I was able to immerse myself in the everyday culture- the people I have met and spent time with on the Hawaiian Islands have forever changed me, in the very best ways. It's these feelings and experiences that have only furthered my love of sleepy little beach towns and the people that reside in them. The characters, laughter, sportmanship and camaraderie that most surf towns encapsulate will continuously be a source of happiness for me.
That being said, check out some of my local Half Moon Bay discoveries...
At the Garden Deli Cafe, located in old downtown HMB, I couldn't resist the sandwiches. Made to order using their own handmade bread, these monstrous fresh sandwiches are sure to fill your belly. I went for the salami on wheat, stacked high and loaded with tomatoes, pickles, sprouts and jack cheese. I could've easily been full off of a half portion, but I managed to finish the whole thing, leaving no need to eat much of anything the rest of the afternoon. They have a wonderful outdoor seating area that is absolutely bursting with flowers this time of year- the day I visited, a local musician was playing some sweet jams on his guitar, quite well actually. My only advice: get there well before noon or a good hour after or you'll be standing in a 10 person line waiting to order. This place is popular.
Next, I stopped by the Half Moon Bay Wine & Cheese Company. This wine bar carries over 800 boutique and specialty wines from all over the world, including a massive selection of cheeses. A perfect pit stop before your picnic on the beach. I sampled the NV Ambroise Crement, a light creamy glass of sparkling brut rose. Along with an impressive selection of wines, they also carry a great assortment of wine and cheese oriented gift items. Tastings are available in 2, 3 & 6 ounce pours, or if you are feeling particularly festive, take home an entire bottle.
I wandered down Main Street a little further and stumbled across Barterra Winery. Started by the grandson of an Italian winemaker who immigrated to America in 1901, Barterra Winery takes great pride in the quality and unique character of their wines. Offerings include a large selection drawn from vineyards throughout Northern California, including the Napa, Sonoma, Amador Valley and Santa Cruz areas. Several of their wines have been awarded medals in international wine competitions, one of which is the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve- I tasted and loved it. In addition to their wines, they also produce and sell an extensive collection of olive oil, with flavors such as basil, jalapeno, orange and garlic.
As I was driving deeper into town, a certain building captured my attention with it's exquisite architecture and massive, modern presence. At first I thought it was a hotel of some sort, but it turns out it is a restaurant. Cetrella. I wasn't able to actually try this place out, but I will definitely be back for a visit soon. They are known for turning out memorable Mediterranean-themed food based on top-notch, often local ingredients and the seasonal menu balances fresh seafood, satisfying steaks, chops and flavorful local produce. Unfortunately they are only open for dinner starting at 5:30pm and Sunday brunch, beginning at 10:30am. Like I said, I will be back to check this one out in the future.
Initially, I got the idea to take a trip to Half Moon Bay to pick the hubby up a t-shirt from the Maverick's Surf Shop. We've stayed in Princeton-by-the-Sea previously and had a great time wandering the small fishing town, sipping beers at the Half Moon Bay Brewery and stopping by the surf shop to catch a glimpse of the local boys in their element. At that time I enthusiastically, but stupidly, purchased a black Mav's hoodie (I own a pug, big mistake, should have grabbed the heather grey) and chatted comfortably with a young fellow that happened to be working that day by himself. He was more than friendly, offering tips and info for good people watching, wave ogling, etc. We left feeling pretty darn cool, having visited the board shop and acquiring a little piece of awesome, i.e. my beloved hoodie, which is now so well-loved it's next to threadbare. In my mind, I HAD to go back and get a new one or at least a shirt for the dude in my life.
*A little History... Mavericks Surf Shop is owned and operated by Mavericks Pioneer Jeff Clark. Jeff is one of the most noteworthy and respected big-wave surfers, famous for surfing Mavericks alone for 15 years before it was widely discovered by the big-wave surfing community. He is also recognized as one of the premier big wave surfboard shapers in the country and shapes a full line of custom boards. He was also featured in one of my favorite surf documentaries, Riding Giants. The surf shop was founded in 1995 in downtown Half Moon Bay but is now located at 25 Johnson Pier, with sweeping views of Pillar Point Harbor and Mavericks.*
This past Friday, as I wandered into the surf shop, I immediately recognized that Jeff was there, sitting at his computer, quietly involved. I pretended to play it cool, browsing the piles of t-shirts and rashguards, ducking behind the various fixtures, acting as if I hardly noticed *the* Jeff Clark five feet away from my silly, star struck self. I bought my shirt, chatted a bit with the warm spirit behind the counter, pet Pico the dog and walked slowly back up to my car. Then it hit me. If I did not march my booty right back down to that store and introduce myself, pay my respects and get a smile out of him, I'd regret it forever. So that's what I did. I mustered up the courage, walked in and said hello, I think I told him I loved him or something crazy and smiled like a kid in a candy store. Jeff was as gracious, humble and friendly as could be ( I think he was laughing internally, but I didn't mind), a totally laid back dude who was more than happy to be photographed and given a girly handshake from one of his biggest admirers... Me. I was over the moon.
It's safe to say, the simple and small pleasures are what make life so special. This was one of those days. Thanks Jeff, for making me grin like a goofball.
Enjoy the last few hours of the weekend,