October 26, 2011 by
One of the best parts about cycling is being able to consume prodigious amounts of food—guilt-free that is! Simply put, food becomes your fuel and the more miles you cover the more you have to eat. There is no worse feeling than the dreaded “bonk”, the athlete’s equivalent of running out of gas. I try to ensure that this never happens so whenever cycling long distances I am constantly on the lookout for the next restaurant, general store or café. I’m not sure which I love more, the cycling or the eating. Suffice to say, they go hand in hand and I love them both.
On a recent cycling trip along the coast of California I was pleasantly surprised at the calibre of cuisine, even in the most remote and unexpected locations. I don’t consider myself a true foodie but I do appreciate good, healthy, local food. One of the first things that struck me about Northern California, where our journey began, was the predominance of “organic” and “local”. Everything from produce to coffee to meats to baked goods and even clothing was being touted as organic. I’m not sure how authentic these claims were but I do know that it all tasted incredible. And I don’t think it was just because I was hungry. One memory that stands out was cycling from our campsite in the Redwoods, up mountains, over hill and yonder in search of some kind of breakfast. When we finally came across a general store, I really didn’t have high hopes. I’d have been happy with a mediocre coffee and a power bar. But I actually found the best latte and breakfast burritto of my life. We later learned that this unlikely establishment had its burger voted as the best in the west by Sunset magazine!
And so began our delightful eating/cycling tour of the California coast. Every day was a new adventure witnessing spectacular scenery and equally spectacular cuisine. There was the savoury clam chowder of Mendocino, the fish tacos in Point Arena and one of my all-time favourite pizzas found in the modest, unassuming town of Fort Bragg. It was a mouth-watering pesto, pear, prosciutto thin-crust pizza, complimented by a tangy, tender baby arugula salad—truly to die for. We do have to give credit to our Lonely Planet guide which alerted us to some of these well-hidden gems. Another pleasant surprise was the fantastic bakery in Tomales, an inland town in Marin County with barely a main street and a population of less than 300. There we found heavenly blueberry lemon scones, apple walnut Danishes, other-worldly brownies and artisanal focaccias. No surprise that we also encountered a local cyclist who said he always ensured that his rides included a stop there!
There were numerous other culinary highlights of our California tour. One of the simple delights was riding up to a roadside produce stand to buy strawberries and nectarines, consuming them on the spot and buying more to stash away in our panniers. And then there was the incredible evening farmers’ market in Santa Barbara featuring an astounding array of local foods displayed proudly under mainstreet lights. After our delicious Mexican dinner, I couldn’t resist checking out all of the gorgeous fruit and my favourite California treat of all—pistachio nuts!
Yes, I am still California dreamin but it’s really not so bad coming back to Waterloo Region where local farms and food abound. In fact for someone who enjoys cycling as much as local food this neck of the woods is actually pretty good. And I have to say those runty California apples can't hold a candle to our Honeycrisps!