Gallagher and I are driving home from a weekend of hedonistic overeating and drinking in Lake County, Northern California. As I write this, I am stuffed with the sushi we stopped for in Sacramento. (Thanks to Dave Smart for recommending a killer Sushi place) Originally this was a work trip for Gallagher but she talked me into taking Friday off work so we made it into a newlyweds weekend away.
After work Thursday we drove most of the way from Bako to NorCal wine country. We arrived in Petaluma at 12:30 am and watched silly cartoons until 2. We had two more hours to drive before 2 PM Friday. Unfortunately we slept till 10 so by the time we found some food, it was a scramble to arrive on-time. We made it to the lake side lodge where she was to speak with 15 minutes to spare.
Gallagher gave an hour speech about bugs and little critters to a room full of vineyard farm types and then there was another hour speech about fungus or mold or some thing you do not want on wine grapes. Since I really do not care about fungus, unless it is sautéed and on a steak, I went to check us into our room. The “Lodge” is basically a refurbished old motel on the edge of Blue Lake. The scenery is lovely but there is not food to be had plus the clientele might be a touch trashy. Gallagher describes the lodge as a dog friendly motel that caters to bass fishermen and Cougars.
When I say Cougars I do mean older women who like younger men. After I checked us in, I received a few beers from the queen of the cougars who was setting man traps outside her room. I was safe as long as I repeated words like “Newly Wed”, “Wife” and “Happily Married”. Lucky for me the spore talk ended so I could escape to the safety of a viticulture reception and drink some wine I did not have to pay for. It sounds crazy but the best part was the curried and fried chick peas.
It felt like 10 o’clock but Gallagher pointed out that it was only 5, and she needed dinner. According to the locals, the nearest grub was a good 7 miles away at a place called the Blue Wing Saloon. We had no idea what we were in for but Gallagher was sober so we piled in to my “Dale Jr Blue” GMC and headed down the dark lake side country road. After only one unplanned U-turn we arrived in the town of Upper Lake and found the Blue Wing for a darn good bit of grub and more wine.
Full of wine and yummy food we went to sleep early. The next morning we woke to find the scenery outside was beautiful and the cougars were still in their dens. Motel coffee did not offer much in the way of drinking pleasure or sustenance so we packed up and moved to the Tallman Hotel next door to the Blue Wing in Upper Lake. Gallagher had stayed their before and raved about this place. As a guy, I am thinking “How great can a darn hotel room be?” This 100 year old place is simply awesome - more on that later.
We checked in before the room was ready so we had hours to kill and no plans. We saw all 5 shops in this quaint little down within an hour. We found coffee and a bagel in an oddly NASCAR themed coffee shop and then headed off to a winery that Gallagher wanted to show me called Ceago Vinegarden.
I had heard about this place and the people who run it. If you Google the term “biodynamic farming”, you will learn about something I find as hard to swallow as UFO cults. Since Ceago is a biodynamic facility, silly, ignorant me expected a crusty vineyard run by a bunch of dirty hippies. I soon learned that I was not allowed to use the term “dirty hippie” and that Ceago is one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. Its Spanish architecture is flawless and is the perfect complement to the wooded hills behind it and the sparkling lake in front.
Crazy ideas or not, we were hungry so we ordered wine and a platter of cheese with a baguette. How good can a plate of cheese be? First of all, you have to appreciate that we were sitting on a Spanish-style patio looking across a few hundred lavender plants out to a perfect lake surrounded by rolling hills and, overhead, there was a clear bright blue sky and the warm sunshine. When the platter arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find dried Asian Pears, dates, olives, honeycomb and sprig of fresh rosemary in addition to two semi-hard cheeses and a triple cream brie. How perfect can a lunch be? If you have never applied the perfect brie at the perfect temperature to a piece of dried pear with the slight afternoon breeze blowing though your hair, you just can not understand.
Full of the some of the finest luxury foods Northern California has to offer, we made our way back to the hotel. Upon actual check-in, Gallagher upgraded the room (on my card) to one with a Japanese soaking tub. How great can a wooden bathtub on your patio be? With mineral water at 104 F, geo-thermo heating and perfect weather, it is pretty darn relaxing. After a bit of a soak, we headed back to the Blue Wing, and, instead of ordering off the menu, we instructed the waitress to tell the chef Mika to make us what ever looked good to him. After 4 courses we wondered if either of us would ever need to eat again. It was all pretty darn good but the scallops with oyster mushrooms and citrus glaze was astounding. With the drive home looming in our minds and a lot of food of our bellies, we found unconsciousness early that night.
Our only plan for Sunday was to get home a decent hour. We “walrussed” around the room until 11 and then headed out for home. Believe it or not, we were thinking of food by the time we got close to Sacramento. I had Gallagher call my old friend and freshman year of college roommate Dave Smart who lives on Sac. All we wanted was directions from the freeway to sushi restaurant, but we got an invite to visit Dave and Dr. Fritz at Bell Aqua. As I expected, this led to 30 minutes of Dave telling stories to Gallagher about my misbehaviors in college. Yeeaaah fun for me! Finally, we got directions to the best sushi in Sac and were on our way.
The plan for tomorrow: No drinking, health food and time on the exercise bike.