There are some moments in life that just do such a great job of reminding us how lucky we are to be alive, right here, right now. You know those. Playing Cleopatra on a grassy lawn. Gardening. A good laugh or cry with a soulmate.
Since quitting my job last year, I’ve had the time and the awareness to notice these moments. And you know what they say – the more you notice them, the more they keep appearing. Which probably explains how I ended up taking a mini-road trip with two lovely ladies last week to check out the Big Sur Bakery. It’s a two-hour drive South of where I am – for San Franciscans that’s pushing the journey closer to three hours in smooth traffic. One-way. That’s a long way away for someone who grew up on a tiny island in Southeast Asia, but in California terms? No sweat!
Especially when the landscape cooperates to provide rolling hills, fierce waves and abundant sunshine and fog just to mix things up a bit. Driving in California (and for the most part of the US) is as commonplace as eating, so it’s really not that big a deal to commute an hour to work everyday. But beyond the humdrum of quotidian life, a drive like this provides the opportunity to really appreciate the beauty of the landscape that we’re lucky enough to live in. To take it all in.
This would be my second visit. M and I jaunted down on July 4, when a big party with American fare was planned for that foggy July afternoon – BBQ pork ribs and beef brisket, boiled sweet corn doused in butter, slow-cooked baked beans that completely redefined my relationship with them, and chocolate chip cookies and brownies decadent enough to make the most stoic of gourmands cry.
We thoroughly enjoyed this good ol’fashioned American barbecue, but I left feeling a little wistful, wanting to return for their main menu, and perhaps to sample some of the dishes I’ve been drooling over in their cookbook.
And so, on a quiet weekday afternoon, we drove up to the tiny strip of a parking lot, with its resident gas station, all of two pumps. The restaurant is unassuming, humble and cute. You could almost mistake it for a small inn, or a section of the charter school it neighbors.
Famished after the drive, we walked up to porch and devoured the menu on display, tempted by all the items. My memory fails me on the other dishes on offer, but perhaps it was because a pizza with prosciutto, squash, sage and brown butter caught my eye.
Alas, it was not to be. We were looking at their dinner menu, when lunch was a simple affair of open-faced sandwiches, soup and salad. And an array of baked treats lying in wait.
We had a leek and feta cheese open-faced sandwich, and an onion and tomato version – both served on pillowy soft slices of freshly-baked foccacia. There was also a hearty cup of corn soup, an an order of elegantly layered potato frittata with a simple side salad.
Light, energizing and moderate, leaving us ample room for dessert, in the form of one strawberry jelly donut.
If I ever get around to writing a memoir one day, this donut is going to be in there. It might even get its own chapter. Immaculately dusted with sugar on its golden brown, display-case best, the donut’s true essence was oozing its way onto our fingers on its other end. There we were, three women standing right outside the bakery, our collective silence punctuated by oohs and aahs as we bit into the soggy outer layer, our palates revelling in the slippery sweetness of strawberry jelly. This was the perfect donut moment – sticky fingers, meditative smiles and general amazement at the depth and intensity of flavor.
I planned ahead and took home a citrus morning bun that made for a delicious breakfast the next morning. After a few minutes in the oven, the bun was back to its airy, crisp, delicious self, washed down with a shot of espresso. Simple pleasures.
Of course, another trip is in order to taste their full menu, but in the meantime, the memories of this meal, like the BBQ we stumbled upon previously, will last a while. That’s all part of the Bakery’s charm, courtesy of its location and its dedication to using the freshest, local and seasonal produce. There are a number of destinations in the Bay Area where one could ‘escape’ for the day with good food and views, but none of them will make you feel as if you’ve just dined at a friend’s cabin in the woods, and wishing that you could stay for just another meal.
Big Sur Bakery
Big Sur, CA 93920
Before you leave, check out Megan’s take on our lunch over at Bay Area Bites.