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February 20, 2007

A Ride for Basque Food

Central Ave, originally uploaded by Burnszilla.

Sunday morning my friend Darryl and I embarked on a 336 mile journey to eat. When it comes to motorcycle dining, Darryl ranks up there with the best of them. The motto on his coat of arms reads, "Ride to eat and eat to ride." We rode south on highway 1 towards Laureles Grade which threw us over onto Carmel Valley Road. Carmel Valley Road corkscrews southeastward to King City. We crossed highway 101onto Bitterwater Road which connects to highway 25, otherwise known as the Airline Highway. Northward we turned right on Panoche Road and took it past Mercey Hot Springs along Little Panoche Road. We slabbed it on I-5 northwards and exited towards our destination. Just after two o'clock we arrived at the Wool Growers French Basque Restaurant in Los Banos, California.

Our stomachs were empty since we only had a small breakfast prior to 8 am. Adorned in protective motorcycle gear we walked into the one hundred year old building, past a bar room on the right and into the back dining hall. Two tall attractive brunettes ran the show. Long communal tables ran the length of the room and rancheros were scattered about. We were seated off to the side at our own table. "What would you like? Tri-tip, chicken or lamp chops?"
I wasn't prepared to make such a quick decision. Darryl chose the lamp chops and I followed suit. You must ask yourself: how often do I eat lamb chops and what's the name of the restaurant? When in Basque. Within moments our table started to fill up with food. Food I didn't even know was ordered. A fresh loaf of bread along with single-serving butter squares sandwiched between wax paper. Just like other restaurants the butter was cold and hard. A half liter of table wine appeared. A large serving bowl of vegetable soup and a large side of brown beans showed up. Darryl mentioned that the last time he was there he had seen regulars put their beans in the soup. We adopted the tradition. A crispy iceberg lettuce salad with a mayonaisse based dressing appeared and then a large plate of rice with pulled chicken a few diced sundried tomatoes. I've never tasted rice this good before. There were really good french fries too, but I resisted, watching my figure. Ya, right! I was starting to worry about how we were to make it back home with a food coma. The our waitress brought us two large lamp chops, each. They were spiced to perfection. I couldn't believe all the food they brought us. Desert was a plastic cup of vanilla ice cream with the peel off paper top. The only thing missing was the disposable flat wooden spoon. Ironically, the ice cream was softer than the butter. I'm not complaining at all here. I love ice cream. The bill showed up and I was even more amazed. Fifteen dollars each, plus tip. That was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. I will be stopping their next time we come back from Yosemite on a weekend.

We hopped on our BMWs and raced the Pacheco Pass home into San Jaun Bautista and on every back road north of Watsonville in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A successful ride and a full stomach make for a great day. Click here to see all the photos.

Posted by stephen at February 20, 2007 10:24 PM


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