Road Foods: Humboldt County

For Thanksgiving I hopped in the car and headed South to Eureka, California. Eureka is the county seat of Humboldt and is known for its unique mix of extreme liberal views mixed with extreme libertarian views.  It’s the home of my alma mater, Humboldt State University, and home to a dying fishing and lumber industry.

Stop 1, Eugene: Dutch Bros. Coffee.  Dutch Bros. once had a hipster cool, Southern Oregon vibe. Attractive young people, dancing to really loud music while serving you coffee. I hear it’s a great place to work . But coffee wise . meh. The barista seemed very disappointed that I didn’t want three types of syrup added to my latte.

Stop 2, Grant’s Pass: unnamed burrito shop on side of road. After 3 hours, decided to get out of the car. Great chips and slasa and a legitimate chile verde burrito, that I kept tasting the rest of the day. Disappointed that there was no horchata though. Settled for a Diet Coke.

Stop 4, South of Crescent City: side of the road. No food stop here, but a solid look at the North Coast .

Arrival: Arrived in Eureka and met my brother and his girlfriend at a nautical themed Italian Sushi Tepanaki restaurant on the marina. None of us were that hungry, but ordered a couple of rolls. Eureka is on the water and has a small fishing fleet harvesting Dungeness crab, salmon and maybe some halibut. because of its reputation as a fishing town, you would think it would have a lit to offer. But, because of its relative isolation, selection is limited. There is limited air traffic in and out of the area and its a seven hour drive from Portland or San Francisco.

I assumed the area would have jumped on the localvore bandwagon like the urban areas to the North and South. Politically , socially and even geographically you think that would be the case, but I really never saw much evidence of it.

Thanksgiving: The morning started with a walk around Eureka. Fewer transients and heroin needles than I recall. Stopped for coffee and a  muffin at Old Town Coffee and Chocolates.  Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s girlfriends house started with an incredible pumpkin bisque with big chunks of freshly caught Dungeness crab. Another highlight was the yam balls — little balls of pureed yam, rolled in coconut and baked.

Friday: Breakfast at Ramone’s Bakery. Really good corn meal scone. Then leftovers at back at  the house. Dinner at Babette’s, an old school Italian place complete with guitarist, candle in a wine bottle in a basket and chicken picata.

Saturday: Mickey Mouse shaped chocolate chip pancakes with the nephew. Not quite as elaborate as these, but still yummy. Then off to sight-seeing and ice cream.

Observations: A lot of people trying to do really good food. But only a few folks have figured out the distributions channels and how to consistently get fresh ingredients. Prices tend to be higher than they should be to support local quality eating. Again, probably due to distribution issues. There are some really good local products to be had. Humboldt County produces some of the best cheeses in the U.S. and there is a  thriving condiment business with everything from local pesto, to bbq sauce to honey widely available.

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Proper Heterogeneous Burrito Formation

I arrived at the airport this morning around 7:00 a.m. for the 8:00 a.m. flight to Seattle. Everything went smoothly. Security was a little slow, but the TSA staff didn’t try to get frisky.  I got on the plane and went straight into my Thursday morning nap routine. After about 35 minutes of quality nap time, I realized we weren’t in the air. Maintenance problems. We taxied to the gate. Maintenance worked for about 20 minutes, then we turned back to take off again. Keep in mind this is now an hour of ground time for a 30 minute flight. After another delay, they had us get off the plane. Since it was 9:30 by this time and my Seattle meeting started at 10:00 I made the decision to get some breakfast, and just call into the meeting.

Jump to Breakfast.

PDX (Portland for you non airport code junkies) has a nice array of food options. I opted for a veggie breakfast burrito from Elephant’s Delicatessen. It was good.

I was impressed with the even distribution of ingredients. It was pre-made, not made to order, so I don’t know how they did it. But at most burrito places they go down the line glopping scoops of rice beans, meat, cheese, etc. on a tortilla.  The problem with this approach is you end up with a partitioned burrito. There’s a section for meat, a section for beans, a section for rice. When you bite into it, you only get that one item in each bite. If you like lettuce this form of construction could be good, because the lettuce is protected by other lettuce and stays crisp. But otherwise I’m not a fan.

Proper burrito construction has the burritista (new word) spread the hot ingredients out evenly across the tortilla and then applies a layer of cheese or sour cream to protect any cold ingredients like lettuce or tomatoes. This process keeps crisp items crisp, but is time-consuming and a bad burrito fold, can ruin it all.

Consider instead, tossing the ingredients altogether in a bowl and then applying to the tortilla. This guarantees even distribution and saves time. To keep your lettuce crisp, order a salad on the side.

And my all time favorite burrito . . .  Tres Amigos Super Beef with a glass of horchata and pickled radishes.

The original Tres Amigos, Half Moon Bay, California