I prefer a more sedate celebration, visiting and reflecting with family and friends, a quiet dinner out in Nevada City, fresh flowers from Foothills Flowers, some wickedly humorous cards — and just a few presents.
At dinner, you inevitably wind up visiting with the other guests, since it’s such a small town: This time it was Phil and Belinda Carville and Lowell and Diane Robertson. We caught up and had a few laughs. I’m going to get Phil to start blogging.
Back at the ranch, we opened a few gifts: a new pair of swim goggles, a kitchen thermometer (with big, easy-to-read numbers) and a book called “My Nepenthe.” (Yes, we “shopped locally”: Big 5 in the K-mart Center, Tess’ Kitchen Store and J.J. Jacksons).
The book “My Nepenthe” from my wife and son was a wonderful surprise. “A very special book about a very special place,” as Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food wrote in his review. It is written by Romney Steele, granddaughter of the founders of Nepenthe.
Nepenthe, perched on the cliffs of Big Sur off the Pacific Coast Highway, is quintessential California — at least “coastal California.” Many of you have been there. It’s been around since 1949.
This place is more than a restaurant — it embodies the spirit of California and is an institution.
There is the spectacular view (high above the Pacific and below the Santa Lucia Mountains), the eclectic California culture (from Yuppies to retirees to Bohemians — and Jack Kerouac); big chess boards; free-form sculptures; and the Ambrosia burger (now $14.95 but still huge, on a French roll with garbanzo-kidney bean salad).
“From the baths we go to Nepenthe, which is a beautiful cliff top restaurant with vast outdoor patio, with excellent food, excellent waiters and management, good drinks, chess tables, chairs and tables to just sit in the sun and look at the grand coast,” Kerouac wrote about the place.
I’ve been going to Nepenthe since I was a child. I remember going with my parents and flinching at the bean salad as a side, instead of french fries, but wound up enjoying it immensely. The Ambrosia burger was about half the price it is now.
Over the years, we’ve been back many times — always trying to gauge the unpredictable weather for a perfect day. Sometimes the dense fog is OK, too. Sure, it’s more touristy than in the past and pricier — like California itself. But it’s still a fun day.
Steele writes about the history of the place from her family’s eyes. There are stories, anecdotes, black-and-white photos and stunning color photography. A relative of the Fassett family is a local, according to the proprietor at J.J. Jackson’s.
At middle age, you reflect on your past, as well as your present and future. So the book is going to be a real treasure for me. Thank you Shannon. Thank you Son.
Here’s the Pinocchio video (click twice to watch it):
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