A week by the Pacific. JSX Airlines’ 30 seater from its own terminal at Phoenix – no queues, no security hassle, 16 passengers, three check-in stations, temperature checking, business class seating – the nearest thing to private jet service at public pricing. A joyful return to the skies – to Burbank (not the dreaded LAX). Luggage hand-delivered within five minutes of landing, no queues, no lines. Door to door: Desert Dream, Carefree, AZ to Oceana, Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica in 3½ hours with zero hassle.
An early dinner at a favourite haunt, just a walk away from our hotel – The Blue Plate Oysterette. Upscale but super-casual seafood – open kitchen – fresh Branzino, NZ Salmon, Sea Bass – all prepared simply. Six/seven different types of US oysters, great raw bar of cerviches and shrimp, views of the ocean, low key, vibrant, locally sourced from California fishermen, and daily pick-ups at LAX for more exotic choices. We stuck to the basics – a dozen oysters – Minter Sweets from Skagit Bay, Tomahawks from Menemsha Pond, Sequim Bay Sapphires and Kumamoto from Baja (they also had Kiwi Cups and Kaipara from New Zealand). Trudy had Sea Bass tacos and I had a Branzino from Greece – grilled in its skin with chimichurri. A change from our desert life to the seaside – and how good does fish/seafood taste when you can smell the salty sea air and feel the fresh sea breeze?
A lunch in the Saturday sunshine – in Malibu village – 25 miles from The Oceana. A great drive along the Pacific Coast Highway – surfers out everywhere hitting the waves – rubbernecking at the beachside homes of Cher, Lady Gaga, Barbra Streisand, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Miley Cyrus, Bill Murray, Robert Redford, Goldie Hawn and a few others.
Then to a beautiful vine-covered patio/garden at Tony’s Taverna. The place for delicious, classic Greek food – a mezze of taramasalata, pita bread, grilled octopus with olive oil and lemon, marithes (whitebait), spanakopita and some veal/lamb sausages. No room for a main – just Horiatiki salad and a classic Greek yoghurt with cherries and honey to share for dessert. A taste of the Aegean – in Malibu.
An impromptu visit to one of our favourite hotels and stomping grounds – Shutters on the Beach. A table by the window at One Pico on the beach with the gentle 7pm evening waves foaming in. The best meal of our stay so far. Trudy had the Sea Bass with fava beans/purée and green olives. I couldn’t resist the Halibut (pure white, firm, full of flavour), English peas (irresistible), gigante beans, marjoram and mint citrus – melted in my mouth.
Oh, I do like to be by the seaside,
I do like to be by the sea.
And tonight – a change of pace. Wally’s – one of the two places we buy our wines from. A great wine place, terrific selections, superb, authentic surroundings – wooden chairs/tables, open kitchen, surrounded by the world’s finest wines. We ordered three bottles of the 2018 Massetino (Masseto’s superb second wine) to be shipped home to Arizona and also took some truffle salami, bison salami, banana peppers, petits poivrons to carry home. We shared the chorizo spiced grilled octopus with mashed heirloom carrots, pea tendrils, lime crème fraiche with black garlic mole. Then Trudy had a Truffle Pizzetta – delicious and I had Steak Tartare – prime tenderloin, topped with caviar and leek alioli – amazing combination. A superb change of pace experience – eating ‘earth’ by the sea.
And continuing that change of pace – dinner at Uovo – a tiny Italian spot in downtown Santa Monica – two blocks from the ocean. Billed as “the one place outside of Italy that serves fresh pasta made in Italy”. And indeed it is – quite possibly the best pasta I’ve tasted in the US. All they serve is pasta (from their kitchen in Bologna) – Tonnarelli, Taglionini and Tagliatelle. I had truffle, Trudy had tagliatelle ai Carciofi (artichoke, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano). A great hidden secret to try during your next trip here.
And our final evening – a classic – The Ivy at the Shore. A North Hollywood / Santa Monica icon. All pinks and turquoise. Classic dishes – beautifully cooked comfort food. Couldn’t resist the fish ‘n chips with a cold beer.
Back to the Desert tomorrow – more Fun in the Sun.