Mono River Rock Cafe

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Drive along the blistering purgatory of central valley freeway until your brain burns, then turn east. Keep heading east as you rise above the dust and heat and up up up you go.  The more trees and boulders you see, the narrower the road becomes. You’ll lose your breath on the mountain and gain your air back to gasp down a one lane rutted path with drop-offs, vistas,  and pickups stuck in rocks.  Continue this madness until almost the end of the road, but not quite. Arrive at your destination and wonder how on EARTH all these people in WHAT vehicles managed that route too?!?!

Set up camp to the sounds of the river and jam with the mandolin player next door. Hop into various hot springs and be unable to try them all. Hike to a ‘temperate’ lake, enjoy communing with nature and realize you’ve just skinny dipped with leeches.

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GAH!

Be amused to learn that the leeches do not latch onto you but much prefer your sexy partner instead. Be relieved they are teeny leeches and not huge gnarly bloodsuckers.

Pie has now been richly earned and you grab two house-made apple pie slices sold to you by a lass from halfway across the world and made by the man who karaokes in the kitchen. Marvel that each ingredient, tool, piece of wood, EVERYTHING has been hauled in via the white knuckle road.

Finish your days in hot springs by the river, and nights up a rock shelf at a secret camp playing dominos and jamming with two permanent residents and another stalwart from the far side of the globe. The eldest is a shoo-in for skinny Gandalf. They run errands and fix things in return for permanent camp rights, this includes stealth pot hole repair praise the gods.

Pie fed, leave late the last day because you sat in a hot spring that morning, ogled views on a hike at the breath-stealing peak, and sidetracked to a Sequoia grove. Arrive at  your partner’s residence on a mountaintop observatory near midnight under the full moon.

Pack and arrange things for a day before heading  home. Cry because while the ocean is beautiful, the harried civilization is far from civil and THAT is not home, any more.

You’re an adult, you have responsibilities, you feel trapped.

Dream of homemade apple pie, dominos by the fire, hot springs, fixing potholes, and a life well lived. Dream of finding home again.

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For line drawing emphasis. Who wants to color this in

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Surfing and Strolling near Mono River Rock Restaurant

SURFING: Not literally. But once you realize there’s leeches in the lake you can pick up enough speed to glide over the top of the water.

STROLLING: All directions of the compass!

Butter Love Bakeshop

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3717 Balboa St * San Francisco CA * 94121 * www.butterlovebakeshop.com

Owners Esa and husband Josh have been chefs for years, and like the name indicates, they are Big on Butter. And big on PIE!! It took me nearly literally stumbling into their sign, absent-minded-professory chugging down the sidewalk, to ‘find’ Butter Love. ” Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy PIE…which is pretty much the same thing. ” The sandwich board declared.

Of course I went in and bought happiness I mean  pie. And what selections! They make SO MANY, here is the list. You name it they got it:

BUTTER LOVE PIE SELECTION

I can’t remember what I got THAT time, which is no matter because once seen on a street I visit often, Butter Love cannot not be unseen.

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Hooligan’s walkie spot is so near Butter Love! Thanks Hoolie!

 

Now every time I’m around I get more nuggets of wisdom – they’re kind of like street pie fortune cookies;  ” Skinny people are easy to kidnap. Stay safe. Eat Pie.” For safety’s sake one must obey! ” Stress spelled backwards is DESSERTS “, they inform. My god the wisdom.

Speaking of stressed that’s what a family potluck reunion is, which is why I ordered an entire berry pie for a small family reunion. It almost got hijacked as I screwed up my address numbers – me cognitize good – and rang a stranger’s doorbell, standing out front with an entire pie in hand. Nobody answered which is too bad for them! They almost won at life that day.

Let me tell you, there were several great desserts at the reunion and which one got totally devoured?! Butter Love Pie. They’re going to save my bacon for every family event from now on. As well as drop in when I go to the bank on that street. And the hardware store. And getting walked by Hooligan. And if I happen to be in the neighborhood…

Let’s finish here on Butter Love Bakeshop’s mantra, they sum it up best; ..for the love of butter, Make Pie, Buy Pie, and Eat Pie!

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 SURFING and STROLLING near Butter Love Bakeshop

[ Pie tastes better when you’re hungry ]

Papa’a Palaoa Bakery

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187 Kilauea Ave. * Hilo HI 96720 * 808-935-9700 * www.papaapalaoabakery.com

Mission: Liliko’i Ukelele. This also sounds like a flower duo or a tropical poem. I was visiting Robert and William and the ONE thing I was bound and determined to do (besides impose on them ) was to buy a ukelele and seek out a Hilo Bakery.

Mission accomplished! Papa’a Palaoa Bakery IS poetry, serving all kinds of baked yummies with ingredients I can’t imagine tasting better elsewhere. Could you really order Liliko’i pie anywhere but Hawaii?  Rebekkah and Nikki of Papa’a Palaoa were adorable and so friendly fun while they talked me through the selection. Here are their cartoonified selves on terrible paper – note the awesome large hands. I swear every baker I met in Hawaii had the most fabulous hands and I know that sounds like a creepy fetish but it’s true! The hands not the fetish. Tah-dah:

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Love these lassies!

Due to the inclusion of plenty ‘o dairy in that day’s pies, I was not able to feast on Liliko’i ….but wait! I walked out with something just as epic which was a vegan cinnamon roll.

Oh my god. That cinnamon roll was unmatched among dairy and non dairy contenders. Not too sweet, and here’s the kicker – not too xantham gummy…wahoo! There is something remarkable going on with vegan desserts in Hawaii. Okay I do have a fetish. For Hawaiian vegan sweets!

For the next two days I planted my ass on Robert and William’s lanai, ate Papa’a Palaoa cinnamon roll, and tortured ‘their’ Pacific Golden Plover with my ukelele squawks. Named Hitch, after Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ – HA – he never answered back but undauntedly plucked away at bugs while I stickily plucked at that roll and the ukelele strings.

Turns out Hitch and I are birds of a feather; we both seasonably claim territory in Robert and William’s back yard and eat. Return and repeat year after year. In homage to Robert, William, and the incredible vegan eats of the Big Island, here is Robert with a pie offering for Pele. Photo actually taken in Mordor-like Volcano National Park:

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ONE PIE TO UNITE THEM ALL

My migratory compass is set. Back to Hawaii! Back to Papa’a Palaoa Bakery!

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Surfing and Strolling near Papa’a Palaoa Bakery

SURFING: THIS IS HAWAII. Well, not so fast. There’s a lot of inhospitable lava shoreline about, including fresh hot stuff poured off of Kilauea and down into the sea.

STROLLING: Good grief it’s so gorgeous here! All I did was walk around my friend’s neighborhood early in the morning and ‘ooo’ and ‘aaa’ the many many flowers.  There’s also Volcano National Park!

 

Cheryl at Uncle Robert’s Night Market

Cheryl @ Uncle Robert’s Night Market

Southwest side of Hawaii

 I can’t tell you how to get to Uncle Robert’s Night Market, you have to be local ,or, just end up here somehow some way. The FIRST time I came here, Robert and William and their friend Michael drove me down a dark road – no I wasn’t getting kidnapped – and that’s how I discovered the only Big Live Party I’ve Ever Felt Comfortable At And In Fact Loved. Impossible to put into words and it’ll sound stupid if I do so I won’t. Maybe this feeling has to do with the all ages all styles welcome dancing. In the event you do vector in,  bring your dancing shoes and come hungry because this scene is a smorgasbord of food vendors.

I stumbled past Cheryl amidst an eye-popping medley of other goods and food spreads. Amidst an array of sellers’ displays, there she sat, behind a simple table with a few baked items. Her straight to the point style had a homing effect on me like an unclaimed honeypot to a hungry bear.  “Banana Pie” one of her signs read. Oh my god!

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Like Prince, Cheryl needs only one name. Pie doesn’t get better than this

True story; once upon a time, a bear nocturnally broke into Yosemite’s Awanee hotel kitchen and ate 17 banana cream pies. Imagine coming into work that next morning. If you have the opportunity to buy homemade banana pie from a Hawaiian Grandma, for gods’ sake be like that bear and don’t hesitate. Cheryl did not have 17 banana pies, but she did have one and I totally fangirled this poor woman over it.  After making a fool of myself peppering her with questions, I bought a slice and then dorked away towards the band with a huge grin on my face.

Needless to say, Cheryl’s banana pie was spectacular in all ways. Also amazing were Cheryl’s hands – what is it with Hawaiian bakers? – same as Papa’a Palaoa’s crew, these were large hands meant to create great things. The best kind of hands.

 Mahalo to Uncle Robert’s for existing! And to Cheryl,  for feeding this happy bear. Many blessings and dancing for you all!

BONUS: Cheryl has a fabulous face and dress and for the life of me I couldn’t capture it. Numerous attempts were made. The closest I came was the version above and this coloring-book version. I do think her banana pie is legend, so her picture is too:

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Fill this in with tropical colors!

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Surfing and Strolling near Uncle Robert’s Night Market

Surfing: THIS IS HAWAII.

Strolling: Just walking around Robert and William’s neighborhood gave me a thrill. All the flowers! There’s also Volcano National Park!

Mt Hamilton Apple Disaster & Tuscan Apocalypse Pies

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Lick Observatory * 7281 Mt. Hamilton Rd. * Mt. Hamilton CA 94140 * www.ucolick.org

Two pies, two different dates, one place!

Now that you’ve clicked on the link above, you have deduced that there is no bakery on Mt. Hamilton. Up here the Lick Observatory can observe star bakeries – (I’m sure astronomers would LOVE that phrase instead of ‘star nurseries’ ) – and one lonely vending machine which definitely does not dispense pie. But there is a way to get pie here; pay attention singles – get romantically involved with an observatory employee.

Easier said than done. In my case I ended up with Rapunzel Pie Snatchers due to a cosmic soup of a chalk mural, Astrid’s grand driveway camping adventure, and the nepotistic advantage of having a Great Grandparent be the Lick director for 29 years. Needless to say there is a lot of ancestral woo-woo around these parts. And now I find myself cooking in a kitchen that is only slightly younger than the ancestors, on the same land where they also used to live, and um, bake.

To understand what cooking here means, you first must meet The Juggernaut. That’s Rapunzel Pie Snatcher’s infamous oven.

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FEE FI FO FUM

Juggernaut definition via inter web; ‘a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution’, and, ‘ a massive inexorable force, campaign, movement, or object that crushes whatever is in its path.’ And my favorite, ‘ Juggernaut is one of the strongest beings in the universe. He is often able to best Thor and Hulk in battle, as even the strongest incarnations of Hulk cannot overpower Juggernaut.’

You have to do whatever Juggernaut wants. This means Juggernaut decides his own temperature and you need a thermometer inside the oven, which doesn’t correspond to the numbers on the dials. For example, if you set a dial to 200, that really means Juggernaut is set at around 425….or not…..maybe the temp will go up and down…or not….You also need to click dials twice to turn them on, and “ DON’T STAND TOO CLOSE TO THE OVEN WHEN YOU OPEN IT!”  Rapunzel Pie Snatchers warns. Without observing the proper rituals, Juggernaut may require a sacrifice, like your eyebrows.  Despite the quirks I enjoy cooking with Juggernaut, maybe because  I’m quirky too and – a-hem! – dangerous. All the adventure you need, right at home.

 I set out to cook Mt Hamilton Apple Disaster Pie, and totally nailed it as far as desecrating directions go. No single step of this recipe was achieved within scientific method or reason.  Changed the butter to vegan, replaced the pastry flour with two other kinds you’re not REALLY supposed to use in pie,  chucked in random apples, overdid every spice within reach, rolled the dough with a floured water bottle on a 2/3 sized board. Threw the lot at the mercy of Juggernaut, which, by the way, also involved flapping Juggernaut’s mouth ( okay the door ) open and closed to regulate the temperature within 100 degrees of normal – not unlike those movie servants using giant fans to cool off the Roman emperor. And it turned out great! Mt Hamilton Disaster Pie was NOT a disaster! Juggernaut was pleased with my method of madness and blessed us with a heart festooned pie. Aww.

No problem, I thought. Now onto savory pies.

The God was not pleased. Tuscan Apocalypse pie was precisely that – a natural disaster. For  hours I was cooking tomato sauce from scratch, sautéing organic veggies, browning vegan sausages, slicing vegan cheese and sprinkling Tuscan herbs like fairy dust into the mix. Recreating the same dough as before, and FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS TO THE LETTER.

I’ve made hand pies before – Thanks to Victoria at Victoria’s Last Resort! – and they were fabulous. Not this time. Juggernaut seems to prefer free will and chaos. Tuscan Apocalypse Pies were more akin to Apocalypse Crumbles, or what would happen if a pizza and a calzone got into a fight to the death.

“ Look away!” I hollered at Rapunzel Pie Snatchers. “ But take a bite.” Tuscan Pie Apocalypse WAS absolutely delicious, I’ll give it that, but you couldn’t look it in the eye  – or shoot, take a peep AT ALL – in order to eat. Lesson learned; despite being located at a scientific research center, my pies here are best cooked as per my usual method  – by doing what makes the least amount of sense.

Oh, more Mt Hamilton Disaster Pie WILL be made – and it’ll be made via collaboration between the quirks of Juggernaut and myself. In homage to this promise, here is a take on a brilliant Lick Observatory photo from Laurie Hatch ( I’m sorry!! )

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NOT BRAINS! It’s Pie Moon, people!

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Surfing and Strolling at Lick Observatory

SURFING: Nothing of the sort.

STROLLING: Yeah! There’s a self-guided walking tour with informative signs. One of them them even features my Great Grandfather piercing his eyes out the side of the photo, which is cool and gives me the willies at the same time. Also public tours Thurs-Sun and some evenings, check the website for details. And a semi resident like me can bop all over the place, though being at the top of a mountain, EVERY walk starts with the reward downhill first, and then huffing back up. This exhaustive hiking style is how pie is inspired on Mt. Hamilton.

 

The Rolling Pin Bake & Brew

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230c 2nd. St. * Bandon OR 97411 * 541-252-5244 * therollingpinbb.com

Shaped and size like a rolling pin, you would not BELIEVE the yummies they fit in here.

The Rolling Pin rolled up into downtown Bandon where they appear to be absolutely dominating the cupcake business. SPECIAL GUEST RACHEL and I barged in and noted they have sweet and savory deliciousnesses, including, I just realized, hand apple pies!

However, hand apple pies were not available on our visit, so we dove into their Herculean cupcake menu. If ever there was a cupcake to be had, ‘lo, it is here. This is your chance to escape reality. Besides the usual suspects, check out these flavors (short sample!); Tuxedo, Almond Joy, Kokomo, Lemon Lovers, Earl Gray, Funfetti?!? Each sounds like a magic carpet ride. The only cupcake missing was one shaped like a seagull head, which sounds disgusting and it is but hear me out. Years prior I was with Rachel’s mom’s golden retriever on the beach where he was romping away. I kept wondering why this bouncing bundle of joy was making people scream until he ran up to me and smiled.

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GAH!

Perched on his tongue staring at me was a perfectly preserved seagull HEAD. My turn to shriek. I’d love to see Bandon Bake & Brew create a seagull head cupcake in honor of doggo’s great caper, but for some reason they might not go for it.

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Le Piece de Resistance

SPECIAL GUEST RACHEL and I took some Death By Chocolate/Not Seagull Head cupcakes to her pad, to be devoured under the watchful eye of her fantastical makaw. There are many reasons why Rachel is a special guest, for example, anyone living with a giant wild bird that can live for 80 years and bite your finger off is quite the brave character. Ask how she ended up with this loving commitment. Until then, let it be known Rachel and I met in college and became besties, which means we love each other and can destroy lives with shared knowledge of each others’ shenanigans. I’ll just state the fact that Rachel is a hospice nurse –  a most badass of jobs –  and even more crazy impressive is the fact that a hospice nurse in my parents’ home knew Rachel and absolutely worshipped her. To achieve this level of badassery is incomprehensible to me, so for god’s sake Rachel deserves all the spaghetti I can cook and pie and cupcakes whenever needed. That said,  a hospice nurse choosing Death By Chocolate cupcakes implies subconscious irony only and not of plotting a pleasant way to check out. I swear.

Oh! And those devilish cupcakes? Definitely magic. Even when scarfed under the watchful eye of Rico the Flying Dragon:

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Rico on HIS magic carpet ride

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Surfing and Strolling near Rolling Pin Bake & Brew

SURFING: I didn’t have my gear with me, but it appears if you find a place without giant boulders and no boats to mow you over and no territorial teenagers, you’re in luck. Likewise find days when it is not windy HA!!!

STROLLING: I combo-ed this with a half-arsed surf check. You can get a great lengthy stroll along Bandon beach, complete with tide pools and doggies running around with severed bird heads.

Bandon Baking Company & Deli

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160 2nd. St. SW * Bandon OR 97411 * 541-347-9440 * Bandonbakingco.com

To heck with it, here’s a quote straight from Bandon Baking Co’s website; “… When you NEED a cookie, pastry, dessert, French styled croissant, or a hand crafted loaf of bread – The bakery has been the go to place for locals and travellers alike…”

Yes I DO need! And so does my SPECIAL GUEST pal Rachel. That means a local (her) and traveller (me) did indeed go to the Bandon Baking Co.  and picked up a couple of ‘pie bars.’ These were basically pie slices shaped into slabs which I justified as ‘power bars’ because of the shape. And by inserting ‘Deli’ into their name, this implies the joint is not only a bakery, but serves full meals. Thus Rachel and I had those health bars for breakfast. A more delicious breakfast can not be had, nor more suitably sustaining for scuffling around Bandon beach in the 40 knot winds or whatever loco is on tap that day.

The Baking Company itself is easy to find, though she and I have not always been so navigationally savvy. One day many moons ago we decided to whip up from the San Francisco Bay Area to her hometown of Bandon by way of the scenic coastal route. Mistake. Nothing like driving behind RV’s scraping the side of the road pretending they’re tractors for hours and hours. Then we saw a sign for our next highway, which, relieved to free ourselves from the slow lane,  we foolishly took. Two hours later we find ourselves on the highway we wanted – but 150 miles SOUTH of  where we wanted to pop out. Oops! Could that highway sign have not been more specific? Must we be forced to consult actual maps?

 We arrived in Bandon Oregon in the pitch dark and many hours later with only a smattering of people worried about what the hell happened. I’m positive we ate at Bandon Baking Company on that trip, but too bad we did not eat pie THEN. Now thanks to the knowledge that comes with age, we know that pie is needed for any road trip.

I have no photo of our bakery pit stop, but here is a rendering of a photo we took in college – I’m pretty sure this was right before our incredible journey north:

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Pisces sign or This Explains Everything

 

Thank you for feeding us, Bandon Baking Company!

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Surfing and Strolling near Bandon Baking Company

SURFING: I didn’t have my gear with me, but if you find a place without giant boulders and no boats to mow you over and no territorial teenagers, you might be in luck. Likewise find days when it is not windy HA!!!

STROLLING: I combo-ed this with a half-arsed surf check. You can get a great lengthy stroll along Bandon beach, complete with tide pools and doggies running around with severed bird heads.