This past Memorial weekend, the boyfriend and I embarked on a journey to our favorite place.
This time around, we went north of San Diego to discover the smaller towns that line the coast. We stayed in an affluent area called Solana Beach. The coast was like nothing I had ever seen before. Its scenery was something out of a story book. When we first walked out, our feet met the velvety pale sand and immediately our eyes were drawn to the vast horizon. Clumps of seaweed and other peculiar ocean vegetation dotted the shore as remnants from the previous night’s high tide. During the day, the commanding sea withdrew to reveal miles of coast reachable by foot. But as the hours past, the milky waves would return to fearlessly collide with the lofty cliffs that lined the shore. The landscape was truly magical, which was the perfect setting for our trip’s purpose. To rekindle and reconnect.
We had no plans for what each day would bring. Our only hopes were to disconnect from reality and delight in one another’s presence. Our mornings started with a leisurely walk on the beach, enjoying the efforts of local surfers capturing the ocean’s energy. On Saturday, we walked to a quaint cafe in our neighborhood for a velvety almond-milk cappuccino (for her) and a rich french kiss mocha (for him).
After breakfast, our days were filled with more time spent on the beach, basking in the warmth of the sun without a care in the world. If only this was real life. The only departures we made were for food and aimless driving. The latter became an evening staple. Not far from the coast, windy roads snaked through thickly wooded countryside. Nestled every few hundred feet were incredibly private neighborhoods. So discreet that it was rare we actually saw a home in its entirety. Instead, we marveled at the grandiose gates that protected each fortress. One evening, we were so engrossed in our opulent surroundings that we completely tuned out my car’s “low fuel” warning. With only five miles left in our tank, we were very luck to reach a gas station almost six miles from where we began.
After dinner, we’d return to our guesthouse (We highly recommend by the way!) to modify our wardrobe. Equipped with light sweatshirts, we would returned to the shore and finish our day listening to the growl of the sea. As we sat, lulled into tranquility, I took a mental note that these are the moments I must never forget. Absent from any distractions and humbled by the ocean’s strength, we sat there feeling as though it was just us and nature. My heart swelled with gratitude for the beauty before my eyes and the fact that I got to share it with the man who sat next to me. I realized in that moment, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Life was good.
During our stay, we enjoyed many amazing meals. There is something so refreshing about California cuisine. Regardless of the restaurant, there is a deep appreciation for quality ingredients. Every dish seemed to be bursting with flavor as it danced upon my tongue. Our favorites included a crisp, charred Salsiccia pizza from Real Food and Spirits. The atmosphere was spot on for an intimate dinner as we indulged in our adult beverages. A cold glass of Heineken for him and medium bodied glass of Sean Minor Pinot Noir for me. Our favorite spot, though, was a random find in Encinitas. Union Kitchen and Tap was just up our alley with a wide range of microbrews and classic food favorites. Our drink of choice was a local beer from San Diego called Mission Hefeweizen. It was one of the most crisp I’ve every tasted (no lemon needed). Jordan enjoyed the mini pork sliders, but I went for something a bit lighter — the cobb salad. This classic salad had a base of romaine and was sprinkled with the usual suspects: hard boiled eggs, bacon, tomatoes and a Maytag blue cheese. Everything came together once tossed in a delicious red whine vinaigrette. It was a well orchestrated salad to say the least. We literally ate every last bite. Now that we are back to reality, I knew I would have to recreate the dish. So last week, I got to work on my own version.
The foundation is classic — freshly chopped organic romaine lettuce. After a light rinse and whirl in the salad spinner, I dressed the mild lettuce in a sharp and tangy red wine vinaigrette. From there, I adorned the salad with customary cobb toppings including hard boiled eggs, tomato and bacon. It’s important to stay light handed when garnishing these salads; as every ingredient (egg yolks, bacon and blue cheese) is pretty rich on your tastebuds and in your belly.
Union’s version was decked out with blue cheese from Maytag, but it tasted far too strong for my liking. While it was easily enjoyed it in small doses, one large bite would quickly send my palate over the stinky cheese edge. So when perusing the specialty foods case at Whole Foods, I decided to utilize the employees’ expertise in my quest to find a milder blue cheese. They directed me to a buttermilk version, and to my delight it was much more tame. Honestly though, I still can’t say I am 100% on the blue cheese train. I would prefer a salty feta any day, but some recipes really do just require it. Like this one. My favorite counterpart to bacon is avocado, so I decided to also add a handful of freshly cut avocado. The result was a deliciously, satisfying salad. Now if only I could recreate the beach that joined it as well.
This salad is perfect for dinner since its ingredients are a bit on the heavier side when compared to other raw green salads. It’s best enjoyed when paired with a cold beer and a hot summer’s night. That kind of meal will make anyone feel thankful for the good stuff in life.
Note: This recipe makes much more vinaigrette then you will need to dress this salad. Store the remaining dressing in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Cobb Salad with a Classic Red Wine Vinaigrette
serves 2, easily doubles
for the vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette
splash of lemon juice, optional
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste
for the salad:
1/2 bunch organic romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed and spun (about 4 cups)
2 slices of thick bacon, baked using this method
2 hard boiled eggs, cooled with shells removed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 avocado, cubed
2-3 ounces buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled
- To prepare the vinaigrette, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice (if using), dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper to a high speed blender. Whir on high for 30-60 seconds or until the dressing comes together; set aside.
- To make the salad, first prepare the garnishes. Chop bacon into bite size pieces and set aside. Slice hard boiled eggs lengthwise, cutting each half into four pieces and set aside.
- Add romaine lettuce to a large boil. Dress the salad with 1-2 tablespoons of the red wine vinaigrette, being mindful that you can always add more. Toss gently and taste to adjust seasonings (using more vinaigrette, salt and/or pepper).
- Add the chopped bacon, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, avocado and blue cheese; toss lightly. Serve immediately.