Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Everything tastes better on vacation

On the 21st, the husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary. To mark the occasion, we decided to head south to Santa Cruz for a few days.

For those of you who have never been, Santa Cruz is a lovely place, like a piece of Hawaii dropped in Northern California. We rented a fabulous house half a block from the beach. While it was too chilly to swim, it was perfect for strolling, and sitting and watching the waves, both of which we did every day, at least twice. The beach was barely populated, which, to two people who live at a busy intersection of a crowded city, felt like a gift.

There's nothing Frances loves more than the beach.

Just being near the water makes you feel relaxed and hungry and tired, in a good way. Throughout our trip, which was all too short, there was a lot of wine drinking, mystery reading, and snoozing on the patio. We also ate some great food, including teriyaki ribs and mac salad at the Aloha Island Grille, which was close enough to walk to. And lunch at the harbor. Who doesn't enjoy looking at boats while eating a juicy cheeseburger and crispy fries?

We cooked in the evenings. At the end of our block was a little Mexican market, where one night I picked up a handful of ingredients for grilled chicken with orange, lime, and cilantro. I topped it with guacamole and served it with red-pepper rice, cooked in a pot. I was relieved it turned out as well as it did. A girl is spoiled after 17 years with a rice cooker.

The night after, the chicken made its way into fajitas.

The first night, though, was the best dinner of the trip. The husband had it in his mind that he wanted surf and turf, something splurgey for our anniversary. He grilled New York strip steaks and I sauteed some scallops wrapped in bacon. We made a colorful salad and drank plenty of wine to apologize to our arteries which were hardening by the minute.

We also watched The Lost Boys, which some of you may know is based on the city of Santa Cruz. Set in the mid-80's, it's about a band of mullet-sporting vampire thugs on motorcycles (led by a bleach-blond Kiefer Sutherland) that terrorize an amusement park in "Santa Carla." It's a gloriously bad movie, which we enjoyed every second of, while slurping Haagen Dazs ice cream bars.

What is it about being on vacation--particularly near the ocean--that makes everything you eat taste like the best thing in the world? I suppose it has to do with your state of mind: you're happy, and you're feeling indulgent.

I've heard people say they can't relax easily when they go away, that they can't forget about things at home. I, on the other hand, have always been good at going on vacation and checking out of my dull, day-to-day worries. It's like my regular life disappears behind me into the San Francisco fog.

For a few days, we imagined quite seriously that we lived in Santa Cruz. We got used to the floor being perpetually gritty from sandy feet and paws and woke up in the morning listening for the sound of the waves. On the way home, we discussed how easy or hard it might be to get a job there. I suppose living there would be different than being on vacation. But it's an idea we're not done with yet.


  1. Sounds, and looks, like it was the perfect getaway. Esp. for those who truly love Hawaii, nice to have a local sub for dakine vibe. Happy 5-0! -c&A.

  2. Sounds like an amazingly blissful and well-deserved vacation. I love Santa Cruz too and have those same day-dreams about living there for real, fully separated from the rest of the world by a windy 2-lane highway through the redwoods. Might be nice...

  3. It's been a long time since I've been to Santa Cruz but I always enjoy vacations by the water. Looks like you had some fantastic weather and wonderful meals. All the food in your photos look so fresh! Did you rent a home? That's always the trick with me on vacation. I want to cook a few meals now and then (after eating out day and night) but have to be either visiting relatives or renting a home (which I rarely do since I travel solo usually). And I agree, vacation food tastes the best because there's no limitations! :)

  4. Vacation food is always the best b/c I say to myself, "I'm eating that! I'm on vacation!" -cwt

  5. What a great trip! I agree with you that being at the beach makes every morsel you consume taste better - even my favorite pizza is found on the boardwalk. : )
    (Love the pic of Frances!)

  6. Is it our state of mind? Becasue vacation food always tatses really good.

    I am so glad that your get away to Santa Cruz was enjoyable. Who knows, maybe, Santa Cruz is the place you want to live. :-)

  7. Happy Anniversary!! I feel the same way whenever I go to Napa or Sonoma. Even if I am there for work-related purposes, I feel like I'm on vacation. It's just so beautiful there that you can't help but feel a bit lighter on your toes, even if you're just visiting. ;)

  8. you definitely have some food for thought, and some awesome food for eating. say, does frances like the beach better than she likes your kitchen scraps? :)

  9. Happy anniversay, wishing you many more to come daaahling. I cant help totally pigging out when I am on vacation. Restraint totally goes down the tube. I am a bad vacationer. Very bad.
    *kisses* HH

  10. c&a: thanks so much! Hope you guys are well.

    Ash: I could totally see you living there...

    Ben: yep, we rented a house--the best way to vacation, I think--you get more space and a kitchen too!

    cwt: yeah, that is definitely part of it--no attempt at self control when you're on vacay.

    oneordinaryday: thanks! I love that picture too, she's so happy!

    Velva: It just might be. Santa Cruz or L.A. I think...

    CJ: thank you! And I love Napa/Sonoma too...that's got to be our next little getaway.

    grace: She just might. The beach is special and at this point, she knows she's going to get the scraps no matter what! :)

    HH: Thank you! And it sounds like you're a very good vacationer--you know how to relax and enjoy yourself!

  11. You sound just like me! There are a couple places in the Caribbean I would love to live. I think about it every time I visit. But when I get home, reality sets in. Phooey! on reality.

  12. I am so good at going on vacation! I actually prefer the pebbly beaches of the Northwest - that's the mom in me who gets tired of cleaning up sand talking.

  13. Barbara: I've never been to the Caribbean, but I'm sure I'd like to live there too! Anywhere warm and beachy is up my alley.

    agrigirl: The beaches in the northwest are gorgeous, you'll get no argument from me there!

  14. HD, what a perfect vacation--a house near the beach, the sound of waves to wake you up, a market down the street, a kitchen to cook and a dog to eat the scraps. I think you were in heaven!

    I can tell you that living in a place is definitely NOT like being on vacation there! But I think it's partly a matter of mindset. When you live somewhere the daily grind gets more real. The wonderful stuff is still there, but you have to work a little harder to see it as clearly as you do on holiday. Oh yeah, you also have to pay taxes...

  15. Congratulations on your 5th anniversary! Santa Cruz sounds like a great place to get away to celebrate. And the Lost Boys... doesn't that star the late Corey Haim? You could have watched the Goonies, too, and made it a Northwest beach film fest! :)

  16. Lucky Frances, sounds like a great getaway! I haven't been to Santa Cruz in a while, we spent the first night of our honeymoon there... we've bypassed it for Monterey recently, but I keep reading about restaurants over there and you're inspiring me to visit. I just did a surf and turf too, your dish looks like a delicious flipflop of mine.

  17. Kate: I'll take it from you, since you do live in a place people dream of moving! (I suppose I do too, when I really think about it.)

    camille: Thank you! Yep, the movie stars both Coreys, Haim & Feldman. Been thinking about the Goonies recently, might need to revisit that classic too!

    foodhoe: I just love it there. You should get down there soon--it's got that great beachy feel that just makes you feel instantly relaxed. Love Monterey too though...

  18. Happy Anniversary Hungry Dog, sounded like pure bliss. Heh, the Lost Boys brings back some memories!

  19. Shaz: aw, thanks! Yeah, the Lost Boys were a great blast from the past!