Monday, September 23, 2013

That We’re Nuts Has Already Been Established

We don’t blink an eye when considering a 70-mile drive to eat lunch. But do we need to bring family into this when said family member, Chuck’s cousin Barbara, has to drive 105 miles? Yes, we do. Especially when it was her idea.

Our destination was Pescadero (CA) and Duarte’s Tavern, which was featured on an early season of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives during which Guy Fieri sampled the artichoke soup, abalone sandwich, cioppino, and olallieberry pie. And during our lunch I had the chance to sample all four.
“…It all started in 1894 when my great-grandfather, Frank, brought a barrel of whiskey from Santa Cruz and placed it on top of the very bar you see today. The price was ten cents for one whiskey, two bits for three. Business thrived until prohibition.

“In 1934 the second generation reopened the bar. At that time they expanded with a soda fountain, a barber shop, and served sandwiches. My grandfather Frank, tended bar and cut hair, my father scooped ice cream, and my grandmother, Emma, ran the kitchen. Grandma came in at nine in the morning, baked pies until noon…then would wait tables until closing time…

“In the 1950s, the third generation joined in. My father, Ron, enhanced the menu with his famed artichoke dishes along with introducing the equally famous crab cioppino…. The fourth generation arrived in the mid-eighties (and) have been running this business together for the last twenty years…” (
“Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero does things the old-fashioned way…. It’s just an hour from San Francisco, but it’s an entirely different world, where you’ll mix with city folks with children heading to Santa Cruz for a long weekend, retired folks eating their main meal of the day, farmers in tattered jeans and overalls, and bikers in Harley T-shirts and bandanas…. Duarte’s was honored a few years ago by the James Beard Foundation as an America’s Classic….
The rough-paneled walls, linoleum floors and sometimes creaky wood tables belie the fact that much of the food is grown in the adjoining gardens, and that fish is often sourced from local fisherman” (Michael Bauer at
Both Barb and I started with a bowl of Duarte’s’ signature artichoke soup.
This was a large bowl of creamy—velvety creamy—soup that was the essence of this vegetable in a bowl. I was surprised when Chuck, being no fan of artichokes, told me that he wanted a taste. Well one taste led to another, and another, and another. Then he finished Barb’s bowl. Then a few days later, he asked if Duarte’s recipe was anywhere on-line. ( I did find three recipes purporting to be Duarte’s, but each contained minor variations.)

Barb’s entrée choice was one that she described as a new favorite—the hot crab and cheese sandwich.
I moved on to something entirely new to me—the abalone sandwich with fries. (All of the fries were taken home in a to-go box.)
So endangered is abalone that commercial fishing/diving is no longer permitted. But “Sport harvesting of red abalone is permitted with a California fishing license and an abalone stamp card…. Abalone may only be taken using breath-hold techniques or shorepicking; scuba diving for abalone is strictly prohibited. Taking of abalone is not permitted south of the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. There is a size minimum of seven inches (178 mm) measured across the shell and a quantity limit of three per day and 24 per year. A person may be in possession of only three abalone at any given time. Abalone may only be taken from April to November, not including July. Transportation of abalone may only legally occur while the abalone is still attached in the shell. Sale of sport-obtained abalone is illegal, including the shell. Only red abalone may be taken; black, white, pink, and flat abalone are protected by law” ( Boy, all this for a sandwich. In truth, Duarte’s along with a few other restaurants are serving farm-raised abalone.

The sandwich was as simple as they come. Two abalone steaks were pounded until tender, lightly dusted with flour, and cooked on a flattop. The sourdough bread had been toasted on the inside so as not to get soggy. And the sandwich was presented with a lemon wedge and a dish of very good tartar sauce. Since this was my first taste of abalone, I wanted to start with it in its “virgin” state—no embellishments. The flesh is mild and sweet and not unlike a calamari steak. After tasting it both ways, I still preferred the flavor of the abalone sans lemon or sauce.

For Chuck it was the cioppino. And would you look at the size of that bowl!
A delicious broth made with tomato, onion, garlic, and just a bit of cumin contained some clams, a few prawns, and a heaping pile of Dungeness crab. (Some on-line reviewers objected to the cumin, so I felt it necessary to sample and resample the broth. I decided it was almost perfect.)

And Barb’s and my soup had come with bread, which neither of us ate, but it was put to good use with the cioppino broth.

On to dessert. Barb’s choice was the pecan pie which she has decided is better than her own. Since I judge all pecan pies by Barb’s, Duarte’s has achieved a high standard.
Chuck and I shared a slice of the famous olallieberry pie.
Diners “…may come for cream of artichoke soup or crab cioppino or baked oysters. But they almost always save room for pie.

One pie trumps them all, selling 10 times more than any other kind: olallieberry. The red, knobby fruit that looks like a blackberry’s big cousin has a sweet-tart flavor. Olallieberries are harvested along the California central coast for only six to eight weeks in summer, usually starting in mid-June. But Duarte’s freezes at least 30,000 pounds each season to be sure it will have enough to make this signature pie year-round.

“Why are folks so obsessed with olallieberries? ‘Part of it is the unusual name,’ says Kathy Duarte, fourth-generation owner of Duarte’s. ‘Plus the pie is quite good. The crust is fantastic, and the filling is not covered up with a lot of sugar or tapioca. It’s old-fashioned, straightforward’…” (

This crust was so rich and tender that I initially thought that it had to have been made with lard. But the recipe that accompanied the article quoted from above called for vegetable shortening. Still, it was one of the most delicious restaurant pie crusts ever. And Kathy Duarte was right on target when she says that the filling isn’t overly sweetened.

We had a great 5.0 Addie visit with Barbara accompanied by great 5.0 Addie lunch. How better to spend a day?

To review the role of Adler and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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