Cayucos…….Slow down and smell the sea air!
Traveling over the mountain range on highway 46 east to the Pacific Coast Highway you are in awe of the natural beauty that is Central Coast California. Buzzing along at 55 mph it is impossible not to gaze south over the horizon and witness the ocean fog that has either settled below, or that is rolling in, you literally feel as though you are driving above the clouds.
Under that layer of fog and ocean mist sits a many a beach town up and down the “1”, unasumable at first glance, however, one should take a closer look.
Cayucos (kye-OO-cus), blink and you will be past, which would be regretful seeing that this small surfing community is a foodie find. As you enter into town from the north The Cass House sits on the east side of the street. A historic site wrapped with edible gardens and a coi pond fountain at the entrance. Quaint and elegant and nothing you would expect to find in a beach village, it is an absolute must stop to lay your head and dine for the evening. The history of Cass House dates back to 1824 and its founder Captain James Cass. Born in Bristol England in 1824, Captain Cass crossed the Atlantic 31 times before the age of 19, and would ultimately call California his home.
While hauling lumber from San Francisco to San Simeon, Cass discovered the small coastal town of “Old Creek, California”. Upon moving his family here, he chose to rename the town “Cayucos” after the Native American word for canoe. Captain Cass was a major contributor to the growing community of Cayucos, not only serving as its banker, but also building both the town’s church and its bustling wharf. If only he were here today to indulge in Chef Jensen Lorenzen’s Tasting menu and experience the freshness and beauty of the properties gardens, a true masterpiece. .
The menu changes daily but look for Local Salmon Crudo with house garden fennel kraut, radish, mustard and cucumber. Cayucos Abalone, with fennel tartar “Fish n Chips” and Lamb Sweetbreads with sunflower and Huckleberry. Reservations recommended for a stay at the Inn and or dinner.
When the morning sun begins to peak thru the windows at the Cass House I suggest you take a stroll down the beach and breath in the sultry air of the pacific. Breathtaking views will welcome as the chill of the cool water bids you “Good Morning”. To enhance this excursion be sure to pop into the Brown Butter Cookie Company beforehand. Many places claim to produce a most memorable cookie, but in my opinion these bite size delights hand rolled and baked right before your eyes leave you wanting more…….a dozen to get your day going should be suffice.
Do as the locals do! And in tiny beach towns that means finding the smallest food shake closest to the shore. When the locals are lined up you know it’s going to be great. Ruddels Smokehouse is an absolute must stop in Cayucos. Famous for all good things smoked, albacore, oysters, pork loin, shrimp. My friends and I enjoyed the albacore tacos and the shrimp tacos. Both excellent and for me inspirational. “When we get back East we are firing up the smoker” I was quoted as saying. It won’t be the same however, at least not until we get a 65 degree day and an ocean appears in my backyard!