Monterey, California, November 19, 2012—A LONG BEAUTIFUL DRIVE today up California's remarkable central coast. We started in Ojai, then stopped for lunch at an old-fashioned steakhouse curiously, almost despairingly reconstituted in one of those enormous shopping-center "malls" built in the optimistic urban-renewal 1980s and '90s: but the grilled ham and Swiss was good (though on innocuous white bread), with house-made cole slaw involving apples, cabbage, and onions in a watery mayonnaise, and a really fine dill pickle.
• Shaw's Steakhouse and Tavern, 714 South Broadway, Santa Maria, California; (805) 925-5862
Then on up the dramatic coast, watching the sun set off to our left, and into the old state capital Monterey for a cheap motel and a worthwhile bistro. Here I warmed up with a Martini (left over from last Friday, when one wasn't available, as I recall) and a couple of little artichoke-risotto fritters; then a variant on a Salade Lyonnaise: but with butter lettuces, bacon, a fried egg (not a poached one, but gently and subtly fried). Not bad; not bad at all.
Syrah, Copain, "L'hiver," 2008 (somewhat spoiled by lacquer-thinner ester on the nose)• Montrio Bistro, 414 Calle Principal Monterey; (831) 648-8880