Saturday, February 13, 2010


Orland, California, February 13, 2010—
WE HAVE A WEEKEND OFF: let's go on a road trip. We drove to Calistoga, then across Lake County on Highway 20, turning north on Bear Valley Road (though a warning was up that the road was closed, driving ten or twelve miles on the gravel road until we came to Leesville Road.

There we turned eastwards, climbing to the ridge, then dropping through secret valleys in the kind of country that always makes us think we've been transported back a century or so. Fabulous country. We ate our cheddar-and-sliced-onion sandwich in the car in Williams — is there a better sandwich than that? — and then drove to the Sacramento Bird Refuge, taking a two-mile walk, then a very slow four-mile drive, admiring hawks, falcons, egrets, herons, all sorts of ducks and geese, and Western meadowlarks, perhaps my favorite bird. Redwing blackbirds, of course.

But this here is Eating Every Day; any bird here should be plucked drawn and cooked. One of the reasons for the trip was to make another visit to City Gates Cafe, a Portuguese restaurant we found last December. I've written about it here before. It was as good as we'd recalled: a big brightly-lit room, its walls painted and plastered in the odd modern-deco style I associate with Sardinia (and, as Lindsey pointed out, her Seattle first-generation-American cousins). Friendly service. Family-run: Margarita in the kitchen, her sister minding the register.
I had a cup of kale soup, then a green salad (nice little lettuces) with a good "Italian" vinaigrette; then a fine home-style bacalhao (surely one of the Hundred Plates): salt cod long-stewed in olive oil on a bed of sliced potatoes and onions, dotted with black olives, garnished with slices of hard-cooked egg and a few stalks of perfectly cooked asparagus.

Dessert was cheesecake with strawberry sauce and a chocolate-coated strawberry on the side because, after all, it's Valentine's Eve. I like this place, a lot. Let's have breakfast here tomorrow.
Vinho verde, Casal Garcia
  • City Gates Restaurant, (Portas da Cidade), 1165 Hoff Way, Orland CA, tel. 530.865.5552

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