I loved the movie "Sideways." Enough to rent it a second time a couple of months ago and watch it again. It made me feel as if I'd personally gone on a trip to the central coast of California and plunged into its terroir.
That's another thing I love: the central coast of California.
Well, the central coast of California just happened to be on my itinerary last week when Cranky and I drove down 101 on our way to visit my parents.
Cranky especially wanted to take a sideways side trip to the little town of Los Olivos. In the movie, the two pathetic guys wine and dine a pair of lovely women at a candle-lit little restaurant in Los Olivos, and Cranky had a hankering to see if he could discover, and maybe re-create, that dream.
[Insert cartoon image of 16-ton weight falling.]
Los Olivos is horrible!
It's a "cute" town. Tourist town. Art galleries. Wine boutiques. Art galleries. Wine boutiques. A welded, rusted, metal goat or something. For sale.
Oh, and restaurants. With cruddy menus.
People! You're in an agriculturally rich, gastronomically informed part of the world, and the best you can come up with is Steak Diane?
OK, my bad (or Cranky's bad). We should know better than to try to capture a bit of fantasy. It's like the saps who yearn to bask in the romantic Tuscan sun, because of a best-selling piece of crappy pulp non-fiction they read one summer on an airplane (one of the only books for sale in the airport store). And then when they get to Italy, Tuscany is full of gawking American tourists all wearing cameras and in search of a palazzo and a hunky man.
Caveat: Not me. Also, according to my pal Monkey Gland, Tuscany (which he had previously dismissed as "Chianti-shire") can indeed be a wonderful surprise.
However. Cranky and I managed to find real food. He used his unfailing radar technique to pull a decent bakery out of a phone book, fergodsake. In Atascadero. Freshly baked baguettes, ciabatta, rustic loaves (all buzzwords, I know, but hey: Atascadero).
In San Luis Obispo we ceded snobbery and went straight for the local, historic meats. SLO is close to Santa Maria, where Santa Maria barbecue was invented (seasoned tri-tip, grilled over oak and sliced onto bread with sauce). It was good.
You just gotta move away from the Hollywood lights and sample the authenticity.
You gotta think sideways — or maybe that's right-side up.