As we locals enjoy our guests here on vacation or during little visits, it affords us the opportunity to proudly see our precious village through their eyes.
Most of the time, I drive them around on the Cooks Tour, or direct them to key places they have expressed an interest in. (Preposition purposely at the end.)
Hearst Castle and our own Historical Museum are at the top of the list, as well as the Elephant Seal colony — which has become a well-known phenomenon. Stops along the way include our shops, Nit Wit Ridge and now Red Moose Cookies.
As I describe the Cambria experience, we take in the sunset from photo ops on my deck, but especially head down to Moonstone Beach for that, no matter what the temperature. Farmers Market is great, but sometimes I have to stock up in advance of their visit. I pick up zucchini blossoms to cook and serve as rellenos or fresh in salads. And unique fruits and vegetables always come home with me.
I picked up a couple of picture-perfect artichokes, as I figured that my most recent guests from Minnesota had not experienced them. Sure enough, they were familiar with and had enjoyed the canned hearts in dips, but this was their first California Experience, eating the steamed chunks of heart and scraping and savoring the flesh off the inner tips with mayonnaise. We wondered about the first Romans who had figured out how to prepare and eat them centuries ago.
Patty and Kurt Bramer brought me their state’s specialty, packages of wild rice that I will prepare on special occasions, along with individual packets of “Nut Goodies” coated with caramel, chocolate and sea salt. This prompted a discussion about another California experience, See’s Chocolates.
I brought out the 1- pound box I had brought from South San Francisco when visiting my sister Erica and friend JoAnn Suppes last month. JoAnn pointed out the factory on El Camino Real/old Highway 101, where that hilarious Lucy and Ethel episode had actually been filmed, so we really needed to stop in the shop then and there and make individual choices of my favorite dark covered creams.
I was fascinated to observe the Bramer teens, Isaac and Isabel, carefully studying the guide to identify each of the fillings before making a choice or two and sharing a half with others of us at the table who expressed an interest, sometime very enthusiastically — all in the name of research, of course!
The next day I completed the Consuelo experience by enlisting and teaching them to make my family’s favorite cheese enchiladas, including the sauce from scratch. They heated and served leftovers (planned-overs) for breakfast the next day, which is as customary in our home as stepping out on the deck for sunsets.
Basic Hot Artichoke Dip
14-oz. jar or can of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and chopped
1 cup regular mayonnaise
1 cup grated Monterey Jack or Fontina cheese
1 tblsp. fresh lemon juice
Onion salt, freshly ground pepper
Mix, and heat ingredients in a small casserole at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm with bagel chips or toasted French bread chunks for dipping, or use as a spread on the bread slices.
This base is used for many variations with myriad ingredients and a variety of cheeses, which will ultimately jazz it up and change the taste to your choice. The classic Spinach dip incorporates the artichokes delightfully with water chestnuts and garlic, but then it is no longer artichoke dip, and that’s what we’re craving.
The first time I had it with my sister was simply Monterey Jack heated with the artichokes and San Francisco sourdough. Period.
Consuelo Macedo’s column is special to The Cambrian, and appears on the third Thursday of each month. Submit recipes and ideas to her at The Cambrian, 2068 Main St., Cambria, CA 93428; or email to Cambrian@ thetribunenews.com