F+F Recommends: Big Sur Bakery.
Image via Flickr user TheJosephBooys
To your right is a wildcatting, off-the-grid local who came up the coast to reenter society for a few hours, spinning tales of Big Sur in the 70s, and of house hunting for Robert Redford.
An older man and woman - newly coupled - are to your left. Leaning toward one another, laughing conspiratorially, they're up from Los Angeles or down from San Francisco to disappear.
Played out in this tableau is the essence of Big Sur's charm - just enough of the world for some, a complete escape for others. At this intersection stands the Big Sur Bakery.
Pastry chef Michelle Rizzolo and her chef husband Philip Wojtowicz decamped to Big Sur in 2001 marrying their culinary experiences at La Brea Bakery and Campanile in Los Angeles with a woodsy ingenuity. The result is a rustic outpost of soulful California cuisine that enhances the sense of connection to the earth.
A full bakery case shared by wholesome breads and rich strudels offers sustenance to hikers and early risers. Brunch becomes a showcase for the pizzas turned out by their wood-fired oven, and dinner is where the curious become converts, acceding to the dogma printed on each menu, "No phony allergies, bogus intolerances, nutritional nonsense or provincial preferences."
Cooking in any remote location requires inventiveness in both the use of resources and labor. Pared down dishes that highlight the quality of the few ingredients on each plate, like mushroom crudo, are joined by hearty, unfussy staples such as roasted lamb shank.
At the restaurant Big Sur is all around. The landscape of dense forest and encroaching fog is visible from every seat in the dining room. The cabin-like interior is lit only by candlelight. The service is unhurried. Just as you should be.