Friday, February 12, 2016

Humboldt County California where Triple D grew up

After finishing up my work at San Francisco International and getting to 4 places in the city of San Francisco I knew that I couldn't waste the opportunity get to some more places in the area before I headed home so I asked if my travel pass could be extended for a few days and they told me that I could for 2 days which worked perfectly for me.  I have made a number of friends on the Triple D Facebook page that I co-admin,one is Joe who owns a restaurant in Eureka California.  He had asked me in the past to come up and visit and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

As I planned I saw that there were 9 paces in Humboldt County which included 4 in the small town of Ferndale, which is the town that Guy grew up in.  This was also the first time I would visit this area so I was looking forward to seeing a new area.

I took a 9am flight from San Francisco to Arcata which is about 10 miles north of Eureka.  The flight path took us inland and after passing by San Francisco and Oakland it was a pretty mountainous area.  The flight took only about 40 minutes and after just a few minutes I grabbed my bag and got a car and headed south to Eureka.  I stopped at the hotel I booked and it was ready so I was able to get situated and head out.  I met my Facebook friend Joe as I arrived at the hotel.  He is the owner of a restaurant that was featured on Triple D a few years back and I was very pleasantly surprised to meet him as I arrived.  I was also very surprised and pleased to find out that he had planned an entire tour of all of the Triple D places in the area.  This was going to be great!

Our plan was to go to have lunch at his restaurant in Eureka and then head out to the places that were outside of town.  We would visit Fortuna, Loleta and of course, Ferndale

The other surprise he had for me was that he had arranged for a TV interview with the local ABC affiliate KAEF TV.  They were interested in my Triple D travels.

We arrived at his restaurant "Café Nooner" just as it was opening and he introduced me to his staff and showed me the restaurant and where things were set up when they did their segment of the show.  He also let me look at a production book he had made with the many correspondences that he had with Citizen Pictures, the company that produces the show.  Let me tell you that it is a very professional operation.  The producer makes sure that every aspect is covered prior to the filming.

Café Nooner in Eureka Calfornia

Café Nooner's Kitchen
The restaurant is decorate in attractive murals throughout with a Mediterranean theme.  I was impressed that Joe uses almost all locally grown products not only are they the best and freshest ingredients but he supports the local economy.

We took a seat in a corner table and looked over the menu.  It was a really tough decision there are so many great items n the menu!  He has a Triple D inspired sandwiches and I chose the Bleu Noon which is a local grass fed ground beef patty stuffed with Bleu Cheese, topped with bacon, onions and Creole barbecue sauce.  Joe ordered the Shroomy Tri-Tip 'N Chevre, which is Tri-Tip beef charbroiled with sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions,  provolone and local Chevre cheese.  We shared a basket of fresh cur fries topped with Bleu Cheese.

While we waited for the meal, the reporter from KAEF TV, an ABC affiliate from Eureka came in.  He wanted to interview me about my Triple D travels.  After quickly setting up his camera the interview began.  We charted for about 10 minutes and it really was just a conversation between the three of us.  I am a bit camera shy but the reporter made me feel very comfortable and really it was just a conversation, I really didn't even  notice the camera.  When the food came he got some pictures of us eating which was a bit disconcerting.  The reporter left to do some exterior shots and Joe and I enjoyed our lunch.

KAEF TV reporter, Joe and I after the interview

My Bleu Noon Sandwich

Joe's Shroomy Tri-Tip 'N Chevre sandwich

Bleu Cheese Fries
My sandwich was great.  It was delicious.  the bread, meat cheese and everything else was great!  Joe's sandwich looked great, too!  It looked like it would be pretty messy, just like Guy like's it, like run down your arm messy, which is never a bad thing!  The fries were also great, fresh cut fries and topped with great locally made Bleu Cheese.  Can you ever get enough Bleu Cheese?  Of course not! 

We headed out after saying goodbye to the great staff.  Our plan was to head out to the other Triple D places in Humboldt County, but we had one stop before we left Eureka.  Joe told me that he and his wife Lorena had recently opened another restaurant in Eureka called Café Nooner Too.  I asked him about the name and he said that it was the name of the restaurant when he bought it in 2011 and that they had planned to change it but it had such a popular following that they decided to keep it.  He told me that this was their first foray into the restaurant business, they had both worked in restaurants when they were younger, I really impressed because the business is not easy and are a real success story!

Joe and I outside Café Nooner in Old Town Eureka in the Opera Alley

Café Nooner Too is a lot larger than the original.  There is a Coffee bar on one side and the seating area on the other.  They make specialty coffee drinks and feature pastries and baked goods.  The lunch menu is the same between the two but Café Nooner too also serves dinner.  The kitchen is about three times the size larger and Lorena does all the baking from the newer location.  She had just finished a batch of chocolate drizzled Macaroons which they let me sample.  It was the best Macaroon I had ever had, moist and chocolatey.

Joe had told me that some of the other Triple D locations might be closed but we wanted to go to see them anyway.  Eureka is on Humboldt Bay just off the Pacific Ocean, the next few places were more inland.  As we drove Joe, who has lived in Humboldt County all of his life, told me about the places we were passing and the history of the area. 

Our first stop was "Clendenen's Cider Works" in Fortuna, California.  When I was planning the trip I thought that this might be a micro brewery, Hard Ciders are so popular these days.  I couldn't have been more wrong!  Clendenen's makes some of the best Apple Cider you'd ever taste.  The season had just ended so the place was closed, but as we drove by we saw Mr. Clendenen in the driveway and he greeted us and gave a tour of his facility.  He has a five acre apple orchard with probably a dozen apple varieties.  He showed us his apple press.  The press is made of all wood and is over one hundred years old!  He has no plans to replace it, why get rid of something that works perfectly?  

Clendenen's Cider Works - Fortuna, Caifornia

All the different varieties of Apples used at Clendenen's

Apple Press at Clendenen's - Over a hundred years old and all made of wood!

Mr. Clendenen then gave us each a quart of the end of his Cider product.  It was frozen but when it thawed I was able to taste it and I kid you not, it was the sweetest and most delicious Apple Cider I have ever had.  Joe and Mr. Clendenen are typical of the people of Humboldt County that I encountered on this trip, friendly and very open.  I was so moved by their hospitality, this is something that you don't see everywhere!

Mr. Clendenen and I with a quart of his wonderful Cider

We headed out of Fortuna for the small town of Ferndale.  Ferndale is a popular place among the motion picture business.  Joe told me that a number of movies were made in Ferndale including Salem's Lot and Outbreak.  For me Ferndale is most important as the town where Guy Fieri grew up.  Joe drove me by the house that Guy grew up in and the schools that he attended.  Guy's parents still have property in the town.  They are known to most of the town's residents.  They owned and ran a saddlery business.  We parked on one end of Main Street and walked to see the places that Guy visited on his hometown episode of Triple D. 

We crossed the street to a little hotel called the "Hotel Ivanhoe".  This little hotel with four rooms and a small bar and restaurant and is only opened 4 days a week.  This is where Guy first worked in the restaurant business as a young man.  The place was closed but the door was opened so we walked in and hoped to talk to the owners but could find no one so we took some photos and went on our way.  I would call the Hotel Ivanhoe a bed and breakfast without the breakfast!

Hotel Ivanhoe - Main Street, Ferndale, California

Hotel Ivanhoe - Guy's First restaurant job

Hotel Ivanhoe dining room

Guy Worked Here - He Also Ate Here

From the hotel we headed down the street to the "Ferndale Meat Company".  This is an old time butcher shop and has been in the same location for at least a century.  The original smoker chimney is still on site and although it is no longer in use it probably could be.  I met the owner, Curt, who is quite a character.  He was in the middle of breaking down some beef ribs, then took us out back to show us the beef smoking area. Guy had said that he really wanted the original smoker chimney and Curt said that if he brought a truck he could have it!  The market is filled with all cuts of beef and poultry.  They also make fresh sandwiches and have a small seating area. 

Ferndale Meat Company

Ferndale Meat Company owner and Butcher Curt and Me in front of their Smoker Chimney

Curt is a guy I will never forget, a really cool and funny guy.  A sarcastic guy who may not admit it but really loves his job, the people he meets and his town.  We then walked further down the street to the next stop, "Humboldt Sweets".  They were closed but would be open the next day and Joe and I hoped to get back the next day to try their tasty treats!  Before leaving Ferndale we walked to the Ferndale Elementary School to see where the young Guy went to school.

From Ferndale we went to the small town of Loleta, California to visit one of the more unique places that I have visited the "Loleta Cheese Factory".  This lace is exactly what is says, they make cheese, great artisan cheeses and as you enter you can sample each kind they produce.  Joe and I tried and talked about all the types we tasted, I think we both like the smoked cheeses the most.  The owner, Bob then came in and we had a long conversation with him.  He is one of the most inspirational guys I have ever met!  He has such a positive outlook on life it really is contagious.  He told us that he has his staff ask each visitor if they have ever been in and where they are from and we were greeted in that way.  He says that he wants to make each visitor not only a guest, but a friend.  He then took us out to the garden area where you can enjoy the cheese and where they sometimes hold receptions, it is beautiful and very fragrant.  I will never forget Loleta Cheese or Bob, and if you are in this area you MUST make this a stop.  I also found it interesting that they sell their cheese in large blocks.  He said that to have it sliced or shredded is to compromise the quality of the cheese.  Very interesting to me.

Loleta Cheese Factory in Loleta, California

The beautiful back gardens at Loleta Cheese Factory

Loleta Cheese Factory owner Bob and I - I will never forget this guy!

Joe brought me back to the hotel and we planned to meet a few hours later when we would go to dinner with his wife Lorena and son Ryan.  One coincidence about the hotel I was staying at, The Red Lion Inn, they used to have a full service dining room and this is where Guy Fieri was the Flambé Captain when he was in high school. 

During the break I tuned in to the local ABC news, called North County News.  Humboldt County is  only about 100 miles south of the Oregon California border.  About 10 minutes into the broadcast the report about my travels was shown.  It was only about 30seconds long but it was well done and I was pleased with the report.  It would be shown again in the 10p and 11p news and then in the morning several times in the early morning before the start of Good Morning America.

Joe picked me up and we headed off to a real gem in Eureka, "Bless My Soul Cafe", Eureka's home to Creole Cuisine.  The building looks like a private home and is not very big, but as soon as you enter you can feel the warmth of both the building and the staff.  The owner is know as Sweet Mamma Janisse and it is very appropriate.  Her staff is her daughter and son-in-law, this is a real family run operation.  This was like stepping out of Eureka and into New Orleans.  The menu was huge with all types of Creole treats.  For starters we chose the Fried Okra and Hush Puppies.  The Okra was deep fried and tasty, the hush puppies were huge balls of fried corn bread, dense and delicious.  For our main courses Joe chose the special Etoufee which featured alligator sausage.  When both Lorena and Ryan chose the Chicken and Waffles, I decided to try something different and chose the Beef Confit.  The meals included soup or salad.  My meal was pretty good.  The beef was stuffed with garlic and braised into a sauce and the garlic melted into the beef and was served with creole mashed potatoes with a white garlic sauce.  The meal ended with Corn Muffins.  This meal was awesome but the real highlight of the night was meeting Sweet Mamma Janisse!  She sat down with us and we talked about the restaurant, her family, Triple D and my travels, I must say when you visit Bless My Soul you not a diner but you become a member of her family!  Her daughter also came and visited with us.  Her and Lorena had a nice conversation on wines and the restaurant's wine list.  I could tell that both a real experts on the subject.  Lorena also told me about the baking and experimentation that she does to create new meals and baking items for their restaurant.  I believe that she really likes that part of the business. 

Bless My Soul Café - Eureka, California

My Dinner Salad

Beef Confit with Creole Mashed Potatoes

It was a great night with new friends.  Joe, Lorena and Ryan couldn't have been better dinner companions and I am so thankful for their friendship and Sweet Mamma Janisse was awesome, as we were leaving she told us she is a hugger so all of us got a big hug.  We were now officially part of the Bless My Soul Family!

Sweet Mamma Janisse and me

A great meal with new friends!

Joe, Lorena, Ryan and I at Bless My Soul Cafe

It had been a great day but I was really tired and Joe and I decided to meet the next morning at the next Triple D stop.

I needed the morning to rest up.  I wanted to get to the last two places in the area and even try to get back to Ferndale before my 6p flight back to San Francisco. 

We met at the 1130a opening of a small place called "Brick and Fire Bistro".  As the hostess opened the door she smiled and said "I saw you on TV last night!"  I guess people had seen the report.  The place is small and is one of the first places to have a brick oven in Eureka.  We took a table next to the window and looked over the menu.  I chose the lunch special pasta which was a large bowl of shrimp, pasta, artichokes and other veggies in a thick sauce over penne pasta.  It was really rich and very tasty.  While we were eating we met with the owner who was very nice and told me a little about the place and the taping.  It was very cool to see Joe interact with all the owners because they were really members of the Triple D fraternity and as a fan it is a fun thing to see and hear about. 

Brick and Fire Bistro - Eureka, Califonia

Lunch Pasta Special with Shrimp, Fish and Veggies

The owner and me
We moved onto the last place in Eureka.  "Paul's Live From New York" is a pizza parlor that serves pizzas and pastas dishes.  The owner Paul is a New York transplant that has brought the authentic taste of New York to the North County.  They sell pizza by the slice and many of the varieties are displayed out front.  They are famous for their Godfather pizza with sauce and pesto, but both Joe and I decided to try Grandma's Margarita slice.  While we waited we met Paul who is a great guy and a very enthusiastic restauranteur.  He told me about the filming and how he had numerous locations in the area but was feeling burned out and now has two locations.  He asked if I had been to Luigi's in San Diego and I told him that I had and that the two places are very similar, he then told me that he had met Luigi when he went to Guy's birthday bash the year before.  Very cool, he hangs out with Guy!  The pizza was really good, crispy crust with house made mozzarella and tomato sauce.  Paul told us that the Grandma slice had a different sauce with more tomatoes, it was really good.  I also placed a pin on their map since none had been placed on Leesburg, Virginia.

Paul's Live From New York - Eureka, California

Paul's popular Godfather Pie

Joe and my Grandma's Margarita Pizza

It was great to meet Paul and all of the people of Eureka and Humboldt County, I really felt like an honored guest.  I still had a few hours before having to get back to the Arcata Airport for the flight San Francisco so Joe and I decided to go back to Ferndale and visit Humboldt Sweets. 

We arrived and went into the place that was in a home. The smell of coffee and frosting hit as soon as we entered.  The pastries and candies they make there made making a decision extremely difficult.  They told us they had just one of their mini apple pies left and Joe chose that, I chose the Maple Log.  It was delicious.  We were able to meet the entire staff and met the owner, Tony.  Just like everyone we met, he is a great guy, very proud of his own and the family business he operates.  They had a few of the local people enjoying the sweet treats, it sort of reminded me of a sweet shop in Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show!

Humboldt Sweets on Main Street in Ferndale, California

I know a lot of people who subscribe to this!

Guy's Favorite Pecan Stickies

Awesome Candies

Humboldt Sweets - Where the Magic Happens

Humboldt Sweets Owner Tony and I

My Maple Log

Joe's Mini Apple Pie

We left the café and I said my goodbyes to Joe, he had gone way above and beyond and had been a great host.  My Triple D travels have brought me all over the USA to try great food but the real gift I have gotten in this journey is the great people I have met and friends I have made.  I look forward to seeing Joe and Lorena again, I know that I now have life long friends!

My Triple D Count is at 465!

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