Hittin’ the road

In case you missed it, here’s my review of the Big Sur Bakery that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

Most of us save dinner trips to Big Sur for special occasions, when we’re willing to make the long trek down the coast.

Big Sur Bakery delivered a tasty dinner before the show at Henry Miller Library.

I had one of those special occasions last week — the MGMT concert at Henry Miller Library. Heading down the long, winding road, my friends and I stopped at the Big Sur Bakery for dinner — and what a dinner we had.


We split the heirloom tomato and arugula salad ($14.50) and the seared scallops ($16) to start.

This beautiful plate of tomatoes was a refreshing way to start dinner.

The salad was very light, but full of flavor, with a mix of red and yellow tomatoes sliced thin. The tomatoes were elegantly plated and accompanied by a nice portion of arugula with lemon vinaigrette and topped with a ball of burrata cheese. The addition of celery and shallots gave extra — and unexpected — flavor, texture and sophistication.

The scallops had a caramelized sear outside and were tender inside. The accompanying cauliflower puree was flavorful, but could have been blended finer.

The scallops were tasty, but probably not the best choice as a shared appetizer.

In retrospect, our server was right, this wasn’t the best choice for a shared appetizer, but we couldn’t resist the temptation!

I was intrigued by the smoked duck breast pizza ($20), topped with arugula. Our server described the smoked duck breast as a duck prosciutto, and I was sold.

Duck on pizza? Yes, please!

I was in heaven — the duck was absolutely decadent. It was actually a bit more like duck bacon, with thick slivers of smoked duck breast.

The sauce underneath was nicely seasoned, working well with the salty duck and the bitter arugula. And the thin, crispy crust was the perfect vehicle for delivering the gourmet toppings.

The smoked duck breast was basically a duck bacon--a delicious choice for pizza.

I did wish the arugula had been served as a big handful at the center — spread out on the hot pizza, the arugula wilted.

I stole a slice of my friend’s butternut squash pizza ($18.50), topped with prosciutto and sage brown butter.

The butternut squash pizza was the epitome of fall.

I was a little worried when my first bite of squash was sour and stringy, but the next couple of bites set me back on the right track.

Thin prosciutto was sprinkled liberally on top with the sage brown butter for the sauce. Mmmm. Butter. The flavors on this pizza teased the savory fall bounty just around the corner.

My vegetarian friend ordered one of the vegetable sides, choosing the cauliflower ($12.50), sautéed with string beans, pine nuts and dried cranberries.

In my excitement over the duck pizza, I neglected to sample any of the cauliflower, but he gave it a thumbs-up.

After delicious appetizers and entrees, I had high hopes for dessert. Alas, those hopes were dashed a few bites in. We ordered the butterscotch ice cream pie ($10), which boiled down to a slab of butterscotch ice cream with crumbly crust and a thick chocolate shell. Not bad, but nothing that wowed me either.

The food here was excellent, but the service . . . well, not so much. Like most places in Big Sur, the Bakery is pretty laid back — our server was certainly not in any rush to take our order or check how we were doing during dinner.

But you come down to Big Sur to get away from the (relative) hustle and bustle of the Monterey Peninsula, so casual service comes with the territory. And the food certainly more than made up for those shortcomings.

Now’s the perfect time to hit the road and explore the dining scene down south during these last few weeks of summer.

Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant, Highway 1, Big Sur. 831-667-0520. www.bigsurbakery.com

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