One does not need a destination when driving on the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur. The extraordinary, dramatic scenery is more than enough. There is actually a sign at one point that says something so matter of fact, along the lines of: “Curves for the next 68 miles,” as if I need a sign to inform me. In fact, the existence of the sign might be more dangerous than no sign at al, because I feel compelled to take my eyes off the road for a millisecond so that I can read the message. The jagged cliffs, the heart-stopping turns, the manmade passes through the mountain itself, and the endless turquoise ocean that glistens in the afternoon sun are all sufficient excuses for the drive. We make frequent stops at the many vista points, a few of which have trails that promise epic beauty and otherworldly sensations. Rocky Point has fantastic deck chairs overlooking the water. Garrapata is one of the most stunning beaches on the drive, and it is absolutely worth a longer stop for its idyllic, succulent-lined path leading down to the waters edge, its fine white sand, and its enormous rock formations. On this winding road, with these majestic views, I could care less about material goods, about the trivial things that I spend too much time worrying over. I do however, begin to feel hunger. For the most fitting restaurant with the freshest food, so incredibly true to place, so in keeping with the sixties vibe of Big Sur, I go to Big Sur Bakery.
Although it is not around the corner from our base in Carmel, the food and the funky vibes are completely worth it. Everyone is friendly, the pace is slow, and even with a gas station out front, the ambience is down to earth and homey. The young girls are wearing prairie dresses and boots, the coffee is killer, and the fireplace is roaring. We have one Big Sur Bakery lunch outside on the communal picnic tables. We take our avocado toast topped with green radish, our banana and chocolate danish, and our peanut butter and jelly cookie and sit under what looks like a rose tree next to two teenagers who just completed a 12 mile hike up the road. I wonder what it would be like to grow up in Big Sur, and instead of hanging out at the Starbucks after school, I go for a hike in one of the most magnificent settings in the world. We return to Big Sur Bakery two more times that same week, and each time the menu is different, the pastries behind the case are varied, and the soundtrack is circa Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Their eggs with local herbs and greens are so simple and so divine. I get mine with the bread of the day: barley sourdough. I love every type of cookie so much that I buy a twelve dollar bag of the chocolate chip with macadamia nuts. We finish the bag in about two days, which I think is quite reasonable considering how much we are “hiking.” Before we go, I ask if I can use their bathroom. “Oh sure, it’s just out back.” I look towards the back of the register. “No, outside out back.” I actually really appreciate the outdoors bathroom at this place; it just feels right.
After our last lunch at Big Sur Bakery, we were leaving just as more of the team were arriving for their Sunday dinner series. I vowed to return for one of these special community-centric dinners, where I am sure the vibe is as familial and Central Coast as it gets. The bakery finds the perfect balance between the emotions of the sixties and the creative yet simple cooking of today. I wish I could capture the essence of this place and visit it when I am feeling stressed by the overwhelming distractions of 2015, or when I am simply hungry for fantastic food and one of the greatest cups of coffee. Either way, it is one of my most favorite places along one of the world’s most sublime roads.