I had no illusions about what Woodstock would be. I did not expect to see Dylan at the post office or Van Morrison walking his dog. But I was, wishfully thinking I now see, hoping that some of that spirit would still linger, that Woodstock would not be like Carmel or Cambria. That seems like a silly thing to hope for, as those are two of my favorite towns in California and I love visiting them, but I was hoping Woodstock would be a little more rustic. It was not. It was very similar to at least a dozen towns I have seen. Beautiful, yes, but full of tourists (including, of course, me) and stores selling items that I would never want to own.
After walking around for a bit we settled on a restaurant Elizabeth likes, Oriole 9. It's a cute place, the walls lined with the work of local artists. We were shown to a booth in the corner when I noticed, up on a partition next to our booth, a Baltimore Orioles cap. Wait a minute... is this a baseball themed place? Who was #9 for the Orioles? Ripken? No, he was #8. Brooks Robinson? I don't remember.
I got really excited for a minute. Would they have a "Roberto Alomar Burger" that the cook has spit on? Or a "Tony Tarasco Burger," where, right when you're about to eat it, a 12 year-old Yankees fan runs out and steals it from you? The possibilities were endless.
But, as it turns out, the hat merely belonged to the guy at the next table, who had removed it while eating.
While sipping a regualr iced tea (although the picture is of Elizabeth's mint iced tea, which was much prettier), I read a little about the restaurant. They started a farm at a local school, which provides a learning experience for the students and fresh produce for the restaurant. There are restaurants I can think of that would make me roll my eyes if I read something like that, but at Oriole 9 it seemed sincere.
Elizabeth and her mom weren't terribly hungry, so they decided to split a pressed sandwich of mozzarella, tomato, pesto and arugula. I needed more food than half a sandwich. After considering the "tapas platter," I decided to get the "Cuban press" sandwich - braised pork, smoked ham, provolone cheese and house made pickles.
While waiting for the food I looked around the place. Something about it seemed very familiar, and not in a good way. Then I placed it - it reminded me very much of Mike & Anne's in South Pasadena. Nobody was in a good mood. All of the patrons were glancing around the room disapprovingly and impatiently, seemingly laboring with the task of enjoying lunch. It was a very attractive room, filled with light, which made the cold vibe of the place stand out even more.
The sandwiches came out in just a few minutes, accompanied by small salads with a very tasty balsamic vinaigrette. My sandwich was delicious. Too often a Cuban sandwich is either very dry or is drenched with condiments like mayo and mustard. This sandwich was juicy, and all of that came from the flavor of the ingredients. I tried a bite of Elizabeth's sandwich as well and I liked it, and I'm not usually a fan of pesto.
Oriole 9 is a cute place and I can see how a lot of people would find it charming, but that escaped me. It seemed to me like a place that wants to get you in and out quickly, possibly sell you a piece of artwork on the wall, and not remember you the next time you come in. Now, that's not necessarily a terrible thing; the food is 90% of what I care about at a restaurant, and Oriole 9's food was good. But it fit in perfectly with what I felt of Woodstock: beautiful, and an enjoyable enough place to visit once, but not very welcoming and not anything I can recommend with much enthusiasm.
Now, happily, after lunch we drove through the woods to a property just off the highway, and it was one of the truly great places I have ever been. It is called Crafts People, and Elizabeth has been telling me about it for years - over 500 local artists have their handmade wares on display in four structures spread across a couple acres. The place is owned and run by a couple of aging hippies, friendly people who pour you wine and chat with you while you browse. Now this was everything I had hoped to find in Woodstock. Elizabeth bought a gorgeous, handmade necklace and I bought my brother a compass in a hand-painted wooden box. (I have not seen my brother since returning, I suppose I just ruined the surprise.) If this wasn't a food blog, I would probably do a post just on Crafts People.