We were in Silicon Valley in June, about to head north, and almost all of California was scorching in 100-plus temperatures. Desperately looking for a place to park for a few days to stay cool, a search of weather maps indicated Eureka was the place to be. It turns out Eureka is not only cool, it is really “cool”. Good food, decent wine, gorgeous scenery, a place I want to return to when I have more time.
Abutting the redwood forests in Humboldt County, but perhaps best known for its covert pot farms hidden in the surrounding wilderness, Eureka has lots of small-town charm, hippie habits, stately trees, and deserted beaches. Remnants of the once robust logging and fishing industry pepper the backroads while splendid Victorian houses share space with craftsman homes and bungalows in the neat but ramshackle neighborhoods. But in “old town”, the original port area has been refurbished with restaurants, shops, and a waterfront featuring a boardwalk that encourages long walks along the bay. If you want more Bohemia and some night life, the college town of Arcata is just to north.
Although nature hikes and scenic drives beckon, as is our habit, we head out to discover some regional food and wine.
For a quick survey of local foods and beverages, Taste is a good beginning. Run by the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center, Taste features a selection of local oysters, beer, wine, cheese and bread in a relaxed, convivial atmosphere. Raw or broiled oysters are served with a variety of sauces, and everything can be sampled as part of a tasting flight. Cypress Grove, the producers of the famous Humboldt Fog chevre is well represented on their cheese boards.
If you seek something more substantial, with a little culinary excellence to cement your memories of Eureka, Brick and Fire is worth a stop. An intimate bistro with an imaginative menu, their prosciutto-wrapped, roasted apricots with herb inflected Bechemel was a spectacular small plate. Local smelts and oysters are usually on the menu as well. There is a touch of creativity in each dish, and the wine list is thoughtful.
The next time I need to cool off I’ll be seeking Eureka.