The Sea Chest

On Moonstone Beach.

The Sea Chest on Moonstone Beach has been around for ever. I used to visit it often when journeying from LA by motorcycle up the coast highway to Carmel or when living nearby on my Templeton vineyard a few years back.

You come here to eat seafood or fish, not meat and, unfortunately, the place has been ‘discovered’, so I don’t feel too badly about publicizing it.

They don’t take credit cards or reservations so the secret, especially on Friday or Saturday night, is to arrive at 5:15pm and line up for the 5:30 opening. Anything later and you may have to wait up to 2 hours for your table!

The restaurant is housed in a wooden clapboard building on Moonstone Beach Drive, facing the Pacific:

The smart (?) money arrives early:

As do the birds – clearly not at a loss for food:

I arrived (Friday evening) the obligatory 15 minutes early on a very blustery day, yet the line was already long and I was the last but one to get in without a wait:

The trendies make a big show of drinking their wine in line. Make of that what you will. Needless to add they all drive SUVs which is probably all you need to know.

The menu is hand written daily:

Not cheap, but when was quality ever cheap?

I opted for the Sea Bass and you can see why the fish is dying out when you look at the size of the portion. With a glass of California Chardonnay it was light and delicious:

My waitress was an absolute sweetheart, attentive and professional. This is not one of those pretentious places that makes you feel they are doing you a favor. Pacific Ocean in back:

The most fun place to sit is the small bar ….

…. because the action is exceptionally intense and a blast to watch:

All snapped on the Panasonic LX100 except for the food image which was on the iPhone 6. ISOs for the Panny ranged from 200 through 1600 and the kitchen snap was at f/2 at 24mm. A superbly capable and small tool, there’s an awful lot to like about the LX100 as the ideal travel camera.

The Sea Chest is not cheap. Reckon on $45-60 per diner plus tip. There’s a small charge for water owing to the disastrous drought the Central Valley is suffering.

I recommend the Fog Catcher Inn for accommodation, a few steps to the north. Get one of the ocean front rooms, and you will find they are affordable, severe and quite exceptionally elegant. A decent breakfast is included:

And be sure to explore Moonstone Beach, especially the north end accessed down a flight of stairs. Lots of interesting rocks, stones and mussels and assorted shellfish at low tide. And watch out for the jelly fish which sometimes get beached.

Beached jelly fish and kelp. Taken some years back. Canon 5D, 100mm Canon Macro.

Moonstone Beach Drive, yesterday, from Leffingwell Cove looking south east. Panny GX7, 45-200mm Panny lens. If you hear anyone trashing this inexpensive lens you have my permission to classify them under ‘Idiot’.


At Il Fornaio.

The environment is exceptionally intense and the Hispanic cooks work non-stop, with no time to look up and converse:

The iPhone 6’s splendid camera excels at this sort of thing. The modern pocket Leica.


A quick trip.

Mendocino lies on the northern California coast and can be approached from San Francisco either via 101 and the 128 highway or on Pacific Coast Highway from Point Reyes. It’s a small former fishing village of maybe 1,000 residents and caters solely to tourists today.

On the way to Point Reyes I stopped at Rancho Nicasio to take in the beautiful church.

Panny LX100 at 24mm – handy lens on that great camera.

En route to Bodega Bay, of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ fame, I passed though the small fishing village of Marshall, whose boat works is a throwback to the ’50s, old Chevy pick-up and all:

When I last visited Bodega Bay over 20 years ago, the old Tides restaurant where ‘The Birds’ was filmed was still intact, though the gas pumps (if they were ever a fixture?) were gone. Today there are no remnants of the old café and it’s become just another big business with frightful fried food and zero character, bursting to the brim with tourists bursting out of their clothing:

Not an improvement on the original.

Posters and pictures inside confirm that they shamelessly continue to milk Hitch’s masterpiece, though they had scare little to do with it. At least out back there are good views to be had:

Panny LX100 at 70mm.

All of the above snapped on my son’s LX100. I especially like the handy 24-70mm zoom range of the excellent, fast Leica lens (f/1.7 to f/2.8) and the very handy exposure compensation dial atop, whose effect can be instantly judged in the electronic finder. A lovely camera, unreservedly recommended.

The following were snapped on my Panny GX7 with the Panny 14-45mm kit lens, an outstanding optic.

Mendocino itself is 20 years older than when I last saw it and it seems that not one gallon of paint or one sheet of sandpaper has been applied in cleaning it up. There are also far too many burned out bums littering the streets. Disappointing, as there’s much good architecture here. It just all seems tired and decrepit.

This building, a former residence on Kasten Street, has been converted to a lodging and restaurant, named Trillium after a seasonal Mendocino spring flower. It’s one of the few properly restored buildings in town:

Nice building, disappointing food. My duck had last said ‘quack’ years earlier, judging by its taste.

This chap was despairing at the poor shape of the town:

A lot of ‘artists’ call Mendocino home and while I studied no fewer than seven books on them at the B&B I stayed in, not a one sticks in my mind.

This fine building on the corner of Main and Kasten, used to be a Bank of America branch, but now sells telescopes. Presumably the bank moved after having robbed all the locals of paint and sandpaper money:

Here it is 20 years earlier:

Leica M2, 35mm Summicron, Kodachrome.

More charming period architecture:

They are asking $2,800/month for this tear down. Pass, not least for the execrable excrescence above the door to the unpaved driveway:

Wanted – sandpaper and paint. I have enough images of dereliction to want any more.

So that’s a whole bunch of grumbling, I hear you say. True. But it’s very much worth it for the trip up on Highway One and back on gorgeous 128 across to the 101. But your Camry ain’t gonna cut it because no one is going to move over for you on that single lane highway. They will, however, for one of these:

On Highway 128, near Boonville. Panny X100

When it comes to visiting Mendocino, the journey is considerably greater than the destination. If you want rustic without the dirt and bums, stick to Carmel.

Bankster central

Serial criminals.

Not a one of our jolly prankster banksters, the people at Bank of America and Citicorp and JP Morgan , et al, who nearly brought down the global financial system in 2008, has found himself in federal housing, more’s the pity. Just goes to show the power of campaign donations.

Here’s where the west coast criminals hang out in San Francisco.

Panny LX100.

Disclosure: Long BAC call option bull spreads. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.