Montara State Beach; Creative Commons photo by Corey Martella is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it, digging up the shops and restaurants, beaches and trails, performances and, well, phenomena that make the region so vibrant. Here’s the Best of the West this week

Sunset Staff  – September 16, 2019

The Coast Is Clear

In case you didn’t know, September is the best month on the Northern California Coast. Gone are the gray days haunted by June Gloom, July’s cool temps, and Fog-ust (that’s August to you non-San Franciscans). The days are still longish and the weather is starting to consistently warm up, which means the coast’s golden season is in full swing. Now’s the perfect time for a weekend beach day and my pick for the month is Montara State Beach, about 18 miles south of SF and eight miles north of Half Moon Bay. The idyllic stretch of sand tends to stay relatively uncrowded and offers many blissful hours of tidepooling, shell hunting, surf fishing, and general frolicking—even if the water is too cold for a swim. You can also make it a night, bunking up at the Point Montara Lighthouse hostel. —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel
   

Foraging Time in the Northwest

My favorite thing this week is the Northwest’s current bonanza of early-season chanterelles. Some of my friends started finding them in August! All the balmy and damp weather we’ve been having in the PNW means the fungi have been going gangbusters, and I am *h e r e* for it! I have my own secret hunting spots 🤫🤫🤫, but if you’re just out bopping around in the woods, look for butterscotch-yellow mushrooms growing under hemlock and second-growth Doug fir; they love hanging out with Oregon grape, sword ferns, and wild ginger. This recipe is a really gorgeous way to highlight these fragrant mushrooms—I suggest serving it on a sourdough-rye pizza crust, sprinkled with walnut oil and shaved pecorino. (Also, we hope it goes without saying, but….please don’t eat just anything you find under a tree! Consult an expert if you’re not absolutely sure of your mushroom ID.) —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden editor

An Apple a Day Keeps Boredom Away

Even though I’m long out of school, I still mourn summer a little bit every September. I do love fall, though, and making it easier to let go of stone fruit is the fact that apples are starting to happen. Sure, they’re basic almost to the point of being overlooked, but I’ll trade you a fancifully-shaped mango/pluot/starfruit hybrid for a perfect, crisp, juicy red apple any day of the week. Happily, I’ve just discovered a new apple variety. I’m normally a Fuji gal, but I’m going to start working Raves in to my repertoire. The Rave is a crunchy and sweet/tart hybrid of a Honeycrisp and MonArk. They ripen early, so look for them now. They tend to break down when baked, so enjoy them right out of the fruit bowl, maybe with a nice slice of sharp cheddar. —Nicole Clausing, digital producer

The Family That Plants Together…

One of my favorite weekend activities is dragging the whole family to a plant nursery to browse amongst the leaves and flowers for an hour (or two, if I’m lucky). It’s like a free therapy session to wander through aisles of beautiful growing things in the sunshine, designing a dream garden in my head. Lately, at least in the Bay Area, these horticultural walkabouts have been fueled by food from local pop-ups who set up their itinerant kitchens to serve those in search of sustenance while shopping. Last weekend we snacked on okonomiyaki from Okkon and ice cream from Brown Cap at the Berkeley Horticultural Nursery; in the past, we’ve also followed Tacos Oscar (an Oakland pop-up that recently debuted a permanent restaurant) to Flowerland in Albany with all the enthusiasm of Grateful Dead groupies. It’s the perfect way to spend a relaxing weekend afternoon (but not so great if you’re trying to cut down on plant purchases).—Ellen Fort, food editor

The Sichuan Chili Crisp All the Cool Kids Are Buying

Right now my favorite way to finish off any meal I’m cooking is with a spoonful of Sichuan Chili Crisp by Fly by Jing. The woman-owned brand of chili sauce is made with all-natural ingredients and hits that sweet spot of hot and crispy without being off-the-charts spicy. I like to drizzle the garlicky, nutty chili crisp over fried eggs, tartines, and dumplings. I can also confirm that it even goes well on top of Neapolitan pizza, so I guess the options are pretty limitless. —Maya Wong, assistant editor

Sichuan Chili Crisp
   

 

If the Shoe Fits, Wear It. Carefully.

Designer (and viral footwear up-cycler) Nicole McLaughlin has recently been crafting dream shoes with decidedly Sunset twists, and I want every pair. One, for the intrepid adventurer, updates a Fila boot with a Nalgene holder, webbing to carry rope and other outdoor necessities, and a clip-on bear whistle and compass. Another, the “gardening bag” shoe, has handy (foot-y?) pouches for tools and seeds. There’s a “painter pants” shoe made out of white Dickies coverall material, with paint brushes and rollers tucked into the pockets; and a “tool belt” version made from Carhartt canvas, jammed with a measuring tape, pencil, wrench, drill bits, and more. I’d say we should ask her to make a Sunset shoe, but she basically already has! We’ll take a pair of each, please. —Kate Wertheimer, travel editor

The Shades Made for Fishing

When you’re spotting fish off a float boat, it helps to have a good pair of polarized glasses. This Italian-made setup features a lightweight glass formula to reduce fatigue from day-long fish-fighting campaigns, with a nose bridge that actually holds fast to your face the more you perspire. And according to the manufacturer, the glass lenses are 12 times harder to scratch than plastic-based lenses. —Matt Bean, editor in chief

Smith Redding Polarized Sunglasses
   

The Perfect Shoulder Season Cookbook 

With temperatures in L.A. skirting 80 degrees, you’d never know the first day of autumn is right around the corner. And elsewhere in the West, we’ll be living it up in the sun for at least another month or so, which means I’m extending all grilling indefinitely. The cookbook I plan on exploring in the next few blissfully sunny weeks is Adeena Sussman’s Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen, a compendium of approachable, lemon-spiked, herb-inflected, za’atar-imbued recipes that will inspire home cooks to play with bright and healthy Israeli flavors in their own kitchens.  I recently fired up my grill and cooked her schug-marinated baby lamb chops. Her cardamom-heavy spicy version of the herby condiment is top-notch, and her idea of throwing red onions and lemons on the grill adds color and even more flavor to the entrée. Little, flavor-packed hacks like that are what make this cookbook so genius—the perfect summer-to-fall transitional text. —Hugh Garvey, Executive Editor

Adeena Sussman’s Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen
   

Off the Beaten Path: Port Costa, CA

I’m a San Francisco native who now lives in Los Angeles, so whenever I get a chance I head back home to visit family and enjoy all the wonders the Bay Area has to offer. This week I’m excited to visit Port Costa, one of my favorite tiny towns in Contra Costa County. It’s nestled into a hillside that overlooks the Carquinez Strait, and is home to 190 people and a very whimsical Main Street that dead-ends at the water. I like to start my day over coffee and biscuits at Honey House Café, followed by shopping at Compulsive Peddler, a vintage shop specializing in midcentury modern ceramics, and Port Costa Mercantile, a quirky shop that sells everything from vintage flannel shirts to Playland at the Beach memorabilia. The finale is always a meal at Bull Valley Roadhouse, where chef David Williams cranks out his take on American fare. —Sally Kuchar, senior home editor