Beautiful Ruins: A Perfect Novel for a Weekend Away from It All

The great thing about being a woman of a certain age, which you probably are if you’re reading my blog instead of tweets, is that you have a lot more time to take spontaneous trips.

Exactly what Dave and I did last week.

Just as the heat was cranking up here in the Sierra foothills, we headed to Mendocino for a few days of cool fog, fine dining and great music at the Mendocino Music Festival. Great Music. If you were there for big band night, you will know what I mean when I say Julian Waterfall-Pollack and his arrangement of The Water is Wide. The crowd was in tears and then up on its feet for a standing ovation. You have got to hear this young pianist at some point in your life.

Miguel Angel Mancera

Anyway, I’m interrupting my little blog tour of Mexico City even though everyone I know is asking me about the recent elections there.

Short version: Yes, Mexico City is safe with the usual precautions you would take in any big city, and Miguel Angel Mancera—the new mayor— is very cool. Because of his good looks and single status, he’s known as the George Clooney of Tenochitlan. However, that appellation belies his very real seriousness. As Mexico City’s Attorney General, he has been largely responsible for the security of Mexico City over the past several years and one of the reasons it’s so safe.

And I am planning to go to the DF after the summer monsoon rains there are over.

Now if I could just get George Clooney to play the role of Alejandro in the film version of Palace of the Blue Butterfly . . .

Mendocino Sunset

Meanwhile back in the real world. . . . Well sort of real, because what could be more heavenly than this view from my rocking chair at The Little River Inn, the Mendocino hotel where we stayed.

Okay, a couple of things maybe, one of them being a great book to get lost in like Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. You don’t need a blurb by me about this novel. Just get on Goodreads and you can find out all about it. Or better yet, go to Mendocino, get tickets for the Mendocino Music Festival and wander into the Gallery Bookshop to get a copy of Beautiful Ruins. I saw it on display there as an Independent booksellers’ choice.

I loved reading this book with the sound of waves crashing on rocks and the buoy bell in the cove below warning of shallow water. All very cozy and romantic.

Just to give you all a taste, so to speak, of my recent foray to the wild California coast, here’s The Little River Inn’s delicious olallieberry cobbler— a perfect summer dessert.

Little River Inn
Mendocino, California
Yields 12 to 14 servings

8 cups olallieberries, cleaned and picked over
2 cups sugar
½ cup flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat over to 300˚. Mix all ingredients gently in a bowl, just enough to combine. Place in a 9” x 13” baking pan and shake to make a flat surface. Set aside.


1 cup flour
Pinch of salt
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon shortening
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 ½ tablespoons ice water
Egg white and sugar for topping

Mendocino Beach

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse twice, then add shortening and butter. Process for about 15 seconds, then add the ice water. Process briefly, until the mixture is like a paste. Turn the pastry onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Roll the crust with a floured rolling pin, shaping it to be slightly larger than the pan. Place the crust gently on top of the cobbler. Brush with egg white, dust with sugar, and bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes. If the crust needs more browning, bake for up to 12 minutes more. How much time you need to bake depends on the temperature of your oven.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and enjoy!

Note: This recipe works in a conventional oven only. Do not use a convection oven.

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