Dom Joly: California, where the just-squeezed juice comes in cartons

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The Independent Online

Breakfast in California is a big deal. It's weird, since it's actually just something that Americans do to fill time until lunch. On our golf tour drive down the coast of California, we've entered room after room of tables groaning with enough food to feed the five thousand. The sheer wastage is incredible, as is the fact that it seems to be almost impossible to get freshly squeezed orange juice.

"Is the orange juice freshly squeezed?" I asked Vladimir, our waiter this morning.

"Oh yes, sir, certainly it has been squeezed," he replied confidently.

"Here? On the premises?" I persisted.

Vladimir hesitated for a moment. "No, not here, but very close by. There is a company that does it for us and brings it in."

"What do they bring it here in?" I wasn't letting him off the hook. After all, we'd driven past miles and miles of orange plantations.

"They bring them... in cartons... yes, in big cartons ... but nobody has ever complained and they have definitely been squeezed."

I gave up, but we've had this same conversation all the way down. It reminds me of that classic episode of Fawlty Towers where the Californian couple turn up and ask for a Waldorf salad and freshly squeezed orange juice. They are met with the same evasive stonewalling by Basil as we keep getting. California is changing, and not for the better.

This has not been our only epicurean hiccup. While staying at the sublime Lodge at Pebble Beach, we decided to pop into nearby Carmel for the evening. This is the town that was made famous by electing Clint Eastwood as mayor, and his presence still hangs heavy in the misty coastal air. He used to own a restaurant called The Hog's Breath Inn that came highly recommended back at The Lodge. We were told that we couldn't have a table at 8.30pm as they wanted to close, but they agreed to slip us in at 8pm. This should have been a warning sign – Carmel is not really a town for the under-seventies. We arrived to find a totally deserted establishment. Once inside and surrounded by horrific oil paintings of cowboy Clint, we faced the lugubrious menu. Everyone played safe and ordered ribs, except me – I went for the artichoke, crab and cheese dip. It was repulsive, as was the rest of the meal. We fantasised about Gordon Ramsay doing one of his Kitchen Nightmares shows here and pinning a terrified Clint up against the wall: "You want to make my day, do you, punk? Well, close this place down now!"

Feeling slightly nauseous, we retreated to the bar of the nearby Cypress Inn, an eccentric place straight out of Twin Peaks. At the bar, a man was asleep upright, his glass of champagne still in his hand. The only other person in the room was a visitor from LA who had clearly taken several Xanax too many. She accosted us, claiming that she was the producer of a movie starring Lauren Bacall. She said that Ms Bacall was in the next room and, should we agree to invest in the project, we could meet her. We gave her short shrift. It was, therefore, with some surprise that actor and fellow golfer James Nesbitt returned from the washroom to announce that a rather depressed-looking Lauren Bacall was indeed sitting in the next room. This was certainly a long way from To Have and Have Not. Still, that's showbusiness.

We downed our Cosmopolitans and sloped off to Pebble Beach, where we dreamt of freshly squeezed orange juice and birdies on the seventh. Come morning, however, both were as elusive as ever.

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