Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Artichoke Capital and Beer Battered Fried Artichoke Hearts with Spicy Ranch Dipping Sauce

Most likely, you have not ever heard of Castroville, California but chances are the artichokes you eat identify that town as their birthplace.  There is no doubt Castroville is proud of their claim to fame as the Artichoke Capital and the town must really be rocking during their annual artichoke festival in May.  Even the gentleman’s club has a sign with a voluptuous women emerging from an artichoke (so sorry I didn’t take that picture).  Well, of course, we had to buy some fresh artichokes (duh, “when in Rome…”).  And since the cafĂ© nearby was serving fried artichoke hearts, we had to place an order.  The option to order the steamed version of artichokes was not even considered!

The fried artichoke hearts earned high marks with us so it was back to the motorhome for my turn at creating something equally as delicious.  My plan was to dip them in an amber beer batter, fry to golden brown perfection, and serve them with a spicy ranch dipping sauce.  Betsy was game to try my culinary creation and thought they would go well with our steamed Dungeness crabs.  After all, what fried vegetable doesn't go well with steamed seafood?

If you have never cleaned a fresh artichoke, don’t be intimidated by these thistly hunks of green vegetable – it is really very simple.  Here is a link from the Culinary Institute of America with instructions on how to clean them and get to the heart.  I figured the country’s premier culinary university could explain it better than I could.

So here is the recipe for …

Beer Battered Artichoke Hearts with Spicy Ranch Dipping Sauce
12    small artichoke hearts cut in half (or quarters depending on their size)
½     cup all-purpose flour
¼     cup cornstarch (plus another ¼ cup)
¾     cup amber beer (that leaves a few swigs for the cook)
1      teaspoon creole spice
2      tablespoons Sambal oelek® (Asian chili paste)
½     cup ranch dressing


Mix flour, ¼ cup corn starch, beer and creole spice together and combine thoroughly.

Combine the Sambal oelek® and ranch dressing. 
Place two inches of vegetable oil in a heavy duty pan and preheat to 350°F.

In a bowl, place the additional ¼ cup cornstarch.  Dip artichoke hearts into corn starch and shake off the excess.  Then place hearts in the beer batter.  Let excess batter drip off and gently place them in the hot vegetable oil.  Fry until golden brown (about 3-4 minutes).  Remove hearts to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.


  1. We stopped at that same place on the way north from Santa Barbara...those artichokes were delicious,thanks for sharing the recipe !

    1. Hi Roadtrek Girl! I don't think I have ever been disappointed with fried vegetables but those were really delicious.

  2. My mom always made us stop there for the fried artichokes. Is the giant artichoke still there?

    1. Yes, the giant artichoke is still there. There are no shortages of reminders that the town is the artichoke capital.


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