Friday, April 2, 2010

Edible California

When people recall past moments or stories, they often contextualize this information by what they were wearing, or how the weather had been, or by the outcome of a big sporting event at the time.  Me, I track my life's happenings by what I was eating at the time.  When recounting a vacation, for example, no matter the beautiful vistas or the life-altering cultural experience, I'm really just going to tell you about where and what I ate.  Turns out this is how I chart my days, even the ones that should probably remembered for much more important reasons.

Knowing this about myself, I decided to take full advantage of my obsession by documenting meals whilst on this week's trip to California.  (Unfortunately the lighting wasn't always the friendliest, but you can still get the gist.)
So, we started our trip in the big L-A.  I've never been a huge fan of LA, but one of our good friends moved there a couple years ago and was determined to show us a more appealing side of the city.  Which he did.  Mostly through surprise there.

Our first meal out was at a lovely place called Home in the West Hollywood area.  I ordered the best salmon salad I've ever had, and I loooovvvveee salmon.  I was eying a beet and pear salad, but was a little dismayed at the price.  (Why is it that you can often get a huge greasy--undoubtedly delicious--sandwich and fries for under $10, but anything remotely good for you is usually considerably more?)  Anyway, the salmon salad (at a shocking value at $12.95) began calling to me, and I answered.  The field greens were fresh, lightly dressed with vinaigrette.  The salmon was hefty and wonderfully prepared--not in the least overcooked or dried out.  Also nestled in the greens were kidney beans, artichoke hearts, and capers.  It was like a lunch-time treasure find!  Ooh, and I ate every last bit.  This meal tied for first in the "best meal of the CA trip" contest.  Gold star.

In order to work off this meal before the next big eat out session we...  We sat on the couch and drank wine and took a nap.  Yep.  But the nap was great, and got me all geared up to go out to dinner at Marix, a tex mex joint.  It happened to be the restaurant's 25th (I think?) anniversary, so pitchers of margaritas were half price.  We think they also only included about half the booze, but no worries, we were happy to drink twice as much!

I was craving fish that day I guess, because I ordered the fish tostadas.  (I know this photo is a huge turn off, but you'll have to believe me that it really was lip smacking.  That's just the nasty flash you see.)  Okay, so follow me around the plate.  At 12 o'clock we have black beans, then poblano rice, tomatillo sauce, lime cole slaw, the fish itself topped with mango salsa and fresh guacamole.  It's a party on a plate.  And festive in my mouth.  Complimented the margaritas quite nicely.

So, what does any sane and normal person crave after this meal?  That's right.  Chocolate cake.  I demanded cake and we went in search of it.  We ended up at Cecconi's, a swanky Italian restaurant.  Molten chocolate cake and pistachio ice cream.  Or maybe it was gelato?  Gelato would make more sense, I suppose.  Regardless--it was fabulous and Greg had to remind me, once again, not to lick the plate in public.  He's no fun.  Okay.  He's a little fun.  And he didn't eat too much of my cake.

For those of you paying close attention (you'll do well on the end-of-post quiz), you'll note that this was merely the first day in California.  That's right--five more days at this pace.  Sheesh.  I'll speed up a bit for everyone's sake.

The next day was not quite as notable on the food front, but meal-time locations topped the chart.  We headed to Malibu for day two and had a picnic at the beach.  The picnic was modest, but pleasant.  The beach?  It was outstanding.
Any meal is more magical when this is where you're eating it.  This happens to be El Matador beach in Malibu.  Go there.  It's a little bit of heaven.
The following day found us farther north, visiting friends in Oakland.  We jumped at the opportunity to eat in, a simple sandwich for lunch, pita chips on the side for a salty crunch.  That evening we ate out at a great pizza place called Lanesplitter.  I forgot to bring the camera, but the pizza was incredible.  We ordered a huge salad for the four of us--greens, chick peas, kidney beans, bean sprouts, etc.  Yum.  Leftovers the next day for lunch.  The pizza was half "heartstopper" (bacon, gorgonzola, roasted garlic, and spinach), and half "carnivore" (pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, and onion).  Yum, right?  If you can try this place out, do.  If you can't, try making the heartstopper at home.  I'm gonna.

The next night Angie made chicken and veggie curry for us.  She rooted through her refrigerator drawers and we threw in a little of everything: red pepper, mushrooms, carrots, onion, sweet potato, kale, basil.  Homemade fabulous.
There were additional meals of note, but I must tell you about the final meal I had in California, which also tied for first place.  Bakesale Betty: a line out the door, just a handful of items on the entire menu, a well-orchestrated circus of chaos on the inside, and amazing, stop-to-say-mmm between every bite sandwiches.  People, if you are anywhere in the SF Bay area, treat yourself and give this place a try.  Gold star number two.

Okay, so here's the low-down.  Joe took us there to get fried chicken sandwiches.  Made with cole slaw on fresh baguettes.  But, we also ordered a beef brisket sandwich (not actually on the menu because they run out too fast--so you just have to ask for one and keep your fingers crossed).  I loved the fried chicken sandwich, but when I tried the beef brisket...  Oh.  Mouthwatering.  Check it: they put potato chips directly on the sandwich, wedged in amongst the tenderest of meat and sauteed onions.  I rarely eat beef these days, but this unexpected paper-wrapped delicacy momentarily realigned my convictions.  And I would do it all over again, too.
If you go, bring friends.  Not only to savor the experience with, but because these sandwiches are ginormous and should be shared.  And, I suggest you finish your meal, as we did, with some Bakesale Betty strawberry shortcake.  I assure you, there was shortcake under that mountain of strawberries and homemade whipped cream.  Yum.

So there you have it.  California meets belly.  Simply scrumptious.


  1. Wow, your pics make everything we ate last week look amazing! I guess it was! Want to do it all over again?!

  2. "Whilst" -- your English now ?!

  3. and "Amongst" ?
    (I meant "you're")

  4. I have a British student who honestly uses "whilst" as part of his normal vocabulary. I love it every time and have decided to try it out more often.