Follow Me Foodie to California (San Diego & LA) – Round 2!
Follow Me Foodie to Bali straight into Follow Me Foodie to California with a break in between in Follow Me Foodie to Montreal! I don’t mean to rub it in, but I just want you to click on those posts in case you missed them! All of them were delicious on different levels and although I live on the West Coast, it was nice to be in a warmer part of it in December.
It was an impromptu trip to California and I spent most of my time in San Diego with another quick side trip to Los Angeles (LA). It was my last global foodie adventure of 2012 and it was the perfect way to wrap up the year. It was actually quite cold in California this year so I had to eat a few more meals to stay warm – no problem.
I’ve been to California several times, but it’s just such a massive state and each area is so different. In terms of “foodie cities” I’m most impressed with San Francisco and LA, and many like to think it rivals Portland and Vancouver’s food scene on the West Coast. I feel like I need to give a shout out to Napa Valley as well, but it’s too small, narrow and limited in variety to be the culinary leader. Mind you I haven’t explored all of California and I kind of listed the “given food cities”, but they got their reputation for a reason.
When it comes to ethnic cuisine it is better in cities with a large immigrant population, which is a trait that dominates the West Coast. For Asian food on the West Coast of North America I think it is fair to say Vancouver takes the crown, but when it comes to anything Latin, Mexican or South American then you better go further South. So when I’m visiting California I actually like to explore their Latin restaurants as well as Californian cuisine – the Asian food is likely better at home (Vancouver, BC).
Californian cuisine is different from general “American cuisine”. The State is so culturally diverse (like Vancouver) that it defines its own cuisine by drawing from techniques and ingredients that are predominantly local, but also global. Some of the population has always supported “farm to table” and the use of local ingredients, but it is only in the last few years that the concept has become a leading philosophy in the culinary scene.
Generally speaking Californian cuisine is very similar to Pacific Northwest cuisine which is what we experience up North (duh!). It is not really paying ode to traditions and authenticity, but being open minded to accepting new flavours and ideas… and they use more avocados. The further South you go they also do not have to worry about seasonal ingredients as much (damn their all year warm/hot climate).
The whole West Coast is relatively liberal in thought and palate and while everything does not always work or taste good, it is always interesting and ever changing. There is a degree of creativity that is unique to West Coast ingredients and tastes; and it can’t be replicated elsewhere without the mosaic of cultures they/we are so lucky to have. Almost every developed country likes to think of itself as a “melting pot of cultures”, but it is all relative and California is still one of the most diverse in the US.
Follow Me Foodie Legend
No diamond – Not recommend (Under 29%)
♦ – Okay, not necessary to try. (30-49%)
♦♦ - Good, with some hits and misses. (50-69%)
♦♦♦ – Very good, dining itinerary worthy. (70-89%)
♦♦♦♦ - Excellent, make a trip out for it. (90-100%)
♦♦♦♦♦ - Follow Me Foodie Must Try! (Bonus marks! 100%+)
Follow Me Foodie to Los Angeles (LA)!
Follow Me Foodie to California – LA! (Round 2 – Part 3/3)
Now quick change of pace! We’re still in California, but welcome to Los Angeles! It’s more fast paced than San Diego and even though it is in the same State, the options and palates are quite different. It is the “New York” of the West Coast and being an Alpha city it is not really short of anything.
It is fancy and ghetto with everything in between and there are more restaurants than anyone wants to count. There will always be a culinary debate with Los Angeles VS San Francisco in terms of being the ultimate food city, but let’s just settle things and say California has it good.
If you think that is a “cop-out” answer then I’ll say LA is obvious, but San Francisco is a bit more eclectic. However some say San Francisco is the “little sister” trying too hard to be like LA. Things change with time and San Francisco has been the more highly praised in recent food media, but LA is LA and that almost ends all arguments.
I made a side trip out to LA and this isn’t an official “Follow Me Foodie to LA”, but just a very small nibble of it… it’s not even a nibble, it’s a lick of LA.
Restaurant: Tart Restaurant
Address: 115 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Price Range: $10-20 ($15-20 mains)
I only came for brunch and it was the restaurant attached to the hotel I stayed at – The Farmers Daughter. It was a total hipster hotel and super quirky and cute. They have complimentary chocolate chip cookies in the lobby (not why I chose it, but it was an unexpected bonus) and the playful theme is nothing but charming. I loved it.
Tart Restaurant is actually a local favourite despite being attached to a hotel and it felt like a random diner I would find in Portland or Austin, Texas. The food is good old American comfort food with some funky twists and Southern charm. Compared to the true South it’s not even comparable and it’s still very much “polished” and Californian, but I still appreciated it for what it was. I only came here for brunch which isn’t a fair representation of what they do, but the brunch was good although not great. I liked the overall experience more and I have higher hopes for the lunch/dinner menu.
Menu features/highlights: The items I tried are: Corned Beef Hash - slow braised house made corned beef, hash browns with Spanish onions, and bell peppers topped with two eggs served with a biscuit or toast ($9.95), Breakfast Biscuit - turkey sausage, over-medium egg, and cheddar cheese on a buttery biscuit with hash browns ($7.95) and Haystack Hussie - Creamy Grits with Chopped Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, and Green Onions, Three Eggs any way you like them, and a Buttery Biscuit ($6.95).
Pros: Affordable, charming, grass fed meats, family friendly, fun menu
Cons: Brunch was okay.
Tips: Bottomless mimosas, 11am-4pm daily ($15) and they have 5 different flavours of toothpicks… did I say hipster?
Restaurant: Pizzeria Mozza
Address: 641 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles, CA
Phone: (424) 239-1630
Price Range: $20-30 ($15-25 pizzas)
This is the baby of Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich. It is one of the highest rated Neapolitan style pizza restaurants in LA and arguably “the best” there. I can’t say it is “authentic”, but it is Californian style Neapolitan pizza. It is as much about the toppings as it is about the crust, whereas in Italy it is more about the crust and toppings are minimal but still fresh. It is catered for Californian/American tastes for pizza, but regardless the pizza was very good and I enjoyed it. The centre wasn’t tender and it should be and of course it won’t be exactly like Italy’s Neapolitan pizza, but it is still considered “authentic” in the context of LA. I won’t get into specifics, but the crust was crispy and thin, but it had no leoparding on the bottom or charred blisters on the edges. However it was still very good and the quality of ingredients are fantastic. If this is “the best” in California then Vancouver’s pizza scene can rival it.
Menu features/highlights: Squash blossoms, tomato & burrata pizza ($24), Fennel sausage, panna, red onion & scallions pizza ($17), Bianca with fontina, mozzarella, sottocenere & sage pizza ($19) Egg, guanciale, escarole, radicchio & bagna cuada pizza ($17) Chicken livers, capers, parsley & guanciale bruchette ($9) Fava bean puree with sautéed bitter greens & Parmigiano bruchette ($15) Eggplant caponata ($12), Pig ear Milanese with anchoiade ($12)
Pros: Good quality ingredients, very good pizza, house made dough, good vibe, good wine list
Cons: Can be pricey, long lines, long waits
Tips: Avoid peak hours.
Restaurant: The Eveleigh
Cuisine: Californian/American/Small plates/West Coast/Eclectic
Address: 8752 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
Phone: (424) 239-1630
Price Range: $30-50+ ($19-28 large plates)
From the owners of Kingswood in New York comes The Eveleigh (opened late 2010). I had one dinner experience in West Hollywood and I made this it! Good choice, Mijune! Winner. It was rustically presented, but sophisticated in taste. Globally experienced Chef Jordan Toft clearly knows what he is doing. The menu offers small and large plates that were simple, but flavourful and properly executed. It was farm to table in concept and ambiance, inspired from local ingredients and European techniques, and the food was innovative. I like trying new restaurants as a tourist, but this one was good enough that I would come back for it in a heartbeat. It was unpretentious, but still upscale with a good vibe and feel. It is a very current restaurant and I want it in my hometown. I listed this in my Follow Me Foodie Favourites & “Best of” 2012 Recap.
Menu features/highlights: Crudo – Californian olive oil, pickled organic apple, finger lime, smoked salt, apple balsamico ($14), Charred Short Rib – chard, smoked garlic, beef jus ($18), Crisp squash blossom, fresh goat cheese & yogurt, sumac, lemon ($14), Pappardelle twelve-hour braised ragu, parmigiano reggiano ($19), Today’s roasted market fish warm dragon tongue bean, chili and sorrel nage ($26), Grilled boulder valley natural skirt steak crisp potato crust, romesco, grilled onion ($26) and charcuterie is supposed to be great, but I didn’t get to try it.
Pros: Current, seasonal, local, good vibe, sophisticated, interesting and creative menu, well executed, very good food
Cons: Service can be hit and miss, can sell out of popular items early
Tips: It is casual, but nice and can accommodate larger groups. Popular plates can sell out early. Great for snack/drinks.