We love California.
So much, in fact, that Flea and I have spent the last two summers in the golden state.
There’s a lot to love about California, especially if you’re travelling with kids.
From the cloudy waterfront in San Francisco to the wide open surfing beaches in San Diego and the fairground fun of Santa Monica, we adore the coastline here. Head inland and you’re in the forests of Big Sur, with hiking, riverside picnics and offbeat adventures.
California has provided us with some amazing family memories – learning to surf; screaming like a small girl on a jet ski, taking a picnic alongside the Big Sur River, and spending the afternoon jumping off rocks into the water. Watching Flea run a roadside lemonade stand with a new friend; taking a helicopter ride over the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, and spotting Denzel Washington’s house (so I’m shallow, sue me).
But undoubtedly, one of the things we love most about California is the food. Given its climate, there’s an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and there’s plenty of seafood, too.
Here are our top picks of foods to try in California – they’re not all fine dining, but they’re all great eats!
Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake
At least once in your life, you should eat the 1,000 calorie-fest that is a slice of the Oreo Dream Extreme Cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. It’s a creamy cheesecake topped with fudge cake mixture and a chocolate mousse studded with Oreo cookie pieces. This national chain has restaurants on Union Square in San Francisco and in the Grove at LA, and offer a broad family-friendly menu with two pages of the menu devoted entirely to cheesecake. If you’re full, take it to go. One slice will serve two, probably three people, with ease.
Baja Fish Tacos
It’s funny how I used to think I wasn’t fussed about tacos. Then I went to California. Yeah. That was a game changer. We ate some great tacos in California, but without a shadow of a doubt, the very, very best came from The Taco Stand in La Jolla, an upscale neighbourhood of San Diego famed for its surf. Everything – from the tacos to the fish, the guacamole and the chilli sauce – is made from scratch on the premises, to order.
There’s often a queue out of the door, but service is brisk, and it’s worth the wait. If you can’t grab a table, there are seats outside – or take your food to go. Just don’t forget to visit the corner dressing bar, where you can choose from a range of hot and spicy tomato sauces, salads and dressings for your taco. And grab a bag of freshly made tortilla chips to take home for later…
Every Tuesday morning, there’s a Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica, and the main street is lined with farmers showing off their fresh organic ingredients. It’s a real thrill for food fans – we tried everything from fresh houmous and guacamole to goat’s cheese. But a highlight was checking out the Wheatgrass stands. What could be more Californian than trying various blends of wheatgrass, fresh from the field? Vividly green and apparently packed with vitamins, it is – obviously – completely gross. But some things are worth experiencing just so you can say you’ve done it, right?
If you go to California and don’t eat at In-N-Out then, frankly, you don’t deserve a passport. These 50s style restaurants can be found all around California, and the first thing you’ll notice is the pared down menu, which features nothing but burgers, cheeseburgers, fries and drinks. No nuggets, no desserts, no sandwiches or cafe items. Just burger and fries. What sets this chain apart from its competitors is the freshness of its ingredients – the salad on your burger is fresh, the fries and burgers are made to order (and not from frozen), and the dressing is tasty.
But at least half the fun of In-N-Out is the ‘secret’ menu – you can order any burger ‘mustard grilled’ – cooked on one side plan, then mustard is added before it’s flipped. Tastes a-ma-zing. Or try a grilled cheese – a plain bread bun with melted cheese (you can add salad to this combo, too). Oh, and don’t forget animal fries (these are regular fries topped with cheese, spread and grilled onions).
Milkshake at Bennett’s
The LA Farmers’ Market at 3rd and Fairfax is a fun place to spend the morning, and a great place to pick up fruit and veg – don’t buy too much else, here, though – unless you think $15 for a toffee apple is anything like reasonable pricing. But the market is a fantastic place for an affordable meal or snack. At the centre of the market are a cluster of tables surrounded by food stands serving flavours from every corner of the globe – Brazilian barbecue up against British fish and chips, and pizza at $2 a slice.
Once you’ve grabbed a table, though, head to Bennett’s for your beverages – this Americana-style stand has been serving ice cream, malts and shakes in the market since 1946. All the ice cream is made fresh mixed on the spot, and there are some really unusual flavours (anyone for pumpkin ice cream? Or Sav Blanc sorbet?). Any of the ice creams can be made into a wonderful shake. Perfect for sipping in the LA sunshine.
This blog post is an entry into the Foodies100/GLORIOUS! soup #GloriousAdventures blogger challenge. Glorious is inviting bloggers to share travel adventures inspired by their soups. My post is inspired by the Mexican tomato and fire-roasted pepper soup, which reminds me of the amazing, authentic tex-mex food that you’ll find in California.
Oh, and just in case you thought California is all about serious food adventures, here’s us on Splash Mountain. That’s my “dignity at all times” face.