California is a great place for food lovers. Particularly favourable climate conditions allow to grow and breed quality ingredients. The attention to the product is key: local, organic sustainable, seasonable ingredients are at he heart of the (new) California cuisine. Alice Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, has contributed significantly to this concept of California Cuisine. Alice is also the vice President of Slow Food International, the movement founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 which promotes culinary traditions and diversity under the motto “good clean and fair“. California cuisine is also the result of Latino, Asian and Mediterranean influences.
A great place to find superb products is the Santa Monica Farmers Market which is committed to promoting healthful eating and sustainable agriculture in California. It is a great place to shop: from strawberries to citrus, from beets to avocados and then eggs, cheese, dried fruits and even buffalo meat, everything is just great and no surprise many of the chefs of top restaurants in the area are often seen wandering through the stalls of the market. I got to know (and love) Meyer’s lemons which are dark yellow, almost orange and sweeter than usual lemons – they are great with seafood.
As regards to eating out, I’d like to mention 3 places I particularly liked so far. Top of my list is “Rustic Canyon” in Santa Monica, a real neighborhood restaurant and wine bar, where celebrating two the best things in life: great food and wine. Farmers Market inspired menu changes often and include small plates of roasted and fried vegetables, local prawns and fish. My favourite course is the re-visitation of the classical hamburger sandwich prepared with organic local meat, sharp cheddar, onion fondue, housemade pickles and herb remoulade. Another great example of California cuisine – this time with a strong Italian influence – is “Gjelina”, in Venice. Once you taste the Cavaillon melon with lightly grilled squid, or the wild arugula with sheep cheese and corn, or the cilantro-pork sausage, charred black in the wood-burning oven and served with lentils and a tingly fig mostarda you’ll be more than willing to forgive the trendy atmosphere and crowd. Finally, a very special place in San Pedro right in the port of Los Angeles: the “San Pedro Fish Market”. You buy your fresh fish and seafood which is then cooked “a la plancha” with vegetables and a lightly hot sauce. Cooks are Mexican, from the Oaxaca region and customers are mostly Latinos. We bought two lobsters and 1,5 kilo of shrimps and bay scallops for 60 dollars. With a couple of Pacifico was a real feast. Do not miss this place.