Back in February we took a 7-day trip to California. We started in Los Angeles and then drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. As usual, we documented the amazing food we had along the way and I wanted to share it with you – as suggestions of great restaurants to try should you venture there yourself and also to inspire you to try something new. I can’t wait to try to re-create some of these yummy dishes in my own kitchen!
I didn’t capture everything, but I think I got a good sampling of some of the fabulous dishes we had.
**Some of these photos were taken in questionable light and with various cameras, so please forgive the inconsistency in quality.**
We stayed at The Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Home to Public Kitchen & Bar. The bar tenders there whip up fabulous concoctions featuring local in season ingredients and the kitchen is just as wonderful. We had lunch there on our last day in L.A. and I enjoyed a rum & diet coke with a steak sandwich on ciabatta roll with arugula and southwest aioli with a side of thyme dusted french fries. I loved the old school milk jug that my diet coke came in – so vintage! And the sandwich served on a cutting board gave it a rustic air which went perfectly with the sandwich. It was layers of freshly cooked rare roast beef with a little heat from the southwest aioli and the peppery arugula.
After a brief stay in Hollywood we moved on to Anaheim where we embraced our inner kid and romped through Disney Land for a day. We capped the day off with drinks and dinner in Downtown Disney. The most memorable dish of the night was found at the UVA Bar. Hello street fries with chorizo, spicy crema, shaved green onions, pickled garlic and cheese curds. This was basically a jacked up poutine which the Canadian in me LOVED! It was spicy and salty and perfect with a pint of cold beer. This is definitely on the list for a re-creation attempt at home!
Then it was off to pick up our rented convertible and start our drive up the coast to San Francisco. We stopped off just outside of Santa Barbara for lunch. We wanted to be somewhere overlooking the beach so our GPS came to our rescue to help us locate the Four Seasons hotel. We had lunch on the Bella Vista patio overlooking the ocean. We started with the ahi tuna tartare with lemon caper truffle vinaigrette and parmesan crisps. The tuna was layered between the crisps so it resembled a multi layer sandwich.
Then I had the chicken quesadilla with aged manchego and tomatillo with a side fruit salad. My husband Kevin had the portobello mushroom grilled cheese with brie, tomato spread and watercress on country bread with spring greens salad. He generously gave me a taste and it was divine. They also served their signature tomato spread with freshly baked bread which they served to us at the start of the meal. However, we devoured it so voraciously that I sadly have no picture – but that spread is engrained in my psyche. I have already attempted to recreate it but to no success. I will not rest until I figure it out!
We stayed overnight in Monterey at the Portola Hotel & Spa. We arrived very late and had not had dinner yet so at 9:00 we found ourselves in Peter B’s Brew Pub which is attached to the hotel. They brew their own beer on site and have an extensive pub menu. We had fried calamari and fried artichokes (fitting as we were in the heart of artichoke growing territory!). We also shared the portola pie which is a white pizza with locally grown roasted garlic and fresh Dungeness crab on it. I am not going to lie – I was not a fan of the pizza. It was like crab overload (can’t believe I’m even saying this!). It just tasted a bit too buttery and sweet for my liking. And as such, no pictures.
We finally made it to San Francisco and spent 3 days wandering the city enjoying some of the most amazing food of the trip. We are a big fan of wine bars and cheese platters – I mean, who isn’t?! So, we managed to hit up 2 over the course of our stay. I loved the variation in accompaniments served with the cheese. The first bar served honey, almonds and grapes. The second wine bar (The Press Club) served olive tapenade, mostarda and a kiwi peach preserve. They all were excellent pairings and not something I would think to put out with a cheese platter. However, I will now!
One night Kevin really wanted steak – but the usual suspects just seemed all together too usual. I don’t like going to restaurants while travelling that we have at home. I feel like we have to grab the opportunity to delve into local offerings. So, after some searching we found 5A5 and we were so glad we did! This was a spectacular meal from start to finish. The flavours were incredible! The chef started us with an amuse bouche which was an oven roasted mushroom with a blue cheese creme fresh (warning: terrible photo!).
Next came our appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops with maple roasted squash. The sauces were cocoa vinaigrette, garlic aioli and herb oil. We weren’t crazy about the maple roasted squash but the scallops were perfect.
The main and sides were out of this world! We both had the 6 oz filet with candied bacon, pan roasted garlic and demi-glace. The sides were offered a la carte and were perfect for sharing so we ordered truffled mac and cheese with gruyère and cheddar and assorted wild mushrooms (maitake, golden enokitake, eryngii, honshimeji) with sherry wine & garlic. That mac and cheese was ridiculously good – the truffles added a depth of earthy flavour that paired perfectly with the mushrooms and beef.
The finale to this spectacular meal was our dessert – a sour cream parfait with lychee, mango and coconut soup. Every bit of it was smooth, cool and creamy without being overly sweet. 5A5 served us a meal we won’t soon forget and I would highly recommend this restaurant. It was not an inexpensive meal, but the high level of service and quality makes it a stand out.
Our final dinner in San Francisco was a happy accident. We had drinks on the top floor of the Marriott, watching the sun set over the city. We were planning to head out for sushi after that but when we got to the street level we turned the wrong direction and found ourselves facing Tropisueno. All thoughts of sushi went out the window and we knew we just had to go for Mexican instead. It was an excellent decision! The food was so good we totally forgot to take pictures of the first 2 dishes we ordered. They serve home-made tortillas with a trio of salsa – in my opinion the tomatillo one was the stand out, but I prefer a mild salsa.
We decided to order only appetizers to share. We started with molotes de elote y chorizo (corn masa “cigars” filled with Mexican chorizo, fresh corn and cotija cheese) and empanadas de hongos (Mexico City style turnovers filled with pasilla, mushrooms, and cheese, topped with guacamole). Those were devoured without any thought of photos – both were awesome! Then we ordered tacos al pastor (soft tacos with grilled marinated pork, pineapple, and salsa) and camarones al mojo de ajo (wild white shrimp sautéed with butter and lots of garlic, finished with a squeeze of lime. The tacos were just ok, but the shrimp was probably the most amazing, most flavourful shrimp I have ever had the pleasure of eating. I HAVE to find a way to make this one at home.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this run down of the great food we had in California as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it.