San Francisco Bay Area:
- Pier Market Seafood Restaurant – Creamy and chunky clam chowder with warm sourdough bread, fresh tuna steaks and smooth local beers – how can you go wrong? Don’t forget to ask for a seat by the window so you can take in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the sea lions working on their tans!
- Mustard’s Grill – Proudly ate an entire roasted garlic clove in addition to the delicious Mongolian pork chop (their specialty) served with sweet and sour red cabbage surrounded by their housemade mustard sauce and complimented by a Napa Valley Michael Pozzan Cab Sav.
- the girl and the fig – You cannot go here without trying the grilled fig and arugula salad topped with toasted pecans, chèvre (goat cheese!), mano formate pancetta, figs and port vinaigrette. I’d also suggest, if you’re taking a break between wine tastings, either the salami and brie baguette sandwich or the top sirloin burger.
- The wineries worth the tasting fee (and in no particular order) – Grgich, Gundlach Bundschu (pronounced Gun-Lock Bun-Shoe), Buena Vista, Goosecross, Andretti, ConnCreek, Cakebread (a staple of most wine country excursions), Adastra, Peju Province.
- To avoid: Sebastiani (too commercial); Hotel room service (with all the great food at your fingertips, take a nap after the vineyards close at 5 or 6 and venture out at night).
San Diego Area:
- South Beach Bar and Grille – FAB fish tacos (the mahi and baja were our personal favorites) and great views of the Cali sunsets; fried jalapenos dipped in ranch – what else can I say?
- Trattoria Acqua (in La Jolla) – Gourmet Italian done right – from the al dente pasta with kicking pomodoro sauce to the fried brie in phyllo dough with golden delicious apple slices on toasted bread and melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto.
- Solare – Deliciously fresh Italian food in a very feng shui'd atomosphere on the naval base where they filmed Top Gun!
- In ‘N Out – Crunchy, toasted bun + fresh lettuce + tomato + flavorful moist patty = burger heaven - you can't go to the West Coast without trying it! (Avoid the fries - they are better at Fatburger!)
- Baked – Best. Cinnamon. Buns. Ever.
- To avoid: The shops/restaurants on the Mission Bay Walkway – when “they” tell you to try places off the beaten track and away from the tourist areas, they mean it!
Not to cross-contaminate our clubs but for all the foodie-bookies out there, I’d highly recommend Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, a foodies bible (according to Danielle) that was the perfect companion on my trip.
All in all, visiting California reminded this foodie that simple food done well can be a great flavor exploration. My souvenirs from the trip: a nice tan, a case of wine and five extra pounds!