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Jul 25, 2006 03:26 PM

Top 10 Tastes of California

I have an interesting request, and hopefullty a fun one that will spark some great ideas...

First, the facts:
-- I have never been to California. I am from San Antonio, Texas, and go to school in New York City.
-- My father and I will be visiting some schools in California from Saturday August 26 to Friday September 1. We fly into LA and out of SF.
-- We will be renting a car, so mobility won't be much of an issue. The plan is to make the drive between the LA area to the SF area along the coastline highway, which I understand is beautiful.
-- The only two places we must go are Pasadena and Stanford, but those will likely be just during the day on Monday (Pasadena) and Wednesday (Stanford). All areas surrounding these cities (say, less than a 2-hour drive one way) and the environs in between are fair game. We are willing to travel for great food.
-- Nothing is set as of yet, although I plan to make reservations at Manresa in Los Gatos and Chez Panisse in Berkeley. And I've already been placed on the waiting list at The French Laundry. Also considering Lucques when in LA, but that one's not as certain, it just happens to be one of the few LA restaurants I've heard of).

Now, the question:

What are the 10 things you think it would be absolutely criminal to leave California without tasting?

-- We love all kinds of food, from fine dining to hole-in-the-wall taquerias and everything in between. That being the case, any and all suggestions are welcome. I wouldn't mind, for example, seeing Oysters and Pearls from TFL on the same list as an In-n-Out Burger. That's exactly what I'm after, in fact. Regardless of price, regardless of location we just the best food, period.

And and all help is greatly appreciated.

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  1. I might not have 10 here, and you probably can't do them all because they are all scrunched together.

    1. Fried artichokes at the Big Artichoke in Salinas ... just for the kitsch
    2. Swanton Berry Farm, just North of Santa Cruz
    3. Artichoke soup and ollieberry pie at Duartes in Pescadero
    4. Goat Cheese at Harley Farms in Pescadero
    5. Beans at Phipps Ranch in Pescadero (Pescaderois the size of a postage stamp, but worth a try ... the NY Times said that the tacos at the gas station were the best outside of Mexico ... well, I don't know)

    1. La Super Rica in Santa Barbara. Great tacqueria, made famous by Julia Child's frequent visits there. Ignore the hype, enjoy the food. Search the board for more info on what to get there.

      Try to find a tri-tip cookout in the Lompoc/Santa Maria area when you are passing through. Check the local papers for festivals/fairs where they might be cooking. Tri-tip was invented there, and there is still nothing like it ... succulent beef grilled and smoked over red oak logs, served with santa maria style (saucy) beans, grill-toasted garlic bread, and a simple salad on the side. If you can find it, you must have it.

      1. Some local favorites in Santa Barbara area:

        1. The Number 15 Tocino Special at La Superica in Santa Barbara.

        2. The Chile Relleno ala carte at Rudy's on Montecito Street in Santa Barbara

        3. The antipasto misto appetizer at Ca'Dario in Santa Barbara.

        4. The salmon sushi-teri combo at Sushi Teri on Bath Street in Santa Barbara.

        5. Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls at Mai's - Main Street, Ventura

        6. Seared fois gras any which way at Sage and Onion in Santa Barbara

        7. Brazillian coffee chip ice cream at McConnels in Santa Barbara

        7. Chimmichurri sauce (on beef preferably, but they serve it as a bread dip) at Cafe Buenos Aires in Santa Barbara

        8. Ciabatta bread at Our Daily Bread, Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara

        9. Fresh produce at Tri-Counties market, Milpas Street, Santa Barbara

        10. Tri-tip at the Democratic League Labor Day Barbeque in Oak Park, SSanta Barbara.

        1 Reply
        1. re: glbtrtr

          I'm right with glbtrtr on the Super Rica and Ca' Dario recs (although I'd substitute the incomparable ricotta-filled ravioli in brown sage butter or ciotola appetizer rather than the antipasto). But AVOID Sage and Onion, well past its prime! Any decent chef can sear foie gras, either in S.B. or elsewhere in your CA sojourn.

          For a fun and totally enjoyable meal on your way up the coast, think about Monterey Fish House in Monterey. Great fresh fish prepared any way you like and ice cold Anchor Steam beers. In no way a tourist trap - very good food. But not a foodie temple like French Laundry or other high-value targets. Still, get a reservation or get shut out!

        2. For a terrific steak dinner go to Jockos in Nipomo. Its about 3 minutes from the highway and a California landmark institution. But its very crowded, reservations are necessary unless you eat in the bar, like I did last time. Thick, juicy, their meats are grilled Santa Maria-style, outdoors on on a giant oak pit. Breakfast is excellent there too, but for the steaks (& ribs) the outdoor BBQ pit is not fired up until dinnertime. I like the ribeye( mid $20's), but their sandwiches are humongous too (like the tri-tip). Meals come with lots of fixin's such as salad, potato, beans, salsa and big chunks of bread. At this time of year its incredibly popular, so you should call ahead and check out the wait...even WITH a reservation.

          Jocko's Steakhouse
          125 N. Thompson Ave. (Tefft St.)
          Nipomo, CA 93444

          1. Prixe fix dinner at Sierra Mar restaurant at Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. Fabulous food and views. Advance reservations recommended.