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Looking for excellent "Californian" menu ideas

We have some friends from France coming to visit in a couple weeks. They've wined and (home-cooked) dined us on regional specialties when we've stayed with them, and now we'd like to return the favor.

What kind of dinner menu would you Chowhounds put together to try to showcase delicious, seasonal California foods? We're in Northern Cal so are leaning more in the direction of wine country / Chez Panisse / Zuni style meals. Vegetable-heavy, lots of herbs, fresh, etc. Definitely some Cowgirl Creamery cheeses and regional wines.
But we know that Southern Californian styles--especially w/Latin American flavors--would be newer and probably more interesting (challenging?) to them. (I know they can't handle much heat in their foods..)

Any ideas?? How would you showcase the Golden State's bounty?

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  1. Given that it is spring, I would have to include either roasted or grilled asparagus! Maybe a Zuni roasted chicken as well along with fingerling potatoes? Beautiful farmer's market greens dressed with local olive oil to go along with Cowgirl Creamery cheese. Strawberry shortcake for dessert--using James Beard's (or Marion Cunningham's) cream biscuits. Yum!

    1. avocados are in season... make guacamole.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jaykayen

        Maybe Avocados in three styles?

        Common Guacamole (served in the Avocado shell)
        Pureed Avocado with Avocado Leaves or Fennel Seed (served with shellfish)
        Tempura Avocado with a light creamy, chipotle sauce

      2. It seems to me that California loves Tri-tip. I don't usually see it anywhere but in California.

        1 Reply
        1. re: primebeefisgood

          Mmmm...Santa Maria tri-tip steak. (wipes drool from lip...) There are some butchers there who will sell you one already in a delicious marinade. Tri-tip is slowly making it's way East thanx to ATK and other food shows that have featured it. So lucky to live in the Bay Area (he sighed, smugly.) adam

        2. This is may seem a little silly, but whenever I'm in California I love the huge salads they make at my parents golf course: bed of lettuce, sliced avocado or papaya half and all sorts of other fruit and veg. Maybe a scoop of tuna salad. Perhaps not the most elegant thing ever, but such a good lunch on a hot day and definitely not European.

          1. I would try and use ingredients that are quintessentially California. Artichokes, almonds, olives, figs, strawberries...