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Aug 2, 2011 12:59 AM

Foodie related ideas for 2-3 weeks travel in greater Cal

Hi, gone be in California around mid of December and trying to build some course which combines the great sightseeing options and foodie related special places/activities.
I gone travel alone so i'm pretty "quick" this time, and my base will probably be in Cupertino Santa Clara area, where i will spend a couple of days for visiting friends.
Are there any special food relates fests or exhibits that may be relevant for December (or even late November) ? Can you please also recommend the must visit (and buying) close/open market expiriences ? Anything will be great, also Asian/exotic ingridients speciality related markets for renewing supplies of condiments back home :-)
Regarding the food and restaurants in the bigger cities - i visited San Fransisco in the past and have tasted some of it Culinary adventours, i think i will repeat it again for a couple of days to explore more.. Not visited LA yet, worth including it for the places i'm looking for? Other Foodies adventourus cities?

Thanks a lot ! Ofer

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  1. Highway 101 South to Santa Barbara from the San Jose area is developing quite a wine and dining reputation and still is lovely, rural and "old" California. Are you interested in anything about 300 miles south of Cupertino? Head towards Ballard Inn and Restaurant in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country if you want an excellent base for further exploration. Paso Robles is a bit closer and also has many rural wine and old town dining opportunities today.

    The Ballard Inn & Restaurant
    2436 Baseline Ave, Solvang, CA 93463

    2 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      Thanks for the information. Driving Highway 101 surly will go into the list and i will check for the possible food related attractions on this route. Paso Robles area looks great from photos, hopefully i manage to get there..
      300 miles from Cupertino area might be a bit far but if the target of driving worth it i may go the distance :-) I still preffer to try and find those rural "old" California areas that i'm for sure interested in, in more close by areas.
      Would be get also to get tips on speciality markets in the area and Cal in general, those special foodie market heavens that i'm addicted to "-)
      Thanks !

      1. re: oferl

        Interesting goal. We are such a relatively "new" state really and our state agriculture has always been big business so new and old won't go together. But the new organic farmer market fad seems to be bigger in Northern Cal than Southern Cal. Probably best to ask your questions on the San Francisco Board. Alice Waters was the founder of this "new" movement to return to things "old" so best to work back from her and her restaurants in the Berkeley and Napa area.

        However, if you are in town when Gilroy has its Garlic Festival you are closer to Cupertino and you can see what agri-business does at least for one of its crops in this state. Garlic every which way from Sunday is celebrated at this legendary food festival.

        Ooops, sorry the Garlic Festival was last weekend:

        Here are some interesting restaurants mentioned in the article that are close by that participated in the Festival cooking contests - we recently went to Mundaka in Carmel and it was a great place and "old town" you may want to put on your driving destinations:

        o win the $5,000 prize, Dupuis bested three other chefs, Brandon Chase Miller of Mundaka in Carmel, Sebastian Nobile of Oak Tree Ristorante in Felton and Luca Rutigliano of CordeValle in San Martin. The event was hosted by "Top Chef" finalist Angelo Sosa.

    2. Eastside San Jose has a large Asian population and many shops, bakeries, snack stops, and restaurants worth taking several hours to explore. Story and Tulley Rds area.

      A half-hour south of SJ is the Morgan HIll-Gilroy stone fruit growing region. The orchards will be done for the year, but there are many fruit stands which carry fresh local winter vegs and dried local fruits.

      From Gilroy, head west over Hecker Pass to the coast, where the towns of Castroville and Watsonville are home to many small family farms and horticultural growers. There are several large fruit stands and you should be in time for artichoke season. The prices are wonderful on baby and medium sized artichokes rarely found in supermarkets.

      About 15 minutes south of Watsonville along Coast Highway 1, there's the small fishing harbor of Moss Landing. You can often find boats selling fish at the docks, or there is a fish market right along the water (Phil's). Can't beat fish right out of the water. Sea Harvest Restaurant in Moss Landing is located at the north side of the Elkhorn Slough (river) They also have a fish market with locally caught fish and they do a good job with their fresh fish dinners. You may be in time for the local Dungeness Crab season. They sell off the boats in Moss Landing and in Santa Cruz.. Sammer crabs but sweet and rich.

      An entertaining day (or overnight) trip from Cupertino would be across the valley to the east, skirting the south end of the SF Bay, and up through the Brentwood ag region at the south end of the Sacramento River Delta. Several local olive oil producers have tasting rooms there. From there it's a pastoral drive up along the delta to the historic ag towns of Walnut Grove and Locke; several interesting eating options are nearby.

      Berkeley might be a great day trip as well. There are several Indian foods markets with vast arrays of spices and ingredients along University Ave near San Pablo Ave., like Bombay Spice House. Many good artisan bakeries and food markets in Berkeley.

      One hour north of SF, the area at the coast around Bodega Bay is rich in small ag and fishery enterprise. Cowgirl Creamery is nearby with wonderful artisan cheeses. Hog island Oyster Farm is in Marshall, about 1/2 way up the eastern shore. A very Pastoral area.

      Just up the El Camino Real from Cupertino is Palo Alto. They have an extraordinary farmer's market on California St on the weekend (Sunday?) There are many many Farmer's Markets in the area, and they usually go year-round, as the farms just change crops in the mild growing conditions.

      As glbtrtr mentioned, the Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley areas along the Central Coast are rich in ag related businesses, mostly vineyards, wineries, lavendar farms, and olive ranches. So the opportunity for wine and olive oil tasting abounds.
      There are many farm-stays in the Paso area where you can stay on a working ranch, vineyard or organic farm. Farmer's Markets go year round here, and are certified to sell only products from their own ranches. No wholesale distributors allowed. These rules are strictly enforced. In Santa Margarita just south of Paso Robles, Rinconada Dairy produces sheep's milk cheeses. The nearby coastal towns of Morro Bay and Avila Beach each have fisheries and Seafood& Farmers Markets.

      Cowgirl Creamery - Petaluma Facility
      105 H St, Petaluma, CA 94952

      1. Don't have time to write out my planned itinerary, which I have been thinking about for several years now, but one of these days I am going to take two or three weeks and do a road trip tour of each and every one of the California Missions, as well as the food and wine related places near them (I don't think the location of most of the missions in or near wine producing areas is any accident). You'd get both big cities and rural areas, with a particular focus on the Central Coast. Of course, December isn't the ideal time for my dream trip. I'll do it either in spring (when everything is so beautifully green here) or October (best, sunniest weather, plus the harvest)...

        1. If you do venture to LA, the San Gabriel Valley on the east side of the LA area is the Mecca for Asian food in California. You can check out the LA Board here on Chowhounds for endless recommendations. To continue the mission history thread, Mission San Gabriel was the most economically successful of all 21 California missions. At Mission San Gabriel, Father Sánchez essentially saved Jedediah Smith and his men, who were the first Americans to explore California.
          December is one of the best times to be in the San Gabriel Valley. I always spend Christmas in Pasadena and the weather is usually warm and beautiful.