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California's Food History and Iconic Dishes?

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Hello Chowhounds! I'm interested in some classic, iconic Californian dishes, and how they came to be that way. I know about Hangtown Fry, Green Goddess dressing, Baja cooking, etc. but I'm curious as to any other dishes or cuisines that have roots in the state's past - whether they're really obscure, local-knowledge only types, or dishes that came from California that now appear on menus across the nation... Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance - CF

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  1. Hi! I know I'm going to sound like a tourist (cause I am! Native New Yorker who's only been to California 4 times), but I love geographical gastronomy. Some iconic California dishes/treats that come to mind are:

    sourdough bread (invented in San Francisco)
    cioppino
    dungenous crab
    Mission burritos

    Date shakes
    fish tacos
    fried artichokes

    49 Replies
    1. re: Sra. Swanky

      Dungeness crab is decidedly Northwestern.

      I agree with everything else on your list but I would also point out that California revolutionized pizza in the US.

      1. re: jpc8015

        Dungeness is named after a town in Washington

        1. re: Alan408

          It is actually the Dungeness Spit near the town of Sequim on the Olympic Peninsula.

          1. re: Alan408

            California may not have been the originator of the Dungeness crab menu item, but they're an avid adopter and dishes like Crab Louis are decidedly Californian.

            1. re: ferret

              Crab Louie is from Washington

              1. re: ferret

                It is likely that Crab Louie came from Oregon or Washington.

                1. re: jpc8015

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crab_Louie

                  This is fun!

              2. re: Alan408

                True, but the crabs do live around San Francisco so I'll take them (or would, if they weren't so expensive this year)

              3. re: jpc8015

                Sorry,
                I'm a native New Havener and I'd like to point out that California bastardized apizza...............

                1. re: c oliver

                  Some might call a clam pizza a bastard :)

                  1. re: c oliver

                    I would eat that too.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Some might, but when Frank Pepe started serving them in the 1920s they were to be in compliance with Roman Catholic Church rules regarding no meat on Fridays or during Lent.
                      This non-Christian isn't affected, but doesn't eat them. I eat a traditional New Haven Apizza, dough, sauce, grated Pecirino Romano and spices...............

                    2. re: bagelman01

                      New York style, Chicago style, California style...they are all good.

                      1. re: jpc8015

                        Spoken like a true non-tristater!

                        Mr Taster

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Bred, born, and raised on the West Coast.

                          1. re: jpc8015

                            I rest my case!

                            Mr Taster

                        2. re: jpc8015

                          why settle for good, when New Haven Apizza is Great?

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            You can get a thin crust pizza anywhere.

                            1. re: jpc8015

                              See prior comment :)

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9686...

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: jpc8015

                                New Haven apizza is so much more than just a thin crust. While this is the truly great pizza, I do like the outside the box toppings that California popularized. I also enjoy many of the Italian toppings that were never as popular in NH.

                                1. re: melpy

                                  I'm sure it is great pizza but to discount every other pizza because it isn't New Haven pizza is a bit short sighted.

                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                    Especially since this IS about CA food history. AND it's not about there never having been a version of a food or dish anywhere else in the world.

                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                      I don't think I discounted every other kind. I think I said that NH is not just about a thin crust.

                                      I also stated that I enjoy the CA revolution of toppings.

                                      Are you sure you meant to respond to me?

                                      I live in Central PA and I enjoy the style of some of the pizza here too. I just wouldn't say that NH is about the thin crust. All the major chains sell a thin crust but I wouldn't take Papa John's over Pepe's or Modern given the choice.

                                      I like to make pizza at home using the super screaming hot oven crust style of NH with the unique toppings popularized by CA.

                                      1. re: melpy

                                        >> I like to make pizza at home using the super screaming hot oven crust style of NH

                                        And how do you simulate coal oven temps with a home oven?! I'd love to know!

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Outdoor pizza oven

                                          At home without this I can get close with oven on 550 for an hour with the stone in there, pizza just takes a little longer see second image.

                                           
                                           
                                          1. re: melpy

                                            That's a thing of beauty. That's not a coal burning oven though, is it? It looks like wood to me.

                                            Mr Taster

                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                              Yes, wood.

                                            2. re: melpy

                                              The crust is to die for in that pic!

                                            3. re: Mr Taster

                                              I read a blog once from a guy who moved from NY to somewhere in the south.... he spent an enormous amount of time and brain power trying to re create NY pizza (which is really the only pizza worth re-creating :-) )

                                              what he finally did was brilliant- he disabled the lock on his self cleaning oven - set the oven to self clean and cooked the pizza in the oven at about 900 degrees - maybe a good plan to have a fire extinguisher on hand....

                                            4. re: melpy

                                              I did not necessarily mean that you had discounted every other type of pizza...there are those that do though. This isn't only true for New Haven. there are fans of every style of pizza who love to tout there respective favorite as the "only real pizza".

                                      2. re: bagelman01

                                        Ha! No way. So, sorry....
                                        Some folks prefer the California style pizza! Some Chicago...etc. different strokes, for different folks! I like it all, but California style is my favorite, every time.

                                        1. re: sedimental

                                          Agree. Since this is about CA food, I think that stands for itself. ::)

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Yes, I think the base of California cuisine is to remake, redo, reinvent. I have several favorite California cookbooks. Love them all.

                                            Fabulous!

                                  2. re: jpc8015

                                    Thank you, jpc8015! For dungeness crab, do you mean decidedly Northwestern California, or the U.S. region as a whole? And agreed, California pizza is wonderful.

                                    1. re: CF52787

                                      The center of the Dungeness crab universe is Washington State, not California.

                                  3. re: Sra. Swanky

                                    Fish tacos are from (Baja) California, aka Mexico

                                    1. re: Alan408

                                      Ok - that's what I thought. I know California was close! I had some awesome ones in San Diego. (Keep in mind, I'm a Western US turista!)

                                      And the fish tacos here in NY are disgraceful, of course.

                                      1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                        From Ensenada, Fishermen from Japan cooked some fish tempura style

                                        1. re: Alan408

                                          Brilliant!!

                                    2. re: Sra. Swanky

                                      Thank you, Sra. Swanky! Those are great suggestions - I'll add them to my list!

                                      1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                        What's a "date shake" please?

                                        Probably even steamed artichokes.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Milk Shake flavored with dates, from a place in the desert

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            There's a region along Highway 111 that's a big date producer. Shield's Date Garden is a popular rest stop that has them That's where I tried my first date shake. Like Alan408 said, it's a milk shake flavored with crystalized dates. They're rich and yummy.

                                            http://roadfood.com/Restaurant/Overvi...

                                            1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                              Not that it has to do with anything, but I'm not a huge date fan - however, put anything into a milkshake and I'm pretty much sold! Sounds delicious, also thanks for the tip about the producer.

                                              1. re: CF52787

                                                Personally, I find date shakes far too cloying.

                                                Mr Taster

                                            2. re: c oliver

                                              Drop everything right now and make this!!!!
                                              http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes...

                                              (I use almond milk and non dairy ice cream and its still awesome....)

                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                Sorry, kids. I don't drink ANY milkshakes and dates sound TOO sweet.

                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                Hadley's Date Shake

                                                http://www.hadleyfruitorchards.com/no...

                                              3. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                I realize there's plenty of discussion of "San Francisco sourdough" but I just want to point out that "sourdough bread" was not "invented" in San Francisco. "Sourdough" is simply flour and water that has been allowed to be colonized by wild yeast -- it's the original yeast dough!

                                                As others have noted, it's the strains of wild yeast in San Francisco that give the local bread its unique flavor profile.

                                              4. If you are doing research vs chatting, try Sunset Magazine

                                                Welcome to Chowhound

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Alan408

                                                  Hi Alan408 - thanks for the tips, and the welcome! Just getting used to the discussion format so pardon any missteps there... I am doing a bit of research, and I really appreciate everyone taking the time to respond! I'll try Sunset Magazine; I'm looking for the origins of these foods, so maybe some back issues will help...

                                                2. Garlic Fries?

                                                  French Fries seasoned with garlic, from the Gilroy Garlic Festival

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Alan408

                                                    That trend has made its way north to Seattle. I do not love it.

                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                      I do not like them either

                                                    2. re: Alan408

                                                      And don't forget, no Dodger game is complete without a basket of garlic fries.

                                                      Mr Taster

                                                    3. I believe the fortune cookie is a California invention. Don't know that it qualifies as iconic Californian, but it's a product of the Chinese migration.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: ferret

                                                        http://www.infoplease.com/spot/fortun...

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          As a youth, there was an older Woman from Japan in the neighborhood, she usually had flat cookies that tasted like fortune cookies.

                                                          According to one of her daughters, they were the same as fortune cookies but were imported from Japan. They came in a can, probably 5 gal size

                                                          A cup of her tea and some of those cookies (wafers), a fond memory

                                                      2. Miners bones?

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: kagemusha49

                                                          What are those please?

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            I think they are just a term for beef ribs.

                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                              Beef ribs that have been marinaded in something that tastes of honey. I had the impression that they were an original Californian concoction but I'm darned if I can find a reference.

                                                        2. Wow, thank you everybody!! My email inbox is filling very quickly and I love all your replies. I came onto CHOW because I wanted to supplement some research I've already done, but hit a wall. I know Chowhounds are incredibly enthusiastic and I'm glad I was not wrong. Now I've got some digging to do!

                                                          25 Replies
                                                          1. re: CF52787

                                                            Wiki is your friend...and ours also :)

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              Depending on the reason for the research Wikipedia may not be an acceptable source. Many college courses expressly prohibit citing Wikipedia. But, it is a good place to start, there are normally legitimate sources noted at the bottom of the page.

                                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                                Yep. I certainly don't use it for anything "important."

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Chowhound is not important? I am devastated.

                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                    Please note the quotation marks :)

                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                Haha, agreed - but Wikipedia is only taking me so far! For instance, is there a dominant food of the Northern-most part of the state? Or a dish that's directly associated with, say, Palm Springs? Etc. etc. Thank you!!

                                                                1. re: CF52787

                                                                  I think the date shake is pretty closely associated with Palm Springs.

                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                    Oh thank you!

                                                                  2. re: CF52787

                                                                    North Coast, Salmon Candy (?)

                                                                    Desert, Date Shakes (?)

                                                                    1. re: Alan408

                                                                      Salmon candy?!

                                                                      1. re: CF52787

                                                                        Klamath River

                                                                        Almost every store/gas station sells it

                                                                        Sweet smoked salmon

                                                                        1. re: Alan408

                                                                          I just looked it up: it sounds incredible and I must try some ASAP. Thanks!

                                                                          1. re: CF52787

                                                                            Its not actually candy. Its salmon brined in brown sugar usually for a few days before its smoked. Look for Indian Candy Smoked Salmon a few alaska sites have good recipes.

                                                                    2. re: CF52787

                                                                      I was just using it to verify when someone gave a food that I wasn't familiar with. Here's something about foods of the state.

                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuisine_...

                                                                      1. re: CF52787

                                                                        I grew up in Redding, in the far-north Sacramento Valley, and I'm drawing a blank as far as a signature dish or dominant food in that part of the state. If you go a little further south down the valley, you come to prime olive-growing country, and also a lot of walnut and almond orchards. But there really aren't any iconic local dishes that come from those--just the ingredients for many dishes.

                                                                        If you go farther south still--down around Vacaville--there was the Nut Tree, a store and restaurant that operated from the 1920's through the mid-1990's. They were famous for their breads, and their decorated honey cookies, and a fresh fruit salad with marshmallow sauce (which was better than it sounds), among others. The Vacaville Museum sells a Nut Tree cookbook, if you want to read more or see the recipes http://www.vacavillemuseum.org/store

                                                                        1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                          The Nut Tree was way more sophisticated than one could expect for the surroundings. They had a great, innovative restaurant with California cuisine, and as a kid I loved the toy store, filled with quality European toys. It has certainly been missed now that the grounds are home to a shopping center.

                                                                          1. re: Tripeler

                                                                            I adored the toy store--the whole place, really. The Nut Tree was absolutely a mandatory stop on our way to or from the city. We'd always spend an hour or more, just wandering around, and get back on the road munching on some Dilly Bread, or a gooey taffy sucker, and clutching a little bag of Pot Shots postcards http://www.ashleighbrilliant.com/. Ah, those were the days...

                                                                            1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                              It was always a welcome rest stop on our way from Palo Alto to Reno or Tahoe

                                                                          2. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                            Yeah Vacaville! And I know some of the original Nut Tree clan!

                                                                            http://www.nuttreeusa.com/history/

                                                                            And it's exactly the right distance for weekend dining in SF, Napa, OR Sacto!

                                                                            And OP, don't forget Santa Maria tri tip Bar B Q!

                                                                            Oh, too late.

                                                                            1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                              Not to forget, for many decades, the 40 miles or so of highway from Vallejo to Sacramento (US 40, later part of I-80) passed through open country most of the way; anyone offering refreshments, especially in Summer, drew passing cars. This was before the massive fast-food chains. And Nut Tree was unique -- a whole oasis! It expanded around 1963 adding a "coffee tree," across the road, and a small-gauge train ranging the grounds. Became a favorite family stop and we'd always pick up those miniature fresh bread loaves. Eastbound starting around Vallejo were periodic billboards: "Only xx minutes to Nut Tree!"

                                                                              Herb Caen (SF Chronicle) once quoted a French travel brochure offering SF - Sacramento excursions, "avec un arrêt à Nut Tree, complexe de renomée nationale!" (complex of national renown).

                                                                              By 1990, the longtime country look of the I-80 corridor was gone, replaced by jumped-up suburban housing developments seemingly the whole way, and the oasis role of Nut Tree (or Milk Pail or the giant orange near Sac'to) was gone too.

                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                Check out the pictures in the timeline in my link above. I believe it's the sixth one that mentions "delicious Western food".

                                                                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                  Yes, great link, Shrink! Captures some of what I remember from the 1960s, restaurant, bakery with millions of little loaves, train, airfield. I didn't realize the British royal family were among its visitors.

                                                                                  The thing is, Nut Tree was an unusual mixture of the customary highway-attraction hucksterism plus at the same time real merit, like its sit-down restaurant that always featured fresh local produce.

                                                                                  From the website, it looks as if someone is in the process of resurrecting, or exploiting, the Nut Tree "brand" based on its past glory, but now offering more or less just another cluster of chain restaurants and retailers, which is not the same thing at all.

                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                    Of course it's not the same but they do still have some rides for the kids and there is the old-timey ice cream place and Villa Corona, which is a locally owned Mexican restaurant that opened a new location there.

                                                                                    The airfield is still there, right? Very small planes only.

                                                                                    But yeah, mostly it's now just another mall.

                                                                                2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                  I've been to Vacaville many times during the past 10 years (relative at Travis) and had NO idea about Nut Tree except the signs (i.e. Nut Tree Pkwy). This has been fascinating reading.

                                                                                  1. re: laliz

                                                                                    I like this version too

                                                                                    http://modernkiddo.com/im-nuts-over-t...

                                                                        2. Ranch Dressing

                                                                          Chinese Chicken Salad

                                                                          1. California Roll

                                                                            1. Cobb salad.

                                                                              1. McDonald's

                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                  Good one, the drive in burger

                                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                    I thought this was Illinois?

                                                                                    1. re: melpy

                                                                                      McDonald's is now based in Illinois but the first one was in California. At the time it was a truly Californian concept.

                                                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                                                        The original single-store McDonald's brothers place was in California. Ray Kroc was then selling milkshake machines and this was his best customer. Bought out the McD brothers, took the idea and ran with it. Ray lived in Arlington Heights, Illinois just a couple of blocks from where I grew up. The first Ray Kroc McDonalds was in Des Plaines, Illinois a couple of towns over from Arlington Heights. Expanded from there.

                                                                                        1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                                          Fine, but the concept of a quick drive up hamburger shop was uniquely Californian at the time.

                                                                                    2. Anything with avocados or artichokes, two things I'd never seen until I moved to California (ok, that was a few decades ago). Sand dabs (a small flatfish found off the central/northern California coast), sardines (making a comeback after Monterey Bay was nearly fished out completely in the mid 20th century) and squid (what they fished after they ran out of sardines) for seafood. California rolls, the state's contribution to sushi cuisine.

                                                                                      When I think of California cuisine I think of fruit and vegetable-centric cooking. Like fruit cocktail, invented just down the road back when Silicon Valley was all orchards.

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                        Abalone?

                                                                                        1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                          Monterey Jack cheese which I believe is one of the only "native" U.S. cheeses.

                                                                                          Italians and Mediterranean countries have been doing things with artichokes long before Californians have, so a fair question is what makes something "iconic"? Iconic to whom?

                                                                                          1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                                                            Good question.

                                                                                            We are 9th in worldwide production but produce most for the US market.

                                                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artichoke

                                                                                            And non-CA's are regularly shocked that they're not cheap usually. I've seen them (not bought them) for as much as $3.50 to $4.00 EACH.

                                                                                            1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                                                              That's a good question, actually. "Iconic" as in, heavily associated with a certain area, specifically in California. The culinary impact of immigrants to the region is everywhere, for sure. I'm just looking into the history of California cuisine, and curious about recipes, foods, flavors, and cultures that have influenced it; all of the answers from posters in this thread have been immensely helpful with that!

                                                                                              1. re: CF52787

                                                                                                How 'bout food concepts: Alice Waters, Trader Joes and "2-Buck Chuck."

                                                                                                1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                                                                  Gallo's Thunderbird fortified wine

                                                                                                  Fortified wines existed but not at Thunderbird's price

                                                                                                  Enabled homeless/poor to get a cheap buzz

                                                                                                  1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                    "Enabled homeless/poor to get a cheap buzz"

                                                                                                    ...my name is August West.

                                                                                                    1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                      And sneaky little 13 year old girls in the late 60's:)! We thought we were living it up!

                                                                                            2. Recently, sirarcha

                                                                                              1. Santa Maria Style BBQ and Pinquito beans.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: BeefeaterRocks

                                                                                                  Santa Maria Style BBQ is a great one. It's so intensely regional, it's not really even found in Los Angeles.

                                                                                                  Here's a rather colorful primer: (duck before the moustache hits you...)

                                                                                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-GFf...

                                                                                                  If you get to the central coast, you must go to Jocko's in Nipomo, CA, whose small spencer steak cooked over the Santa Maria style red oak grill is one of the best tasting steaks I've ever had. Thickly cut, with a smokey, extremely flavorful crust. I've been going for about 10 years, and it's been consistently great. (Incidentally, on my last visit a friend ordered the filet and got a truly weird cut of meat that was far inferior to the spencer.)

                                                                                                  I can tell you that the fancier, more expensive places that serve Santa Maria BBQ in the area (the other top contenders are The Hitching Post and Far Western Tavern) don't hold a candle to Jocko's steak in terms of flavor, lovely texture (tenderness of meat and chewiness of the charred crust) and depth of smokiness. I don't understand Jocko's magic, but it has been consistently there. As long as you order the spencer steak for dinner (they don't fire up the red oak pit for lunch), and make a reservation (as wait times can be 2+ hours without), you'll be golden.

                                                                                                  http://www.yelp.com/biz/jockos-steak-...

                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                2. There is a PBS showed called California's Gold

                                                                                                  They did some shows featuring food

                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                  1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                    Hey, thank you so much for all of your thoughtful answers, tips, recommendations, et al. This was seriously helpful and I'm really grateful there's a community out there that's so supportive of other food-lovers.

                                                                                                  2. Chop Suey

                                                                                                    San Francisco

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                      Mebbe yes, mebbe no.

                                                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chop_suey

                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                        I'd say it's a yes.

                                                                                                        A mid-19th century Chinese migrant in San Francisco simply wouldn't have access to the same ingredients with which to make "tsap seui" like it should be made back home in Taishan, so that would make American chop suey really a different dish altogether.

                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                          What about Rice-a-Roni, the "San Francisco Treat" --perhaps identified with CA even if not from CA. Though I think likely this is outside what OP had in mind.

                                                                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          I
                                                                                                          Thanks for the link

                                                                                                          1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                            You have heard/read 1860's chop suey? What did it say to you?

                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                              I enjoyed thinking of food

                                                                                                              1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                                Hi Alan,

                                                                                                                I was, at first, totally confused by your last two posts, but I think I figured it out.

                                                                                                                I'm going to assume you're not a native English speaker, and that you were attempting to say that you have heard/read *ABOUT* the 1860's version of chop suey. Am I right?

                                                                                                                I have as well. This book was a really interesting read about the history of Chinese food in America, using chop suey as a metaphor for the whole of American Chinese cookery-- highly recommended.

                                                                                                                http://www.amazon.com/Chop-Suey-Cultu...

                                                                                                                Also, this book was not quite as good, but still fascinating

                                                                                                                http://www.amazon.com/Fortune-Cookie-...

                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                      2. Carne asada fries

                                                                                                        California style burrito

                                                                                                        1. Ghirardelli chocolate.

                                                                                                          I realize I and others are coming up with products, rather than recipes/cuisines. Products are of course easier to trace and identify.

                                                                                                          I recall visiting my grandparents when I was young --they lived in the bay area and I in the midwest. I always associated those visits to CA with Trader Joes, Ghirardelli, meyer lemons, See's candies, crab and abalone.

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                                                                            Do you remember the SF billboards ?

                                                                                                            Hamms Beer
                                                                                                            Folgers Coffee

                                                                                                            Original TJ is So Cal, guy in a Hawaiian Shirt,

                                                                                                            1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                              No, I do not remember the billboards --certainly not the Hamms one. Growing up in WI, one beer billboard looked like all the rest :-) I know original TJs is So Cal --though I didn't back then. I also remember Cost Plus, but that is really getting afield from the OP's interest here, so didn't mention it.

                                                                                                              1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                                                                                Hamm's is born from the land of sky blue waters...but it was originally brewed in Minnesota. I think it is a Miller product brewed in Wisconsin now.

                                                                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                  Is it the beer that made Milwaukee jealous?

                                                                                                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                    I am not sure about that. What I can say though is that what made Milwaukee famous made a loser out of me.

                                                                                                          2. Somebody mentioned Cobb Salad, created at the original Brown Derby. Another Derby specialty was grapefruit cake, I've never heard of it anywhere else.

                                                                                                            1. The foods that come to my mind are:
                                                                                                              Santa Maria tri-tip
                                                                                                              French Dip sandwiches
                                                                                                              Sriracha sauce
                                                                                                              Cobb Salad

                                                                                                              1. Cobb Salad
                                                                                                                Hot fudge sauce
                                                                                                                Cocolate covered frozen bananas (Balboa Island)
                                                                                                                Hangtown Fry (ugh)/

                                                                                                                1. Born and raised california girl here, though have been in nyc since college (and that's been a while now!)

                                                                                                                  - abalone, seen in restaurants lightly grilled

                                                                                                                  - fried artichoke hearts from castroville- note for locals they sells bags for you to buy and cook at home!!
                                                                                                                  http://m.yelp.com/biz_photos/giant-ar...

                                                                                                                  - tri-tip sandwiches are common

                                                                                                                  -sourdough in everything from breads, pancakes, bagels, and baguettes

                                                                                                                  - santa barbara uni and spot prawns are well known but i can't think of recipes associated with them

                                                                                                                  -gilroy's garlic (christopher ranch is the most well known brand) has had some inventive packaging such as vacuum packed peeled cloves and roasted whole cloves for sale. Elephant garlic seems easier to find in CA

                                                                                                                  49 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                    I can remember the last time I DIDN'T have abalone. It was lunch in an Oakland restaurant. IIRC, it was in the low $30s. Lunch.

                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                      Whoahza! There is an abalone farm off the end of the pier in monterey where my family has purchased them many times, IIR were $10-$12 per, and like lobsters etc.. need to be kept alive. The sea otters in the bay eat them too.
                                                                                                                      These guys:
                                                                                                                      http://www.montereyabalone.com/index.htm
                                                                                                                      No prices listed here but they also ship overnight.....

                                                                                                                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                        I forgot to mention that this was about 30 years ago :(

                                                                                                                      2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                        Just saw it for $75 on the North Beach Restaurant menu, where most of the dishes are about $30.

                                                                                                                      3. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                        T I don't want to veer away from the subject of the thread but do you come visit California at all?

                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                          I'm there a few times a year for a week or two at a time when i eat almost exclusively fresh produce (just not the same on the east coast IMO) and spend some QT with the family.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                            I would have a hard time if I could not have access to the produce here. I am too spoiled.

                                                                                                                            1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                              My mom literally sent me a box with two dozen baby artichokes they bought off the roadside near castroville last week.....it made my freaking day!! She said the two day shipping was more than the artichokes cost! They made it to me in great shape....:))
                                                                                                                              But yes, i desperately miss the amazing cheap produce.....

                                                                                                                              1. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                                Be glad she didn't send garlic ice cream, from nearby Gilroy.

                                                                                                                                (It was someone's inspiration and generated a lot of buzz for the garlic festival, but it is hardly a popular or iconic food and unlike most things mentioned in this thread, it's relatvely recent. The various artichoke, pumpkin, nut, date, and other produce festivals have yet to come up with anything having the shock value of "garlic ice cream," though they do try.)

                                                                                                                                1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                  My daughter heard that there was Garlic Ice Cream at the festival in Gilroy, and she was all excited to try it. Now, at age 25 (some 18 years afterwards) she still recoils in horror at how it tasted.

                                                                                                                                2. re: Ttrockwood

                                                                                                                                  LOL my daughter moved abroad to New Zealand in 2012 and she (and her kiwi husband) adore See's peanut brittle. So I send her big shipments of all kinds of See's and last time the shipping was more than the chunk of money I spent on the candy! Mom's are like that ! I won't even torture by telling you about the beautiful huge stalks of asparagus on sale here right now for 99 cents a pound:)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                    I don't know where the asparagus is coming from that we're getting but it's sure not very tasty.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                      I disagree. It is perfect here but I live in the growing region where the Asparagus Festival is held.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, but have you noticed that even in the stores in Stockton, most of the asparagus is coming from Mexico….? (At least it was last Sunday when I was last out grocery shopping.)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                          I haven't been to a store since reading this but I'm sure betting there's no 'local' asparagus around. When we lived in Oregon, I got spoiled. They would cut it one evening and sell it the next morning. That was 'fresh and local." Nothing else ever measures up for me after that.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                            Oh, don't get me wrong - we get plenty of fresh, local asparagus, and I'm betting that as warm as the weather has been for the last few days, some of it may be hitting the stores now, but the first flush of 'gras has been imported. When I'm really nice to my brother's brother in law, I can get that day's cuttings of asparagus by the CASE (he's a farmer).

                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                              Oh, I totally understand you. There's asparagus and then there's true, local asparagus. And it never cost 99 cents a pound. I pay for the good stuff, eat it for a short period and wait expectantly for next year :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                We used to get it from my late FIL straight from the fields:)

                                                                                                                                            2. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                              No I did not notice asparagus from Mexico. The harvest has started here in California.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                So what you got was from CA? That's great. We're still waiting.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                  I was just at Raley's today and their asparagus is from Mexico.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                    It is harvest time in the central valley. It has been for a while.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                      Too bad ricepad, in Stockton, isn't getting it yet.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                        I believe Ricepad is in Acampo towards Sacramento. Stockton venues are selling California asparagus. You lose this argument old girl. Sorry:)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                          Oops, sorry. He didn't say he LIVES in Stockton but rather where the Mexican asparagus was when he was shopping there. Not arguing but clarifying. No sense all of us thinking 'local' stuff is widely available if it isn't.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                            Research farmers markets, produce stands etc.in San Joaquin County. You do realize this is one of the prime growing areas for produce?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                              Yes, I've been to and through the SJV for many decades. I'm talking about grocery stores and I think that's what ricepad was. Just trying to clarify so that no one comes in and expects to find local in Safeway, Raley's, etc.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                As far as the major grocery outlets it is entirely possible that Safeway is offering local organic asparagus. Local meaning produced and harvested in California not Mexico. Mexico grows and exports asparagus year round. Most major grocery outlets provide labels that identify the source of the produce.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                  Yep, Raley's asparagus had a rubberband around it that said Mexico. I'm not arguing with you just clarifying that for many of us, esp if we're shopping in major grocery chains, at this time we're getting asparagus and other produce from Mexico and other places. No agenda other than clarifying.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                    Whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                      Goodness gracious, I'm in NO way disputing what you're saying! All I'm saying is that as of today 3/17/14, local asparagus doesn't seem to be available in the big grocery stores. Whew. Enough already.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                          I'm planning on doing some shopping tomorrow, so I'll update whether the stores in Stockton have local or Mexican asparagus. (FTR, I live just outside Stockton, and have been in the area most of my life.)

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                            HaHa! How do you plan to shop every grocery store in Stockton? Now that IS ambitious! Seriously?

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                              No, but I'll be hitting three.

                                                                                                                                                              (I think it may be time to lighten up a bit, MamasCooking...)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                Shopping report: as of this afternoon, Raley's, Food 4 Less, and Winco in Stockton are all selling MEXICAN asparagus. Strange.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                  Honestly, I don't think it's very strange. A farm may have enough to supply their farmer's market or even a small, stand alone market but to be widely available, it's going to take some more time. IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                    Try the farmers market under the bridge on the week ends or the stands out past Waterloo Rd. Louie's store on El Dorado (his in town produce store) did not have any when I went looking.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                      Yeah, after thinking about it a bit, considering that it's early in the season locally, most of the early harvest will be at the independents and roadside stands (there's a guy on Highway 88 just outside Lockeford south of Lee's Feed with a sign advertising asparagus for 85 cents a pound), not the big chains.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                        Exactly why I love living here. Everything surrounding Stockton is so green and luscious! I love being able to get cases of fresh strawberries and such in season here. I should have been a farmer not a nurse!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                          I'm looking forward to seeing them in the groceries.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                            Again I am referring to the huge farmers market here and the outlying produce farms/stands.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, you are. And I'm referring to the grocery stores that will eventually get the CA-grown stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                I was at our local co-op today. That had CA asparagus for $6/#.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                  I hope it had gold tips at that price!

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                        No asparagus at the downtown farmers market today.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                          I love that place. Any bitter melons or Chinese long beans?:)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                            Nope. Too early in the season for both, I think.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                            At our supermarket in Tokyo, the asparagus is from Mexico. Domestic asparagus is twice as expensive.

                                                                                                                                                            But the tortillas are from California. Go figure!

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                        Here in Tokyo, our asparagus is either from Mexico, or domestic at twice the price (which is largely a function of expensive labor, I think).

                                                                                                                                      2. Asparagus ice cream. Made famous at our yearly celebration of that lovely green stalk, The Asparagus Festival.

                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                          I'd like to try that, in Stockton, correct? When is the festival this year?

                                                                                                                                          Of course, the Gilroy Garlic Festival (usually late July) has the garlic ice cream.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                            April 25 -27. They have so many talented chefs there creating some of the most scrumptious asparagus dishes I have ever heard of. We do not attend yearly but when we go it is just to meander from vendor to vendor eating the gourmet foods.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                              Go on Friday - the crowds are usually smaller on Friday... or if there's rain forecast for the event, go the day when it's supposed to rain. But between you and me, I'd pass on the ice cream, unless you really have a burning need to say you've eaten asparagus ice cream.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                ricepad....I loved it when it was located out on Eight Mile Road. So pretty out there. No one can do the *tempura* style deep fried asparagus like they do at the festival!

                                                                                                                                          2. What about the California Roll
                                                                                                                                            From Wikipedia:The California roll (カリフォルニアロール Kariforunia rōru?) is a maki-zushi, a kind of sushi roll, usually made inside-out, containing cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado. In some countries it is made with mango or banana instead of avocado. Sometimes crab salad is substituted for the crab stick, and often the outer layer of rice (in an inside-out roll) is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, tobiko or masago.
                                                                                                                                            As one of the most popular styles of sushi in the US market, the California roll has been influential in sushi's global popularity and in inspiring sushi chefs around the world in creating their non-traditional fusion cuisine.[1]

                                                                                                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californ...

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                                                                                                                              Alan408 beat you to that one.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                While Alan said it I did provide more information . :P

                                                                                                                                            2. "Chinese" chicken salad (tossed with shredded iceberg lettuce, mustard, sesame oil, and nuts, garnished with white, styrofoam-like fried rice vermicelli) reportedly originated in Los Angeles. It was the standard silicon-valley business lunch around the 1970s and has since penetrated into the US interior (I saw it arrive in Montana in 1992 as a great novelty).

                                                                                                                                              In northern CA, "California Cuisine" (Chez Panisse in Berkeley, since 1971, and articulated in Alice Waters's writings including 1991 essay "The Farm-Restaurant Connection").

                                                                                                                                              Also in northern CA, shellfish has always been the signature ingredient type (Dungeness crab, local oysters, abalone especially in earlier eras). Whether or not Crab Louis came originally from SF, it has long been a characteristic starting course; 40-50 years back, no one started SF restaurant dinners with anything else, in crab season.

                                                                                                                                              In SF, sourdough bread, which has a characteristic taste there from local wild yeasts. (Many of us natives grew up with Larraburu bakery, until big baking went corporate around the 1980s; newer, artisanal bakers like Acme Bread, a Chez Panisse spin-off, have arisen and now fill that role.)

                                                                                                                                              Gertrude Stein's 1935 comment: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9670...

                                                                                                                                              Various parts of California have local signature versions of the burrito.

                                                                                                                                              Theme restaurant chains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trader_V... (Trader Vic's was originally opened 1934 under another name; became a leading propagator of the Tiki-Bar concept in midcentury; also _popularized_ the Mai Tai cocktail, though its origin is disputed.)

                                                                                                                                              13 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                Now that you say it i've never seen a crab (or shrimp) louis salad on the east coast (nyc specifically) yet they're common in CA

                                                                                                                                                1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                  Yes, Ttrockwood, and specifically San Francisco, traditionally a seafood town (I forgot to mention "shrimp scampi" earlier, another SF signature dish, whose savory juices pair it well with sourdough French bread). But however much shrimp and crab Louis remain popular there, they were more so a generation or two back.

                                                                                                                                                  It's a specialty rarely surfacing on CH's San Francisco board today, for instance. Whose discussions (sometimes dominated by visiting or resident out-of-towners) may dwell instead on the latest trendy specialty imported from southeast Asia.

                                                                                                                                                  I have a, or the, classic SF restaurants book of 50 years ago, by one of California's distinguished gastronomic writers (at a time when "dumpling" in SF still had its traditional US meaning, Escoffier's "Guide Culinaire" still held sway, and high-end restaurants served chicken dishes with reduction sauces "sous cloche" to retain aroma). What's amazing is that all the hip and elegant restaurants are long gone now, but down-to earth institutions like Tadich and Grison's ("Steak and Chicken") are still going strong. Having grown up hearing stories from relatives who remembered the city before the 1906 earthquake, I think that'll long remain true.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                    A little more background history for you. Real food history (beyond the level of Wikipedia or Sunset Magazine) from someone who collects primary sources.

                                                                                                                                                    Regardless of which West-Coast restaurant or hotel named it, the crab Louis is a compact, simplified evolution of something that was known as a Russian salad, extremely popular in the US around 1900 (Delmonico's in NYC had a version, and it's in many early-1900s cookbooks). Adapted from related European roots, this type of salad typically arrayed vegetables, lettuce, and cold seafood, sometimes meats, with a bowl of Russian dressing on the side (or in the earliest versions I've seen, horseradish-flavored mayonnaise).

                                                                                                                                                    "Russian dressing" is the traditional sauce, or basis for the sauce, offered with crab Louis. Mayonnaise combined with a savory tomato condiment, like "chili sauce" or horseradish-flavored "shrimp cocktail" sauce. ("Thousand Island dressing" evolved in practice after WW2 into a debased, diluted version of Russian dressing -- a point that Wikipedia relentlessly garbles in its sauce, crab-Louis, and Reuben-sandwich articles, for instance.)

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                    Larraburu went out of business because of an accident/lawsuit

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Alan408

                                                                                                                                                      "Larraburu went out of business because of an accident/lawsuit."

                                                                                                                                                      No doubt, Alan408. The point that I alluded to, though, and which so often surfaces in local discussions, was the evolution, around 1980, from San Francisco's traditional independent sourdough bakeries (Larraburu, Colombo, Toscana, Parisian) to the large, modern, efficient East-Bay SFFB/Hostess works, making various bread labels or "brands" of generally lower quality than many people remember from the old independent tradition. This historic consolidation toward efficient mediocrity also set the stage for emergence of the so-called artisanal bakery movement starting in 1983 (or earlier if you count the Cheese Board as part of it), which now has practitioners around the US.

                                                                                                                                                      Characteristically, the Wikipedia article below, in dismissing 40 years of US breadmaking, neglects the earlier tradition of independent SF sourdough bakeries and their quality (no doubt it was before the memories, therefore off the radar, of the people who wrote the article), but does give some of the later history.

                                                                                                                                                      Today's Acme "sour bâtard" loaf resembles the Bay Area supermarket Larraburu or Parisian "dark bake" sourdough "French bread" loaves I grew up with, 40-50 years ago.

                                                                                                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_...

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                        As an aside, once Parisian closed its doors, we became disenchanted with the SD bread available at grocery stores. Surprisingly, the best for us now is Truckee Sourdough from, yes, Truckee. Our SF daughter has us bring it to her when we visit.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for the tip, c oliver. I had not heard before of Truckee Sourdough, but from its web site it looks like one of the "artisanal" bakeries (and in this industry at least, that adjective does mean something) that have sprung up around the US in the last 30 years.

                                                                                                                                                          While the quality of basic supermarket sourdoughs around SF dropped off for the reason I mentioned, the area ironically is now even better supplied with quality breads than it was 50 years ago. Acme, Semifreddi's, and other (newer) bakeries specialize in higher-quality handmade breads and are very widely distributed at moderate prices.

                                                                                                                                                          On top of which, we're seeing what I think is the early years of a new premium bakery movement, represented maybe by Tartine and a few others I can't think of just now. These bakeries go beyond the standards of handmade, traditionally-baked slow-raised breads, to using things like very specific non-commodity grain, and from my limited samplings they make a clearly differentiated product, denser, chewier, more distinctive character. Even takes almost twice as long to TOAST as Acme sourdough; if that isn't objective evidence of difference, I don't know what is!

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                          Thank you for listing the names of the predominant sour dough brands from the early days. I have been racking my brain to remember the brand I grew up eating. I am sure it was Colombo. All of the brands you listed were much better than the sourdough offered today in the city. Boudin's can be delicious if you get a fresh loaf. If you grew up eating the sour dough of 40-50 years ago then you know that nothing today really compares in terms of flavor and crust.
                                                                                                                                                          ETA: I just did some research and another brand that we grew up eating was Lombardi's extra sour dough from their (now closed) Petaluma,Ca. bakery.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                            We bought a loaf of Boudin's a few years ago to take to a friend in Manhattan. I was embarassed at the blah taste. Not sour at all. I understand that they do special recipes for certain restaurants, i.e., Tadich I believe, but I'll never buy another regular loaf.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                              I will buy it here fresh and hot from the oven at our local shop but nothing compares to the authentic SF sourdoughs I grew up eating.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                              "nothing today really compares in terms of flavor and crust."

                                                                                                                                                              Maybe not among the large supermarket labels, but I already mentioned Acme "bâtard" loaves as very comparable to old-style Larraburu, and I find Acme round "levain" loaves -- coarser, heartier, partly whole-grain -- to be in a higher league, with dark crunchy crusts and substantial insides. When fresh, of course. The sort of loaf delightful to tear up and dip into an impromptu cheese fondue (w/ mushrooms and fresh chives), or a meat stew redolent with marjoram and wine...

                                                                                                                                                              Acme is now at many restaurants, farmer's markets, small local markets and some supermarkets.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                                I disagree. Having spent my summers in S.F. starting around 1958 I grew up eating authentic sourdough all over the city. Some baked in wood fired ovens I am sure. I have yet to consume anything that remotely compares in sourness, crumb or crust.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                  But what is your opinion and degree of experience with the specific Acme loaves I named?

                                                                                                                                                                  I grew up regularly eating true fresh SF sourdough year-round, from late 1950s through late 70s. But in the last 10 years or so, since early 00s, generally got at least one fresh Acme loaf a week, usually one of the types named (sour bâtard, sweet bâtard, or levain). That's the basis for the comparisons I reported.

                                                                                                                                                                  If you're located somewhere like Stockton then you may not have access to, or be aware of the full current pervasiveness of, the newer-generation quality sourdough products in the immediate Bay Area, which I referred to here as filling the role now.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Cioppino.

                                                                                                                                                        1. Is this for a particular project?

                                                                                                                                                          1. Joe's Special

                                                                                                                                                            1. LA-style galbi
                                                                                                                                                              rumaki
                                                                                                                                                              possibly crab rangoon

                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                                                                                                                                                Galbi is a great one. Can't believe the list has gotten this far without a mention. A great example of the cross-cultural relationship we have with Seoul.

                                                                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                              2. Chili size. One of my favorite Diner foods.

                                                                                                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mike0989

                                                                                                                                                                  Any mention of the "chili size" to non-Californians requires an explanation to the completely odd name.

                                                                                                                                                                  http://www.examiner.com/article/dinin...

                                                                                                                                                                  And while we're on chili-as-condiment, don't forget the chili dog.

                                                                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                    You're claiming the chili dog as a California invention?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                      Born, raised and living in N.California and to be honest I had never heard of the Hangtown Fry or Chili Size. This is why I enjoy CH. I learn a lot here.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                        Born (1954) in Sacramento and nobody in my family ate oysters, but I heard about the Hangtown Fry many times. Much less so for Chili Size, but didn't really know what it was.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                                                                          I looked up *chili size*. Now I cannot wait to go to the diner over on the Miracle Mile and use the terminology:)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                            If you're talking about Sam's Cafe, I'm not sure Sam serves a Chili Size…he might, tho.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                              LOL Ricepad! That is exactly what I was referring to:) I have not been in there for awhile but I really like Sam and his diner. The patty melt is so delicious. It is about 2 blocks east of my neighborhood. So much good food on that Miracle Mile.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                So you're in my brother's 'hood…cool.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                  I am in the UOP area of old vintage homes. I am *nestled* among the mansions in a 2 bedroom built in 1948. I love it here because it reminds me so much of my hometown of Petaluma(this neighborhood does). The Miracle Mile is the greatest IMO.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                              I tried to look it up but all the websites were blocked by my office.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                                                                                                That's because "chili size" = 'food porn'.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                            First time I ever heard of a Chili Size was at the Carnation (Family?) Restaurant in Stockton, at the corner of Pershing Avenue and March Lane, I'm guessing in the late '70s. Jamie's in Sacramento does a pretty good Chili Size, I think.

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't remember when I first heard of Hangtown Fry, but the combination of eggs and oysters never appealed to me so it didn't resonate.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                              I too was born and raised in N. California; "Chili Size" was long common in Bay Area fast-food restaurants. Used to be a standard Denny's menu item in the Bay Area, for instance -- friends would get them there when we were "young adults," which was a while ago.

                                                                                                                                                                              They seem to be less common today.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                                                May I ask where you were born? I was born in San Rafael and moved up to Petaluma aged 4 raised there. I love hearing N.California *food* memories on CH.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                                                                                                                                                                  East bay. Many generations of family there. As mentioned earlier in this thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9686... I grew up hearing about The Earthquake. How it was barely felt around Oakland and Berkeley. Until half of SF's population (which was then around 400,000) arrived in the next few days, as refugees.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                                                    Lucky us for growing up where we did. I have too much nostalgia for the old days in N. California.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Two things come to mind: The iconic Mission Burrito and the ice cream sandwich on a stick known as the It's-It. I know, the It's-It is not really a dish, but a brand - however, I recall other local ice creameries copying them and making their own generic versions (a scoop of ice cream, sandwiched between 2 oatmeal cookies, on a stick, dipped in chocolate...) When I moved to the SF Bay Area as a teenager, I recall my friends saying they were going to get an It's-It and I had no idea what they were talking about. When explained, it sounded kind of gross (chocolate and oatmeal cookies?) - then I tried one, and got hooked...With regard to the Mission Burrito, I actually don't like rice or sour cream in my burritos, but the style is now world-famous (my German friends buy one and put it in a Tupperware when they are on their way out of town to the airport...) - so who am I to argue?

                                                                                                                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Morticia

                                                                                                                                                                          I've never seen an It's-It's on a stick!!! When did this happen??? :)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                            This is the only one I know of.

                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/20757

                                                                                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                              Or this,

                                                                                                                                                                              https://www.itsiticecream.com/

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                I don't see a stick.

                                                                                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                  Right. Morticia's who mentioned the stick :)

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                    Confused.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                      " ice cream sandwich on a stick known as the It's-It. I know, the It's-It is not really a dish, but a brand - however, I recall other local ice creameries copying them and making their own generic versions (a scoop of ice cream, sandwiched between 2 oatmeal cookies, on a stick, dipped in chocolate...) When I moved to the SF Bay Area as a teenager, I recall my friends saying they were going to get an It's-It and I had no idea what they were talking about. When explained, it sounded kind of gross (chocolate and oatmeal cookies?) - then I tried one, and got hooked.."

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                              Umm...in my imagination?? (No, honestly, it's been over 30 years since I last ate one) - and I suppose I was a bit mixed up between the REAL It's-It (no, there was no stick!) - and the ersatz ones I had to make during my high school job at a local ice cream place...(I think the stick was there so we could dip them into the chocolate coating, as we lacked the machinery of the It's-It factory) - sorry for the confusion, mea culpa!!

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Is California Dip really a California thing? I used to slather that stuff on bread/toast...

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                              I believe it was a Lipton Soup marketing idea. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodsoups...

                                                                                                                                                                              Probably sold more onion soup mix than actual soup uses did. Named "California" for the connotation of fresh produce -- ironic given there's nothing fresh in dried soup mixes.

                                                                                                                                                                              (One interesting food-history book I have lists statistics from the Campbell's Soup firm showing, among other bits of trivia, that one-third of all their condensed soups, and four-fifths of the Cream of Mushroom flavor in particular, are used as cooking ingredients, not for making soup.)

                                                                                                                                                                            2. http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/c...

                                                                                                                                                                              The LA Times cookbook from 1905 gives a great look into California Food's development.

                                                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                                                                                                                What a treasure.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                                                                                                                  I could spend hours reading that! Thanks, JT.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: kcshigekawa

                                                                                                                                                                                    I love that resource - share it every chance I get!

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: JTPhilly

                                                                                                                                                                                    Cool thanks!!

                                                                                                                                                                                  3. I believe the Haas (or is it Hass?) avocado--the sort of quintessential avocado (with the black rough skin and creamy insides) was first developed in San Diego county, California. It was developed to make avocado growing easier in sub-tropical/Mediterranean climates that are subject to periodic frosts as California is, given that the original avocado is more of a tropical fruit and can't really be grown in California.

                                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                                                                                                      It's the only avocado I'll buy.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                        Then you're missing out.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The fuerte avocado is so much creamier, and perfect with some big, crunchy Maldon salt flakes and a squeeze of lime.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                                                                          Not familiar with the name so searched. Sounds like a very good, esp seasonal one I'll try it. Thanks, Mr. T.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                                                          Or mexicolas, which are rarely found other than in people's yards.

                                                                                                                                                                                          The Haas is a sport discovered by a Mr. Haas in his yard way back when. In the late 70s, when I moved to California, you'd find Haas and Fuerte avocados at different times of the year - the Haas were more a winter fruit, IIRC. And they didn't travel much outside the state. Avocados will grow at least as far north as the San Francisco/Peninsula region (I have one that regularly bears large but insipid crops); the commercial growing area has expanded in the past three decades, as I've seen farms near Morro Bay. I occasionally see fuerte and similar types at the farmers' market, but they haven't shown up in stores for a long, long time.

                                                                                                                                                                                          What we don't get here, though, are the big, buttery ones common in Hawai'i.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: tardigrade

                                                                                                                                                                                            I have a huge circa 1950 avocado tree in my back yard. Huge and costs a fortune to tame the branches. I am in Stockton. The fruit is large and dark green/blackish.Very *citrusy* and mild. We have yet to be able to harvest the avocados other than 5 or 6 max@ a time. It produces late fall usually if it is going to bear fruit.The birds,racoons and who knows what get to them. The tree has produced what looks like at least 100 fruits at a time though.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I must have dreamed that I posted this, it sure doesn't show up. Anyway, I read a while back that the Patty Melt was invented in SoCal - by the original owner of DuPars. I think some Eastern states might dispute that, but I'm willing to believe it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nikkihwood

                                                                                                                                                                                          Me too! I am willing to believe it. It Is one of my top twenty favorite foods.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. The Orange Julius.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I doubt it was *invented* in California, but wine coolers got a big boost in the 70s when they were packaged by a bunch of former high school friends from Lodi packaged and sold them as "California Coolers". Supposedly, they used to go out into the vineyards at night with bottles of cheap wine and 7-Up to get their girlfriends drunk. (If those vines could only talk!)

                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                                                                              Much of what was originally called the "wine cooler" market in the US was developed, via various catchily-named brands, by California's large E & J Gallo winery, HQ'd in Modesto. I saw it happening. The golden age of true prepackaged "wine coolers" was perhaps the 1970s and 80s: changes in federal tax law later induced US manufacturers to move away from wine as the base of these products.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Many years ago I read a report that Thunderbird, a fortified flavored wine drink, came about when Gallo investigated why it was selling a lot of its generic "white Port" in a ghetto district of Los Angeles, and found that locals there mixed the wine with cheap soft drinks. Hence, a product to serve that demand directly.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eatzalot

                                                                                                                                                                                                California Coolers were before Bartles and James

                                                                                                                                                                                                Gallo out advertised CC

                                                                                                                                                                                                I recommend the book Blood and Wine for Gallo info

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I agree that Sunset Magazine (headquartered in Menlo Park, CA) is the bible of what could be considered "California dishes." A lot of dishes that are quite common now originated with Sunset recipes, which would make them "California" dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                              As for specific dishes -- how about Tri-tip (especially "Santa Maria" tri-tip)? My understanding is that this cut wasn't even known in most parts of the country until it was popularized here.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. A favorite cookbook of mine, is "Rancho Cooking" by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan. She has also written other cookbooks and contributed many columns over the years to the SF Chronicle food section.

                                                                                                                                                                                                She traces her family back to the to the early 1800's when they were given a land grant from the Spanish for a rancho in the south SF Bay.

                                                                                                                                                                                                The food is a mixture of Spanish influences like olives, figs, lemons and other foods of the Mediterranean along with new world corn, chiles, and local seafood. They raised cattle so beef and grilling also played a role.

                                                                                                                                                                                                It's a beautifully written book that combines a lot of old family stories of this era with the recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                                                                                  That reminds me of another cookbook, although the name escapes me right now. Each chapter has a few comments about the original Bay Area counties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Chiffon cake.