California Dreaming

17 June 2013


Fresh juices at the Hollywood weekend market

To emerge from under the wet, grey blanket that has hung over Europe recently into the Californian light was like switching from black and white to technicolor. Everything was saturated with colours and flavours that just can’t be found in northern European winters and springs. It had been years since my last trip there, and I was curious to check out the food scene.

My hosts in San Francisco, Gary and Jim, booked a formidable line-up of restaurants to visit, starting in Oakland with Camino (if only it was in my local neighbourhood…), and ending, six nights later, with the newly opened and stunning Saison. Our exciting food journey took us south to David Kinch’s Manresa and into the heart of San Francisco to Daniel Paterson’s Coi. Both Daniel and David have become friends in Europe in recent years and I had been longing to visit them in their own kitchens. I wasn’t disappointed! Each produced wonderful meals in their own distinct styles.


Manresa’s candle-lit fireplace

Gary and Jim introduced me to some of their favourite restaurants, with a sunny day trip to Napa ending in the comfort of Meadowood Hotel’s spectacular dining rooms, and a stylish supper in SF at sophisticated Quince. I’ll be writing more about these memorable meals soon. Our only disappointment was down to bad luck: three days before our dinner reservation at Chez Panisse, the restaurant’s porch caught fire and the restaurant was closed for the whole week I was in Oakland. Next time, Alice!

I always enjoy LA too. It feels exotic yet familiar, with some of the laid-back vibe that Greenwich Village used to have. I ate well in some of its casual, buzzing restaurants – including Red Hill and Mozza – with my brother, Marco. The best meal I had in LA this time was in Santa Monica at Rustic Canyon, where chef Jeremy Fox really knows how to be imaginative with the vibrant local vegetables.


Gary and Jim sampling yogurt at their local market

Those vegetables were a common theme in visits to local farmer’s markets in both SF and LA. Marco is an habitué of the Sunday market in Hollywood where we shopped for organic vegetables to the sounds of live music. I’m really envious of the quality and choice of bright, sun-reared produce California can offer – so different from the pale taste of the UK’s winter offerings.


Outside-inside at Quince’s elegant dining room

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