Friday, August 7, 2009

Photo Essay: California Cuisine

Besides the golden hills that scatter the northeastern landscape, another mouth-gaping California characteristic is the rich color and freshness that their foods exude. Riding into Stockton, CA, we came upon a farm stand with fresh, locally grown fruit. Even riding along the road, there were screaming-red tomatoes littered along the gravel. These proved to be more enjoyable than annoying as we tried to squish as many as possible with our bikes, splashing juice all over our legs. Even Rob was giggling like a little girl as he competed with Nicole to smush the fallen fruit along the way.

E-A and I couldn't help but laugh at the "Cyclist Special" in one of Mill Valley's many local cafes...

...This is much more like it. C'mon! You've got to pack in those necessary 5,000 calories somehow.

During my stay in San Francisco, I could not get enough baked goods and local cuisine. California (and the Bay area in particular) is renowned for its focus on locally-grown foods and healthy options. That isn't to say that there wasn't a substantial amount of sweet goodies to fulfill the remnants of my 4K appetite...
A Russian bakery nearby had these delicious almond horns. Similar to an Italian cannoli, they are a cylindrical pastry with a cream filling. However, the outside is an almond-based crust. To top it all off, the shell is dipped in a thick, dark chocolate at both ends, leaving you wanting more at the last bite.

(above) Almond Horn

While exploring Berkeley, we came upon this sign and couldn't help cracking up.

Thanks to my friend Juhee's strong suggestion (and subsequent gift certificate) we had a tres fancy dinner at Chez Panisse, a restaurant that is famous for its ever-changing menu based on the day's available local produce and its upscale following. Reservations are usually made 2 months in advance and customers are "conveniently placed" throughout the restaurant based on their attire. The upstairs cafe is more casual in comparison to the downstairs dining room, which requires men to wear a jacket and tie. However, the service was impeccable and the food was noticeably the freshest I've ever had the opportunity to indulge in. Alice Waters, the restaurant owner, is careful to make sure EVERYTHING is local and 100% organic, to the extent that she picks the vegetables from her own garden! Even the dinnerware is made nearby in Sausalito, CA.

(above) Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese Salad. This is definitely something to try and doesn't take a whole lot of talent to make.

While we were waiting to be seated, a woman walked in and asked for a seat. The host had to graciously decline her request, explaining that all the tables were taken. At the moment, most tables were actually uninhabited, but would fill up quickly in the next 15 minutes with reserved parties. After several minutes, the woman gave up and proceeded to walk over to the bar to order a glass of champagne. She then tipped the bottom of the glass heavenward and took a huge gulp, emptying the glass and then slamming it onto the bar.

(above) Fruit Tart and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

(above) Mulberry Sherbert and Biscotti

(above) wood fire oven at Chez Panisse

On our final day in San Francisco, we wanted to live it up and gorge on as much as that's exactly what we did. For brunch we went to Dottie's True Blue Cafe. Another famous spot reviewed on the Food Network, Dottie's is a pretty small space located a few blocks away from Union Square. We waited in a line that snaked out the door and down the block. It was well worth it. Unlike other restaurants whose owners have made a name for themselves on big name TV networks, the owner of Dottie's was working the grill and filling orders while we were there!

iSpy a teacup and teapot chandelier.

(above) The owner working the grill...the one in the red shirt

(above) Our breakfast smorgasbord....note the dish in the far left: eggs, onions, tomatoes and peppers SMOTHERED in fresh avocado. When all the plates arrived we said, "Oh no. We're going to have so many leftovers." After damages, we took home one pancake and a quarter of the eggs.

I spotted this wine in BevMo and since I had no money left at the end of this trip, I just took a picture. Wine and bikes...what more could you ask for?

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