J and I are both so incredibly excited to get to share our recent trip to the west coast with you! California has only been a dream in my mind for quite some time now. Although I was named after the west-coast state I had only been there once in my 20-something years on this earth and that was only to get on a cruise ship.
J often gets asked if he is from Cali, which I know he considers one of the biggest compliments anyone could give him. He is, in fact, from Pennsylvania, about as far from California as you can get and still be in the United States of America. I have to admit though that his love for California runs deep and has an infectious quality to it.
I will start by saying that I wavered back and forth about going on this trip. The timing was a little strange and required me to push back the start date at my new job by a couple weeks. Ultimately, the impetus for our decision to go was that some dear friends of ours were getting married outside LA and we wanted badly to be there to celebrate with them. We could not have made a better decision.
J, being the amazing planner and “deal-getter” that he is, mapped out an amazing itinerary that we will narrate in the coming weeks. The plan was to fly to San Francisco, stay there for 3 nights and then drive down the coast to LA stopping along the way to break up the drive. Obviously our trip was guided and colored by the irresistible food we ate along the way. We will, therefore, tell our trip story in meals.
Our first evening in San Fran could not have started out on a better note. We stood outside this little restaurant in the Castro District 15 minutes before 5 just as we read to do if you don’t have a reservation (side note: we didn’t make a reservation for two nights just so we would have the flexibility to fly by the seat of our pants). We easily filed right in when the restaurant opened and got a seat at the full-service bar. J and I both love to sit at the bar better than at a table because you have so much more interaction with the staff and even other guests sometimes. You also have better access to spy on what other people order…
Tip if you go there – ask for the bread. They won’t give it to you by default because the stuff is gold and they don’t want to waste it. I wouldn’t normally say to eat the bread because it takes away from the meal, but in this case you must. We ordered fresh, mild, green peppers served with crème fraiche and love to start. They were incredibly fresh and light with the perfect touch of cold creaminess from the crème fraiche.
Next we had beignets, made with a rich dough dotted with bits of bacon. Yes, I am a part-time pescetarian, and yes, I DID eat a bacon beignet. It was so worth it. For an entrée I ordered salmon, and it was the most moist, decadent piece of salmon I have ever eaten. You know when you eat something and end up contemplating the flavors and textures in your mind for days? That was this salmon for me. It had a mix of yogurt and roasted vegetables on the side that softened the salmon even more, if that is possible. I want to say J had quail, but it wasn’t on his plate for long… We ordered corn (cornbread and regular corn) as well at the suggestion of our waiter, but we must have looked like we could eat more than we really can.
We noticed at many of the restaurants we went to, that corn was a common ingredient. It must have been very fresh and in season during our time in California. California cuisine is something I could gush over for days but maybe I will limit it to a blog post at some point in the near future.
We both came up for air after our entrees and raised our white flags.
Typically I try to be intentional about when I try desserts, San Francisco was almost my undoing. I would at least glance at the dessert menu of almost every place we went to. The Lumberjack Cake is without a doubt a destination dessert. You could come to Frances and have a wonderful meal, but if you leave without eating the Lumberjack Cake you really missed out on some dessert bliss. It is a simple cake, dark colored with dates, coconut, other mixed fruit, and dusted with powdered sugar served warm with a dollop of Maple ice cream.
We have SO much more to share with you, but we will let you wait until next week. I will tell you that our first meal was only a warm-up for what was to come. 🙂