San Francisco & Californian Cuisine
I have ventured for the first time over to the West Coast of America, namely San Francisco, California. To me, as an old-school Brit, everything here feels new with the city's history dating back to the Victorian Era; the Gold Rush. San Francisco made its name during this time, but now is most commonly known for its tech scene, but by some, for its food.
I have yet to suss out exactly what 'Californian' cuisine is. It seems to be a mix-mash of American-meets-European-meets-Asian cuisine. Whatever it is, I like it. Californians have an abundant appreciation for avocados. If you have no other greenery in your food, there will be avocado. None of this waffly salad stuff we put up with in the UK, just avocado. And maybe salsa. Or guacamole with avocado. It's American-meets-Mexican-meets-Sushi. It can be oily and cloy and rich, or it can be fresh and spicy but filling. Sides can be beef-dripping cooked fries or kale salad. It is a diet of dichotomies, but ultimately every food producer here loves their product. They are passionate about the food they serve and are proud of it, even if it might give you a heart attack before you are thirty. You can eat giant pizza slices on a street corner or sushi prepared by the Japanese lady at the supermarket counter. You can go to Mi Pueblo and get lost in Mexico, finding ingredients that you have never heard of before and that make you wonder how much more there is to learn about food.
Turns out, there is a lot more to know. My new favourite is Pinxchos or Tapas, which they do particularly well in San Francisco. It is enticing to have a taste of Spain out in the city and then come home and try to re-create the dish yourself. Chances are, you will have missed a trick as to how they make your brussel sprouts taste so good. Yes, as Brit I did just suggest that brussel sprouts can taste good. Californians love them, and you can find them at every store or farmers market you come across during the fall. Forget bacon lardons and butter, they taste so much better with a rich balsamic or raspberry vinegar; as does kale I might add. In the Mid-West I hear all vegetables are over-cooked and served with heart-stopping amounts of butter. (At the cinemas here they even pour liquid butter over your popcorn. Enough to make you require a napkin to wipe the grease off your hands). It seems that cooks in Nor-Cal either respect or ignore their vegetables. It is easy to go days without eating anything green and on other days you will eat a salad that makes you wonder how you could ever go a day without something green.
I have also recently experienced my first three-course breakfast at a B&B in Sonoma (Wine Country). In hindsight, it was a good idea to consume that much when a day of wine-tasting lay ahead, but at the time I sat in wonderment at the vivacity with which they served dish-upon-dish to us. The flavours were unconventional: A kiwi and banana smoothie, followed by a cheese, pepper and artichoke souffle, served with chicken and pork sausage and spicy potatoes, and finished with a pumpkin pannacotta. It was an eating routine I have to admit I could get into all too easily. With my sweet tooth, dessert for breakfast marked a good day ahead. It was like they had turbo-charged and literally adulterated my craving for Coco Pops and chocolate milk to make a sophisticated and adult-friendly sugar filled breakfast. Only in America!