As a kid growing up in California, it seemed like more of my family’s meals were cooked outside on the grill than in the kitchen. Perhaps that’s because California provides the perfect climate, coupled with an abundance of fresh ingredients, that makes for ideal grilling conditions. Californians have a special way of doing things that lends a uniquely California flavor to each dish. Here is a look at a few of my favorite, classic California dishes.
Santa Maria Style Grilled Tri-Tip
Tri-Tip was once a difficult cut to find outside of California, but it is quickly gaining popularity across the country. The reason for Tri-Tip’s relative obscurity is that it is a smaller cut from the bottom sirloin and each side of beef produces only one cut of Tri-Tip, usually ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 pounds each
Tri-Tip originated in Santa Maria, CA where it became known for it’s tenderness and cheap price. (Read more about the history of Tri-Tip)
Tip: The trick with Tri-Tip is to avoid cutting the fat side off and instead, putting it on the fire first to let the moisture come up through the meat.
I like Susie Q brand seasoning to prepare an authentic style California Tri-Tip.
San Diego Fish Tacos
Ensenada, Mexico claims to be the birthplace of the fish taco – but it definitely is alive and well in San Diego. This can be credited to Ralph Rubio, who went to Baja on spring break over 20 years ago and fell in love with the fish taco, at first bite. He brought the recipe back to San Diego in 1983 and opened the first Rubio’s location in Mission Bay. Today there are 180 Rubio’s locations and countless other restaurants preparing endless variations of the fish taco. From late night taco stands to trendy, white tablecloth establishments.
Tip: Pair your tacos with a premium Mexican style lager, such as Pacifico or Negra Modelo.
If you are feeling adventurous, head out on a half-day fishing trip from H&M landing in San Diego and bring back local Rock Cod to grill some of the best fish tacos you’ve ever tasted, with this recipe from The Paupered Chef.
The California Cheeseburger
The cheeseburger is reputed to have been invented by a 16 year old Lionel Sternberger, while working as at his fathers diner in Pasadena. He ‘experimentally’ dropped a slice of cheese on a burger and the cheeseburger was born. Cheeseburgers may not seem like quintessential California cuisine, but they are a staple of the California diet and something we take very seriously.
On of the main things that distinguishes a California style cheeseburger is that it typically is not served with ketchup or mustard. Save that for the East Coast. In California, we like our burgers juicy, served with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and mayonnaise.
Tip: Feel free to use a little creative license and add avocado or green chilies for another decidedly California twist.
My favorite burger can be found at The Grill at The Lodge at Torry Pines. It’s highly acclaimed by locals who will valet at one of Americas most prestigious golf courses to enjoy a near $50.00 tab for two burgers a beer and tip. You might even run into one of your favorite golfers.
There are a few blogs taking a cue from GQ these days and featuring a top ten essentials piece. Here I list my top 5 and why I can’t live without these things.
There is something I love about carbonation. Pellegrino is one of life’s simple pleasures. I used to drink soda but i’d rather waste those good calories on a couple quality beers on occasion. I buy Pellegrino by the case at costco and go through probably two bottles a day at least. Fact: San Pellegrino has been producing water for 600 years. Leonardo Da Vinci visited the town in 1509 to sample and examine the town’s “miraculous” water.
2. Oliver Peoples Patten Aviator Style Sunglasses
I’m out in the sun a lot and I require sunglasses. These Oliver Peoples are what I am wearing right now. They are extremely well made and I have taken them from Hawaii to Mexico in the past 6 months and they still look brand new. Plus, they were a gift from a girlfriend, so the $365.00 price tag didn’t dissuade me from getting them. Fact: Founders Dennis and Larry Leight purchased an estate collection of vintage eye wear that included a receipt signed “Oliver Peoples”. They decided to use the name for their collection.
3. J. Crew ‘Destroyed’ Vintage Oxford
I have about 3 of these Destroyed Oxford shirts in this classic color alone. They come pre-washed and only get better with age. I wear them with jeans or with shorts. They are almost like a security blanket because they are just so comfortable and there is something very masculine and classicly American about them. Fact: Women love men in vintage oxford shirts. Trust me ; )
4. Folli Follie Meditereano
I purchased this watch on Oahu and it hardly leaves my wrist. I wear it to the beach since it is water proof to 300 feet and it even compliments a button up shirt and jeans. The Greek based company is one of Japan’s top 10 luxury brands and has stores in over 24 countries. Currently the only stateside locations are in Hawaii and New York. Check it out at Folli Follie Fact: Folli Follie means “Crazy, Crazy” in Italian.
5. Toms Shoes
Toms is a great company. For every pair you purchase, a pair is given to a child in a third world country. I prefer either white or tan. I love pairing them with a pair of jeans and a button up shirt or just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. They’ re for a good cause, extremely comfortable, and they have that great effortless style to them. Fact: The company was founded in 2006 and has already given away over 140,000 pairs of shoes.