California Recap

Although my heart will always belong to New England, I have to admit that I’ve become rather smitten with the Pacific coast.

John and I just returned from a weeklong trip to southern California, the first three days of which were enjoyed in Marina del Rey for a mini vacation, and the remaining days of which were spent at Terranea resort in Rancho Palos Verdes – a business conference for John, and an extended vacation for me :).

Our sojourn at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey was relaxing and full of delicious food (although we actually only ate at the hotel once).

I did some research about local hot spots prior to leaving Boston, and overall we were both extremely pleased with the California fare.

Here are some notable meals (all surreptitiously documented with my iPhone):

Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich at Tony P’s Dockside Grill.

Whole grain Ciabatta roll stuffed w/fresh Buffalo style mozzarella, tomatoes & Tony P’s special salad. (mesculine lettuce,   blue cheese, glazed pecans and red onions in a balsamic vinaigrette).

The whole grain roll was dense and chewy, with a scattering of crunchy seeds. I’ve always been a fan of creamy cheese and sweet crunchy nuts together, but I’ve never before paired pecans with mozzarella – trust me, it works! There was just enough blue cheese tucked into the sandwich to lend a tangy bite, and the sweet red onions tied it all together.

Trust Me at sugarFISH.

Organic edamame, tuna sashimi, albacore sushi, salmon sushi (pictured), yellowtail sushi (pictured), large scallop sushi, toro hand roll, & blue crab hand roll.

First of all, I love the name of this menu offering. Nozawa – the sushi chef at sugarFISH – has 50 years of experience, and the “Trust Me” meal is the option he recommends to his guests. He features incredibly fresh, simple, and high quality ingredients rather than crazy rolls and sauces. You won’t find any intricate maki rolls at sugarFISH, but you are guaranteed melt-in-your-mouth delicious sushi, sashimi, and hand rolls that highlight the unadulterated flavor of fresh raw fish.

Salted Caramel Frozen Yogurt from Pinkberry.

Although Pinkberry has been in Boston for probably about a year now, this was my first time trying it… which is fitting seeing as though the company’s roots are in California. This flavor was great! Rich, sweet, and creamy with a touch of flaked sea salt to compliment the caramel flavor. I should have asked for toppings – the swirl looks pretty lonely all by itself.

I made sure to fit in a hike amongst the delicious meals, and this one was recommended by my sister-in-law, who lives in the area.

The views during the ascent, as well as from the top, were beautiful! Thanks for the suggestion, Anne :).

Back to the food.

My favorite grub during our stay in Marina del Rey were the sandwiches from Mendocino Farms. This popular lunch spot specializes in fresh sandwiches and salads made with local and sustainable ingredients. I would have loved to pack this whole place up and haul it back east with me… the sandwiches were just that damn good.

Curry Chicken Salad Sandwich from Mendocino Farms.

Roasted chicken breast with green apples and dried cherries in a light yogurt mango curry dressing (no mayo), cucumner, Scarborough Farm’s greens, tamarind chutney on cranberry walnut bread.

This. Was. Fantastic.

First of all, the bread. Oh, the bread! I could eat an entire loaf of this delectable cranberry walnut bread and call it a meal. Doughy and chewy on the inside, perfectly crusty on the outside, hearty, slightly sweet, and studded with crunchy walnuts, the bread almost stole the show. Almost. The curried filling was hands-down the best chicken salad I’ve ever had. Tender chunks of white meat chicken were tossed with a sweet and slightly spicy curried yogurt dressing. The green apples lent a nice crunch without the need for celery (which I dislike) and the dried cherries added a lovely sweet/tart flavor. I MUST recreate this at home!

Drunk’n Goat in Paris (<– love the name!) from Mendocino Farms.

Herbes de Provence marinated Drake Family Farm’s goat cheese, cranberry chutney, French brie, caramelized onions, green apple, Scarborough Farm’s greens on cranberry walnut bread.

[Clearly I picked up an addiction to this fabulous bread].

This sandwich was every bit as delicious as the previous one. I mean, c’mon… goat cheese AND brie in one sandwich? Heaven. I will be attempting to make this sandwich at home as well.

Unless I can convince the owners of Mendocino Farms to open up a store in MA!

Considering I chose to schedule in a hike, it was only fair that John got to pick at outing as well… and it just so happened that the Mets (his team) were playing the Dodgers while we were in L.A.

The weather was perfect (as it was for the entire week we were in California), the Mets won (wahoo!), and we thoroughly enjoyed an order of garlic fries (awesome for the taste buds, awful for the breath).

We also enjoyed a few tasty breakfasts, two of which were at Joni’s Coffee. The first morning, I ordered the Ultimate Oatmeal (strawberry yogurt, walnuts, bananas, and a touch of honey). It tasted divine, but as is the case with most bowls of oatmeal, it was not exactly photogenic. John and I both enjoyed our breakfasts at Joni’s, so it wasn’t a tough decision to go back the next morning… this time for pancakes!

Banana Pancakes at Joni’s Coffee.

Stack of 2 almond granola pancakes with fresh bananas sliced into the batter.

Why haven’t I thought to add granola to pancakes before? You can bet your booty that I will be trying this soon – the crunchy clusters of almond granola were a fun addition to the tender banana pancakes.

We decided to enjoy our last morning meal in Marina del Rey at the Ritz. The back covered patio looks right out onto the marina, so the view was nice.

My breakfast order was fabulous!

Salmon at Jer-Ne restaurant, Ritz Carlton, Marina del Rey.

House smoked salmon, red onion, boiled egg, capers, grilled flatbread, creme fraiche.

This was, hands-down, the best breakfast of our trip! Who needs bagels and cream cheese when you can have grilled flatbread and creme fraiche?! Leave it to the Ritz to create a classy version of a favorite breakfast meal. The smoked salmon and red onion were both sliced super thin, which kept their flavors delicate. The addition of crumbled hard boiled egg was new to me, but I absolutely loved it. The capers gave the dish a briny bite, and dill lent an air of herby freshness. You can’t see the creme fraiche in this photo, but believe me… I used it! Drizzled over the top, the thick and slightly tangy cream was the perfect finishing touch.

Yum.

On the morning of our fourth day on the west coast, John and I made our way down to Rancho Palos Verdes peninsula, whose rocky cliffs jut out into the Pacific ocean. Terranea resort is stunning – John’s company couldn’t  have chosen a better location for their families-welcomed business conference.

At this point in our vacation, the trip became more about the scenery than the food. Most of our meals were provided by the resort, and although they were good, not many were worth documenting.

One meal that was worthy of a mention was this muesli from Sea Beans cafe.

There isn’t a description on the website menu, but here are the ingredients from what I could distinguish:

Oats, milk, sliced almonds, pistachios, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, diced Granny Smith apple, dried cranberries, and golden raisins.

It was a delicious & healthy way to commence a morning of trail walking and rocky beach exploring.

One other meal that I just have to tell you about was the Tacos de Pescado from Pancho’s in Manhattan Beach. The photo I snapped of my meal was dreadful given the lighting, but here’s a description:

Two flour tortillas filled with grilled Mahi-Mahi (you can also order salmon), shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and chipotle sour cream.

These were really good fish tacos! A dish I have aspirations to perfect at home, there seem to be countless recipes for fish tacos out there. I have to start experimenting.

The remaining photos were taken on the coast of Rancho Palos Verdes. If you have plans to visit SoCal, I highly recommend the gorgeous Terranea resort. The rocky coastline reminded me of my beloved childhood vacation spot: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Although the resort was hopping with guests, you can escape the crowds by bypassing the pools and wandering along the shoreline.

The mornings often started off overcast, but by mid-day, the sun shone bright and the temperature never exceeded 80°F.

I found a quiet spot to enjoy the crashing waves, the sound of which I find incredibly relaxing.

We enjoyed a fabulous week in California, but it was good to come home. 90° humid days and all, Boston will always be my favorite city :).

I’ll leave you with a brief video of the meditative Pacific surf. I am naturally drawn to this sound, and could easily fall asleep to it every night.

Enjoy!

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