Eating all the foods: California edition

Published April 14th, 2014

A recent three-week stint in the USA really meant one thing – eating my way around the West Coast like nobody’s business. What’s that saying? A moment on the lips, forever on the hips? Not in the name of research and nothing the gym can’t fix when you get home, my friend! The country of excess and extremes, the US is not known for doing things by halves, especially when it comes to their food. Notorious for huge servings and deep-fried everything, they also lay claim and deserve big kudos for some wickedly fresh produce and an incredibly diverse and delicious food culture. Feast your eyes on my most memorable food moments.



Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles

What: chili dog

I was really looking forward to having a proper, all-American hotdog, but as it turns out, this was really just a soggy bun, and a questionable sausage covered in ‘cheese’ and chili. It was terribly difficult to eat and I gave up after one bite. Memorable – yes, tasty – no.  At least the game was good! #golakers



Where: Lagorio’s Bar & Grill, Farmington

What: cheeseburger with homemade macaroni salad and chilli, and a barbecue burger with fries and chili

One thing that was on my must-do list was to eat and drink at a proper roadhouse bar and grill, and this little one in the town of Farmington did not disappoint.




Where: Gott’s Roadside, St Helena, Napa, San Francisco and Palo Alto

What: cheeseburger, ahi tuna tacos and sweet potato fries with homemade ranch dressing

Yes, another burger but a Gott’s Roadhouse feed turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. I am a serious ranch sauce fiend too, and this homemade version was the bomb. Plus, sweet potato fries are never not a good idea either. Because yum.




Where: 1313 Main, Napa

What: tasting flight of chardonnay and cheese plate

Downtown Napa is filled with wine tasting rooms and 1313 Main came highly recommended. With a flight of chardonnay and a damn good cheese plate, plus free tasting morsels from the kitchen, I was definitely in my happy place.



Where: Burma Superstar, San Francisco

What: tea leaf salad

Busy every night of the week and for good reason, Burma Superstar is not your usual Asian restaurant. With Chinese, Thai and Indian influences, Burmese cuisine is like a punch in the face with flavour. This salad packed with fermented tea leaves shipped all the way from Burma and hand mixed at the table will go down as the best thing I’ve eaten. Ever.



Where: Brenda’s French Soul Food, San Francisco

What: cheddar grits with pork belly and salsa, and an oyster omelette with potato hash and a biscuit

Those huge meals weren’t even all of it! It started with a flight of four beignets (donuts) filled with apple, chocolate and crawfish. Just thinking about it all is enough to send me into a food coma.



Where: House of Nanking, San Francisco

What: mushu beef wraps with tomatoes and stir-fried cabbage

Frequented by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Rachel Ray, House of Nanking in San Francisco is an institution and an affordable one at that. Onion pancakes, pork dumplings and mushu beef wraps were devoured that night and it was amazing.



Where: Madonna Inn restaurant, San Luis Obispo

What: a filet mignon salad

Next to my hand for scale, this salad was MASSIVE. There was a mountain of meat, cheese, guacamole, sour cream AND a pot of ranch, not to mention whole stalks of shallots?! It was pretty good, but I barely made a dent.



Where: Dogtown Coffee, Santa Monica

What: lox bagel and acai bowl

A quick search on Urbanspoon led me to this place. Frequented by the cool kids and locals of Santa Monica, Dogtown Coffee is busy every day churning out real coffees and fresh SoCal breakfasts and lunches. Not usually one for health food fads (clearly), I decided to try their acai bowl and was promptly won over.



Where: Taco Bell, USA

What: Doritos Locos tacos, and nachos

A billion-dollar idea (literally), these are taco shells coated in Doritos seasoning and filled with mince, tomato, lettuce, cheese and sour cream. A very tasty snack indeed.



Where: In-N-Out Burger, California

What: cheeseburgers and fries

The granddaddy of fast-food joints, the Holy Grail if you will. With only three official burgers on the menu, they’re more-so known for their ‘secret’ items and menu hacks – protein-style burgers with no bun, animal-style fries, well-done fries, extra cheese, cold cheese, grilled onion, lightly toasted bun, extra-toasted bun, Neapolitan you see where I’m going with this? Just ask and you shall receive!



Cheesecake Factory, USA

What: sliders, ahi tuna carpaccio, kale salad, and tempura prawns

Famous for their cheesecakes, epic serving portions and a menu the length of a short novel, first-timers will be hard-pressed deciding on what to order. This was the last meal of the trip and believe it or not, was pretty much all was demolished. I win this time, Cheesecake Factory!


Didn’t try, but had to be shared:



Where: Madonna Inn bakery, San Luis Obispo

What: pink Champagne cakes

Garishly pink, these cakes are the hotel bakery’s signature offering, but even I knew that a slice at 9am would not make for a nutritious breakfast.



Where: middle-of-nowhere gas station, California

What: weird soda

Stumbling upon a middle-of-nowhere gas station, I certainly wasn’t expecting to come across two huge walls lined with novelty hot sauce and every single flavour of soft drink you could possibly imagine. I just wish I had picked up some of that bacon soda. Mmm... refreshing.


Anna Howard

I thrive on discovering hidden gems and local haunts wherever I travel, from hole-in-the-wall cafes and dive bars, to antique stores and eclectic markets. I feel just as content in a cosy cabin in the wilderness as I do lost in the crowd of a buzzing city.