While I have enjoyed California through the years (first place in the US I ever went to) and at one point spent one week a month there, it had been a while since I had visited. Since it was a family vacation we left out most of the real high-end restaurants and instead focused on some we really wanted to try and we would all enjoy, running the spectrum from fast food staples like In N Out for burgers in L.A. and Rubio's for fish tacos in San Diego to Morgan's in the Dessert and it's James Beard award winning chef Jimmy Schmidt.
While we had some outstanding meals, it would be an extremely long and probably boring post if I went through all so will try to pick some of the highlights...
Knowing my love (and my 7 year old's) love of hamburgers, first off of LAX for lunch was In N Out. I had read the entire (not so) secret menu and knew exactly what I wanted, a double double with whole grilled onion and fries well done.
After all the expectation, I have to say that In N Out totally lived up to the hype. My son went as far as saying that was the best cheeseburger he's ever had. While I wouldn't go that far, we did have to make two more stops for him on the trip to get him more In N Out cheeseburgers...
Knowing that night we would all be tired due to time difference I opted for Italian (my comfort food) in Osteria La Buca on Melrose. Everything was great but the two outstanding dishes were the grilled octopus, one of my many food weaknesses, and the spaghetti in squid ink.
The octopus was cooked perfectly and not cut in rings, the potatoes and mildly spicy sauce were perfect complement, ranks up there with some of the best octopus I have had, and rare is the time I see octopus in a menu and not order it...
My twitter friend @DeathBedFood had recommended Gjelina in Venice as the talk of LA foodies so decided to give it a shot and while all I could get was lunch reservations, it again did not disappoint. We started off first with the pork meatballs, I could have easily had three more orders of these, and probably spooned up the sauce like soup:
In Santa Monica found this great little bakery, Rockenwagner Bakery that had this fantastic breakfast sandwich, egg, ham, cheese and avocado on pretzel bread.
Another place I had heard great things about and also was looking forward to was Fig Santa Monica, and again, it lived up and even surpassed expectations! Everything was amazing, starting with the amuse bouche
following with the appetizers
And so we go to San Diego... which for me meant fish tacos! While researching places the one name that kept coming up was Rubio's, despite being a fast food chain, so not having tried before decided to see for myself. Had a variety, including the traditional (fried), the grilled ono, but the winner was the grilled one with habanero and mango, really nice!
Next up on the list was Bencotto Italian Kitchen which had won best Italian in San Diego so we were ready for some good pasta!
Started with a very nice cheese plate, not just the selection of cheeses, but what came with it, like the caramelized onion and fig compote...
Next up was Morgan's in the Desert which again had received top marks and being my Father's Day dinner was set to be a special meal, which it definitely was!
We went "raw" with the appetizers, getting the beef carpaccio
My entree was one of the top dishes of the trip, the pork loin with a caramelized onion and bacon sauce... amazing!!
Back in LA after Palm Springs we spent our last day in Manhattan Beach which not only do we love but had the best weather to see us off, we stopped at Rock'n Fish just by the pier and had another great meal before coming home, these crab cakes with spicy sauce were outstanding.