We had a wonderful circular drive from Tahoe to San Diego, LA, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles. Between LA and San Diego is the wine country centered in Temecula. Its not very well know but theyre producing some wonderful wines. Most are very limited production so youll only find them on restaurant menus, at the winery, or on their web sites. The wines from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles were gems.
We had a lot of terrific food so I will mention the restaurants and what we ate and not go into a long discourse.
Made it to LA the 1st night and ate at Ciudad, sister restaurant of Border Grill, though more complex. Had a dish called chicken enrollado while MsRev had a couple appetizers-seared calamari with white beans,peppers,bilbao chorizo, and argentine empanadas with wild mushroom,warm chipotle sauce and swiss chard & tomatillo sauce. Everything was great.
Lunch Saturday was at Ponte Winery in Temecula at their Smokehouse restaurant. Had wonderful pulled pork and wood-fired pizza with veggies, pesto, and goat cheese.
Dinner Sunday in San Diego was with a friend at Peohes, on Coronado Island. Beautiful views of the city and the food was okay. We had an ono dish and a halibut with bananas and other tropical stuff. Our breakfasts were pastries from the French Bakery & Patisserie in LaJolla. Good stuff. Dinner Monday night was at the rooftop bar at the Hotel Valencia in LaJolla. They have a tapas type menu and everything we ordered was outstanding. We had Lobster paella stuffed calamari, diver scallops with white beans and truffle tomato ragout, ahi tuna tartare, and an heirloom tomato and bufalo mozzarella salad.
Our first dinner in LA was possibly the best of the trip-AOC,. Its like dining at Avec in Chicago, as Suzanne Goin and Paul Kahan are good friends. However AOC is not as cramped, has a more extensive menu, and I think has a little better food. We had so many dishes I cant name them all, but suffice it to say, there wasnt a weak dish in the group. Lunch the next day was my most disappointing meal of the trip-Tommys. I know this is an institution but its just a greasy burger with some of the worst chili Ive ever had. The chili is not quite as bad when mixed with the burger but I still dont get it. Also had an average tamale. I couldnt wait to dine here because I absolutely loved it on my last visit-however I was 20, stoned, and it was 1 in the morning. Do you think that couldve clouded my judgement? The difference is that I was also eating ultimate tacos from Jack in the Box on Ridge at that time and I still love those tacos. As a matter of fact, our last meal, on the road, was at Jack in the Box along the highway having tacos and their sourdough burger. MMMMMM!
Our next dinner was at Yong Su San, a Korean restaurant serving a fixed price what I call royal Korean dinner. We had a 10 course meal for $23 each and it was great. Lunch was at the Border Grill in Santa Monica. They had great watermelon margaritas. We ate grilled fish tacos and a dish called mushroom melinta, with grilled portobellas, great sauces, cheese, and other stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Our last dinner in LA was at Lucques. Had an incredible heirloom tomato dish with burrata,croutons, basil, sautéed sweetbreads with grilled cornbread,chanterelles and sherry glaze, summer lamb cassoulet with shellbeans,garlic sausage and roasted cherry tomatoes, and suckling pig with long-cooked romano beans,grilled baby leeks and romescos. Finished with a fruit tart. Outstanding!
It was on to Santa Barbara with a wonderful meal at Downeys. Fresh local crab toasts with curried fruits and arugula, followed by Opakapaka with fricassee of chanterelles,flageolets,tomatoes, and swiss chard and Morro Bay black cod with saffron-lobster sauce, asparagus and parsley potatoes. Dont remember dessert. I highly recommend this place. Lunch was in Solvang, a cutesy Danish town, at Chefs Touch. Nice deli-grocery with very interesting and tasty sandwiches.
Our last night was in Paso Robles and we dined at Deborahs Room at Justin Winery. Its an expensive meal but a relative bargain compared to a comparable big city restaurant. Five course meal at $75 per person plus $35 for the wine pairing, which I recommend. Theres only 6 tables, in a warm, inviting room, and the service is excellent. Started with salad of green asparagus & black truffles and goat cheese vinaigrette and a tuna carpaccio with meyer lemon chutney and citrus essence. Next was syrah poached foie gras torchon with grilled figs, shallot and peach compote and a sea urchin risotto with truffle oil and shaved parmesan. Entrees were Alaskan halibut with purple potato pave, sautéed green and yellow French beans & heirloom tomato vinaigrette and pan roasted duck breast with black forbidden rice, gooseberries and isosceles vinaigrette. This was followed by a cheese course and finished with valrhona bittersweet chocolate marquis with passion fruit and red current puree, and strawberry shortcake-strawberry and balsamic compote with mascarpone cream and brown butter cake accompanied by strawberry soup and strawberry sorbet. This was an absolutely fabulous way to end the trip.