Wednesday, April 8, 2009

California Trip: Foodie Edition

Those in the Fisher know understand we like our food. For Kulani especially it is more a passion than a pasttime. So I thought the best way to journal about our trip to southern California would be to blog about the food. For the record, we were in California for the main purpose of Kulani participating in the Oceanside Half-Ironman.

Southern California is chock-a-block full of restaurants. We almost felt we were at a disadvantage because we hadn't studied too many food blogs of the southern California area. We found ourselves a tad unprepared. We knew a few restaurants were excellent on the Oceanside Harbor as we ate there when Kulani did the California Half-Ironman three years ago (details about those to follow).
But what all foodies know is that when you're in an area with many food choices, your best bet is to just ask the locals where they like to eat. The lady at Rite-Aid steered us to Anita's for great Mexican food. You can't be near the Mexican border and pass by the opportunity to have good Mexican food, so we took her advise and enjoyed ourselves a fine meal at Anita's. I had the Pancho lunch plate, which was a tortilla stacked with chicken, beans, cheese, and enchilada sauce. Kulani had something that involved chili relleno, my favorite Mexican dish. Both were excellent, but I didn't get to try Kulani's dish, as I had to take Nohea to the car for behaving so poorly.

Anita's on the Coastal Highway.

Pancho's plate.

Lilia enjoying the spoils.

Another interesting food choice whenever in a given geographical location is to stop and see what's on the fast food menus. For example, at McDonald's in Chicago, you can get a Vienna-style Chicago dog. In Hawaii, they offer mango fruitpies. In Oceanside, we stopped at the local Wiennerschnitzel for some ice cream. They had a "seadog" on the menu, so of course we had to try it. It was pretty good. I'm not sure if every Wienerschnitzel offers seadogs, but I know our local one didn't (maybe it does now?).

Other than maybe a snack, however, we avoid any chains. Our rule of thumb when on vacation is to only eat local food. We follow the teachings of Anthony Bourdain: Be a traveler, not a tourist.

The night before the race, Kulani thought he'd take the tried-and-true route of pasta--the proverbial "carbo load" the night before the race. We ate at Dominic's on the Oceanside Harbor pier. Kulani and his brother ate there three years ago, so he knew it was good.
Kulani had spaghetti and meatballs, while me and the girls shared a large sausage and mushroom pizza. I thought it was great, but at 2 a.m., Kulani's meal wasn't sitting right in his stomach. We'll have to cross Dominic's off our list next time we go. But the owner and his brother are super nice, and their accents sound as if they just got off the boat from Italy.
After the race, we ate at the Rockin' Baja, a restaurant also on the Harbor pier and right next to Dominic's. We also ate there three years ago, and it didn't dissapoint.
Seeing how he just spent 6 1/2 hours exercising, Kulani splurged on the Baja Bucket. It was AMAZINGLY good food! My new camera has a food setting, and I think it did a good job of capturing how awesome this food looked and tasted. The bucket included five slipper-lobster tails, six pieces of ginormous shrimp, 8 ounces of chicken, and 8 ounces of steak. I'm still dreaming about it.
I had the lobster tacos. As good as I remembered them.
Our final day in California would be our most adventurous food day. After a ho-hum breakfast at the Longborders Cafe in Oceanside, we took the leisurely route back to L.A. We drove up the Coastal Highway. It was interesting to watch as the income level in a given area went from super rich (Laguna Beach and Newport) to not so rich (Long Beach and Torrance). We kept driving all the way into Inglewood to go to Roscoes' Chicken and Waffles.

We heard about Roscoe's from an episode of No Reservations that found Anthony exploring the not-so-glamorous places of L.A. As we drove into Inglewood, the thought did come to Kulani and me that maybe we should turn around. Most of the businesses were boarded up and out of business; all the houses had bars on the windows and doors--it was looking scary, like something out of Boyz 'N the Hood. But we pressed on.
It reminded me of the time my parents took all of us to Hollywood to see the stars on the streets. This was 1993, and I've heard it's gotten even worse since then. My mom decided we should eat at Popeye's Chicken, which was approximately right across the street from Mann's Chinese Theatre. Here was this big, huge Mormon family sitting down for a dinner at Popeye's, when a seriously drunk man started screaming about how he was never "gonna eat in this sh**y chicken house again!" He was finally escorted out by some group that I think was called "Neighborhood Angels." My mom, of course, had to stop the gentleman and ask them all about their organization. We were all just thinking, "Please don't let us die today!" Another funny story as we left Hollywood was that my dad was approached by a pan handler with a sob story. My dad said, "I've got 10 kids." The man left him alone.
At any rate, Kulani had a little bit of "street cred" as he can almost pass for Mexican or maybe a a half-black guy. Me and the girls, however, stuck out like an African-American at BYU--only reversed. We were the only white folks in the place. But it was a really nice restaurant, and it was Sunday afternoon, so a lot of the people were families out to dinner after a nice day at church. And the chicken was AMAZING! Best fried chicken we've probably ever had. And we also tried all the southern-style sides, like collared greens, mac-n-cheese, and sweet potatoes. The waffles were also good. You can't go to a place called Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles and not have both chicken AND waffles.
I only took the one picture or Roscoe's because I was too afraid of offending anyone with my food blog. Lame, I know. It brought up a discussion about cultural differences, and Kulani repeated a quote from Dave Chappelle about how we need to understand the differences between cultures, not the similarities.
But here's a cultural tip if ever eating at our house: bring a healthy appetite. Love, the Fishers.


Christensen's Craziness said...

That is so funny! Whenever we travel we refuse to do the chain restaurants unless it is the only option. I think you get a good understanding of an area through its food.

Mr. Flynn said...

I like all of the food diversity in Southern California. I just don't like the traffic. I do make it a rule while visiting to eat at our ol' In N Out Burger at least twice every trip. It is overplayed perhaps down there, but it is such a part of my youth that I can't stay away. Plus, I can pound those Double Doubles.

Then I eat at one particular mexican food hole-in-the-wall that has this freakin' awesome Burrellno. It is a Chili Verde Burrito and Chili Relleno all wrapped up in one package. So awesome, and if I put enough of their salsa on it I get a nice sweat going on my head. There are a few other haunts I love when we go down there. But I don't love them enough to live there year around. CA is nice to visit and that is about it.

Mr. Flynn said...

Oh and the mexican food place is called El Torero and I am seriously wishing I had Burrelleno in front of me right now. I actually started salivating. There is just nothing like it in Oregon.

Heats said...

This post was perfect. We also loved the Rockin' Baja that was recommend to us by Fish. It was yummy. I think our husbands share a love for food and I love to eat it! We enjoyed Jesse and wish he was back here. My kids prolly tortured him to death. He is a great dog. I am glad you had fun.

go mom go said...

Walkin' into Roscoes must have been like going back to the home front, only a different race. Maybe I'll try a few of the Mexican bakeries on the square next time I'm there. I love the quote, be a traveler, not a tourist. you'll have to check out what Brad's cousin is doing in Asia. I'll send you a link through Facebook, or just search for 20,000 miles in Asia.

Real Estate Junkie said...

Ever since you recommended it to us a couple of years ago we always hit up the Rockin' Baja Lobster Grill, although we have tried a couple of different locations, including the dock there. My problem is that the lobster tacos are so good that I have never strayed from that to try anything else.

karin said...

Cindy - I was just discussing religion & food culture with some friends who are food critics, and they had a question I didn't know how to answer: if you're a LDS foodie, what do you do about alcohol in the food? I can easily see how people can refrain from drinking beer & wine altogether, but I couldn't imagine making fish soup or saltimbocca without a splash of white wine... It would be interesting to find out how you solve it - is it ok to cook with wine, since the alcohol burns off, or do you try & find good substitutes?

C.C. Fisher said...

Good question, Karin. In our household, we cook with alcohol based on the principals you mentioned: the alcohol cooks out. I'm sure some LDS don't believe in even cooking or eating food with alcohol in it. However, there is a famous quote in LDS culture from one of our prophets, David O. McKay, who was president of the LDS church in the 60s. He was once given bread pudding that had rum in it. Someone told him the dessert had rum (or was it whiskey?) in it, and he said, "The Word of Wisdom says not to drink alcohol. It doesn't say anything about EATING it."

MarySquare said...

I do love me that David O. McKay quote.

I have no issue with eating food with alcohol or coffee in it, I do it myself sometimes. But, you might think twice about how much the alcohol actually cooks out of some food. I read a book called, What Einstein Told His Cook, and the author talks about how much alcohol burns out depending on how the item is cooked. Some dishes and how you cook it, surprisingly little alcohol evaporates out.

Here's a link to an excerpt:
Just search for "alcohol" the relevant part is at the end of the page.

Not that it stops me from eating Tiramisu (with alcohol and coffee -- ouch).