California has something for every foodie, from local organic, home-grown produce to coastal cafes serving up the freshest fish and the finest Michelin-starred restaurants.
With the 2012 wine grapes now in the barrel after a busy harvest season and cooler climate produce popping up on menus, now is the ideal time to get out to the Golden State.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the newest gourmet trends and the latest food and drink news to start you off on your Californian culinary adventure…
California Restaurant Month, January 2013
When better to celebrate the freshest food the Golden State has to offer than during California Restaurant Month?
The state-wide event showcases celebrity chef dinners, food and wine events, and gourmet prix-fixe menus.
Taste your way around the state as you sample a variety of flavours and dining styles while experiencing the best of California’s food scene.
DIY Dining – Urban Foraging Across California
The buzz this autumn is all about foraging and sourcing your own fresh ingredients to create delicious meals and snacks. For those who want to know where to pick the best berries or source fruit trees whilst in California, head out into the city parks, local forests and along the Californian roads to find your own edibles to pickle or cook with, or join a local foraging group for a tour.
ForageSF hosts Wild Food Walks, a free two hour guided tour which teaches participants about foraging techniques, how to identify edibles, sustainable harvesting techniques and provides a history of foraging in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It also hosts a monthly supper club with menus created from locally foraged ingredients.
Like to add some adventure to your foraging? E.C.O. Tours is offering a new forest forage tour in the Santa Cruz Mountains which involves ascending 50 feet into a California native Coast Live Oak tree – yes really.
The tours, which are taken in groups of eight, are led a by naturalist guide and uncover the delights of fungi, berries and redwood sorel.
Join the Gourmet Food Truck Revolution
Want to know where to get some great Californian soul food?
San Diego is home to some of the State’s most innovative and delicious food trucks. Whether visitors are looking for gourmet dining on-the-go or want to get behind the city’s vibrant street-food scene, there’s everything from vegan to Thai, and Swiss style hot dogs to the American Classic ‘Grilled Cheese’ sandwich.
The San Diego sunshine means al fresco dining is always an option. Food truck websites offer calendars and schedules so fans can track their favourite ‘mobile restaurants’ and never miss a culinary delight on the curb.
Los Angeles is another food truck mecca, and enthusiasts need look no further than Abbot Kinney Boulevard, in Venice.
On the first Friday evening of every month, up to 40 different food trucks gather along the streets and car parks and welcome the masses of fans that follow their movements on social media.
Food addicts delight in the variety of food available, including the infamous Kogi Korean BBQ and Mexican cuisine truck. Chef Roy Choi began selling $2 tacos from the Kogi truck and is now an LA street food icon. Head on down to First Fridays to discover this new wave of street dining and get a taste of what has quickly become an LA classic.
Follow the Olive Oil Trail
Looking for an alternative to wine hopping? Olive oil tours are becoming increasingly popular in California, and many farms in Sonoma and Napa Valley are now offering olive oil tastings.
McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma offers escorted orchard tours and lessons about harvesting olive, where you can learn about caring for olive trees, take part in seasonal workshops and enjoy cooking demonstrations.
Another Sonoma favourite is The Olive Press, which offers complimentary tastings at their tasting bar, and has one of the best stocked pantries in California.
The best time for tasting and tours is early summer, but for those who can’t wait to visit the olive groves, check out Sonoma’s Olive Festival, December 2012 – February 2013. The festival includes artisan markets, seminars, and cooking classes.
Down the coast in the Santa Ynez Valley, visitors should stop by Global Gardens, an olive oil and vinegar producer offering tastings year round at their shop in Los Olivos.
Enjoy the Ultimate Pint Night
California is known worldwide for its wine, but it’s fast becoming a hot spot for craft beers.
Hailing from the north comes the Eel River Brewing Company, unique in its accolade of being the first fully certified organic brewery in the U.S.
Located in Fortuna, Eel River Brewing serves a range of handcrafted organic microbrews and is known for its organically raised Black Angus steaks and burgers. In case you forget where you are, the brewery’s bar is made entirely from the mighty Redwood and Douglas fir trees, and boasts the largest outdoor beer garden on the North Coast, meaning you can soak up the scenery while enjoying your ales.
Moving south and you’ll come across one of the most dynamic beer scenes in the U.S. Home to more than 50 micro-breweries, San Diego is proving it’s got more to offer than just sun and surf and is making waves across the craft beer world.
For more information about visiting California go to www.visitcalifornia.co.uk.