“I never knew the world until I went to New York, but I never knew myself until I went to California” — this quote is beyond true, but change the “myself” to “my tastebuds” and you’ve got a taste of my summer in sunny Los Angeles. Since I was working in the fashion industry, one might think that food was the farthest thing from my mind — but no worries, I had plenty of time to dig into California cuisine: cold-pressed juice, authentic Mexican food, healthy takes on sinful classics, produce-infused favorites and (the one, the only) In-N-Out Burger.
Fresh to Death
It’s not hard to believe — the endless sunshine makes it easy to constantly crave the products of that sunshine. The produce tastes fresher, fuller, sweeter and more indulgent (California avocados were such a revelation that my roommate took a dozen home to Wisconsin). Constantly sampling the produce compelled my stomach to actively crave fresh, green things, and I even broke myself free from artificial sweetener cravings. My morning coffee was swapped out for cold-pressed juice. (If you’re in the area, check out Pressed Juicery — their juice menu is killer, and they make a kickass smoothie perfect for a post-workout treat.) Juice bars are everywhere across Los Angeles (I tried about 12), and each has its own take on blending. My favorites include anything with kale, green apple, beets or carrots (Moon Juice in Venice does a great carrot-orange juice — post-surf bliss!). The Golden State quickly taught me the value of the garden growing around me and just how much pleasure you can get from it.
In any new area, I push myself to try new things to get out of my comfort zone. First up were tacos at Escuela Taqueria — not to mention the handmade salsa served in mason jars. I had the pork belly tacos — fresh and unexpectedly simple. The only ingredients were corn tortillas, sliced pork belly, bright green avocado and a sprinkle of sea salt. Light and easy — just like a California Saturday.
California Sundays, however, were reserved for my favorite: brunch. After an early morning surf (you have to beat the crowds, after all), I would throw a pair of cutoffs over my bathing suit and head to the M Street Kitchen for the best brunch on the beach. The menu is expansive (and delicious!) but my staple was the chocolate chip-orange pancakes. Giant, sweet and touched with just the right amount of earthy tartness, the indulgent dish kept me full until dinnertime. Long days at the office were broken up by Fonuts in the breakroom — Los Angeles’ clean eating answer to doughnuts. The company bakes or steams (instead of fries) its treats, which come in both vegan and gluten-free flavors. I’m devoted to red velvet, but there’s no wrong choice at the Fonuts counter.
To top off my week, Friday nights meant a West Coast classic: In-N-Out Burger. Truly a burger joint every American should visit, this fast food restaurant tastes decidedly un-fast-food-like. The beef is fresh, the lettuce and tomato crisp, the special sauce decadent and the fries? A crisp cut potato that may be the most American thing I’ve ever eaten.
Along with surfing (which I did a lot of), eating in California can truly change your mindset. You learn to treat your body with the right kind of love — eating well and splurging at the right moments. You find balance between the natural and the processed (isn’t that what Hollywood does?) and trust the Earth to provide your nourishment. California taught me to love the sun, the sand and the products of the earth. But, most importantly, it taught me to love eating food that tastes as good as it feels.