California Living

I love New York. I really do. I’m lucky to live here. But I might love California more. Spring and autumn are when New York really shines, but as soon as it starts to get slushy or muggy I’m a total turncoat. Even though it was cooler there than in NYC on a recent trip, I drank up every moment of sunshine, ocean views, and great food.

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There was tandem biking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and this incredible dim sum at Ton Kiang, which was as good as my first visit six or seven years ago, back when I thought all Chinese food came in a greasy white take-out box.

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Spiky fried shrimp balls; wafer-thin crunchiness giving way to dense, meaty interiors.

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Crab-stuffed mushroom caps, piping hot and drizzled with sweet and sour sauce.

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Sunny custard tartlets, encased in a crust so light it dissolves on your tongue.

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“Eating local” in Santa Barbara often means whatever can be harvested from the backyard or the neighbor’s place. I ate the most wonderful bread, fresh from the oven with a soft crumb and crisp crust baked by my cousins’ next-door neighbor. His “shop” is only open for one hour a week on Saturdays, and word has spread. Cars line up on the street for this bread.

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We ate it with his hand-made goat cheese, procured from the goats in the backyard and honey from the beehives on the property. Pure bliss.

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Need eggs for baking? Just gather them from the coop out back – although you might need to quadruple the amount in a recipe.

Whenever I’m at a grocery store in New York, I buy lemons. I can’t seem to remember whether I’ve used up the latest stash in the fridge, and so I’m constantly picking up a few more “just in case,” for that extra bit of brightness they lend to almost any dish.

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I’d rather head to the tree than the store.

Some more noteworthy bites in a memorable west coast food tour:

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The perfect Mother’s Day picnic: roast beef sandwiches with local cheddar cheese, horseradish sauce, lettuce and tomato; spring peas that pop with sweetness tossed in olive oil with radishes and mint; arugula, goat cheese, strawberry and balsamic salad.

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Asparagus and pickled rhubarb salad with creamy dill dressing in San Francisco.

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Spring vegetable soup at a Santa Barbara popup restaurant. Fresh, sweet, and crisp, floating in a bacon-based broth with notes of smokiness bursting in the background.

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Sunshine, fish tacos, and $3 draft IPA.

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This view.

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‘Nuff said.

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