Tasty Travels: California | chicago foodie girl


Tasty Travels: California

*Guest post by chicago foodie girl contributor, Diana

Helloooo Foodies! Hope this finds you well. :)

Life's been pretty hectic lately with my job, but in between the madness, I found time to leave the Spring freeze of Chicago and head west to the sunny shores of Southern California. I spent a few days with my sister, then a couple of days on my own, then back home to reality. It was a great trip that I sorely needed. I hadn't gone on vacation in a couple of years and a break was certainly in order.

So let's get out of town and see what So Cal (I know people from California hate that term, but I'm lazy and it allows me to type less. HAHA!) has to offer...

We flew Virgin America. Great airline, comfy seats, accommodating staff. Next, to Jet Blue, they're my favorite airline. You're already in a sardine can, but on either airline, you definitely do not feel like a sardine. Being a lady of, um, size, comfort is important to me when air traveling. Thumbs up to VA!

After landing at LAX, we headed to Newport Beach, which was home base for the week. As soon as we hit town we wandered into what looked like the touristy part of town, where there were stores, restaurants, and surf shops (we were walking distance from the beach). We were slightly jet-lagged, hungry and cranky, so picking out a restaurant is always a challenge in those instances.

I saw a restaurant called "The Crab Cooker" and figured I couldn't possibly go wrong with a name like that. After arguing over the parking meter, we made our way in. TCC is a joint, nothing fancy, the waitstaff treats you like they've known you forever and the food is great. I LOVED IT!

I tried the seafood skewer which was loaded with fresh fish (I think they used halibut), scallops and shrimp. The sides were fresh coleslaw and this lovely twice baked potato thing (bottom right corner) that was so good, I was tempted to eat the one off of my sister's plate!

The day we headed south on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH or "1" to the locals) to San Diego for the afternoon. Talk about great views along the coast!

After a bit of walking around and shopping, we found a lovely Argentinean steakhouse called Puerto La Boca, and decided to give it a try:

Once in the restaurant, we were immediately brought warm bread and the following spreads: chimichurri (a mixture of olive oil, garlic, parsley, oregano, vinegar, and crushed red pepper), butter with olives and parsley, and olives marinated in spicy olive oil. I was all over that chimichurri, it was delicious!

I do love my short ribs, and they were on the menu, so I ordered them up and about 15-20 minutes later, I was presented with this deliciousness. Topped it with chimichurri and I was in heaven:

After that, we did a bit more walking and driving around, then headed back to Newport Beach to catch some zzzzs before our next adventure!

The next morning we headed north to Santa Barbara, which when driving along PCH takes about 2-3 hours. But who cares, when you have views like this:

And you get to drive through a mountain!

Along the way, we stopped in Malibu at Grom for gelato. This is the BEST gelateria I've ever had the opportunity to try!! I ordered the house gelato (Crema de Grom), which is an egg cream with cookie bits and chocolate chips and combined it with their deep dark chocolate gelato, which is pictured on the right. My sister ordered pear sorbet along with the deep dark chocolate gelato. Drool.

We continued our drive up the coast until we finally made it to Santa Barbara. The long drive is definitely worth it. The views are fantastic and there's Stearn's Wharf that's right over the ocean that you can park at, then dine and/or shop. Of course we did BOTH.  :)

We actually ate at that restaurant on the left. It's called Moby Dick's and it was fried seafood, plain and simple, nothing to get overly excited about.

The next day we headed back north, this time to Los Angeles, to hit my favorite place, The Farmers Market at The Grove. Shops, produce stands, butchers, restaurants, there's something for everyone and I could spend hours there!

We stopped at my FAVORITE gourmet shop, Monsieur Marcel:

Imported and local olive oils, salts, spices, snacks, booze, cheese and so much more. It's safe to say I spent a ton of money at this store.  I wish there were a shop like this in Chicago. I have to go to at least three different stores in Chicago to find everything contained in this one store. I love this place!!

Then we headed out and checked out Beverly Hills:

And we snaked through the Hollywood Hills to see the homes built into the mountains!

And then dinner was in Manhattan Beach, at my favorite restaurant (and hotel, in the same building), Matisse:

I'm an occasional meat eater (although I did indulge in the short ribs just two days prior, oops!), and when I want a steak, this is the place. The ribeye is like buttah, served with veggies and a mushroom risotto:

Then came Monday. I dropped my sister off in Long Beach for a 4-day cruise, and I was on my own for a couple of days before heading home. A friend of mine used to live in Newport Beach, so he made some suggestions of sights for me to see, and I took advantage on my last two days and saw as much as I could, even though I was fighting a migraine on Tuesday.

Here's everything in no particular order:

Crystal Cove State Park. It costs $15 to park there for the day, but the scenery is so amazing, you'll easily spend a day there!

I put my pasty white feet in the water:

I went to Ruby's Shake Shack, right on PCH. If you drive too fast, you'll miss it!

I ordered a dark chocolate-chocolate chip shake while I waited for my grub, what a view!

And watched the waves while I noshed on my turkey burger and skinny fries (YUM):

Tried dinner at the hotel restaurant (I stayed at the Radisson in Newport Beach). I had seafood skewers, saffron rice and veggies - I was quite impressed, it was very good for hotel food!

I went to the mall, called "Fashion Island." It's not on an island.  :(  But there's a trolley that will drop you off at any store you'd like!

I tried Pinkberry - salted caramel froyo with brownie bites and strawberries. Delish!

The pet store across the way made me cry, being the animal lover that I am. I wanted to free those expensive pocket pups and let them roam free! Or come home with me.  :(

My last meal in So Cal was Cuban dining at Habana in Costa Mesa (5min from Newport Beach):

I ordered the Sangria Blanco, which was lovely, but I missed the fruit that usually comes with a sangria:

And I tried my new favorite appetizer, fried avocado! Lightly breaded and flash fried, the result is crunchy on the outside, creamy, warm and buttery on the inside. I wanted to spread it on the bread in the bread basket, but I thought that would be obnoxious.

For dinner I had Paella, which was a love mix of seafood, sausage and chicken with saffron rice, served in a mini paella pan. Wow! Yum!

Leftovers were eating for breakfast on Wednesday before heading to the airport. :)  Thank god my room had a fridge!

Side note, I also visited Laguna Beach but didn't take any pictures. Lots of shops and art galleries, great place to people watch.  :)

Thanks for joining me on my travels, I hope you have the opportunity to try any of these places if you ever find yourself in SoCal! And please take the drive on PCH, even if it's just a short distance. Ocean on one side, mountains on the other, how can you beat that?



  1. All the food looks so good! Looks like you had a nice vacation as well!

  2. Everything looks so awesome! I love the photos of the coast. The next time I go to CA, I need to actually get out of the San Fran area and see the southern parts.

    I soooooo want to go to that farmers' market & Monsieur Marcel!!!

  3. Everything looks amazing! Lucky girl!

  4. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks a lot for posting this informative article


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