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EPISODE 5: CULINARY

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Wines

Hawley Dunbar tastes wine - photo Max Whittaker

California is, without a doubt, the wine capital of the United States. The state produces 90% of all U.S. wine, and two-thirds of all types of wine sold in America.

In fact, California is the fourth-largest wine producer in the world, behind France, Italy, and Spain. More than 110 grape varieties are grown, with top varietals including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Sauvignon Blanc.
 
California’s wineries stand out as exceptional destinations, with tours, tastings, artwork, gardens, dining, performance spaces, and even swimming pools. California’s wine scene has produced some of the country’s top luxurious inns, exceptional restaurants, and beautiful spas, complete with hot-air balloon rides and guided tours by bike, limo, and bus. Most of which can be found along California's classic wine roads.
 
Perhaps California’s most famous wine address is Napa Valley, a 56-mile-long wine heaven with hundreds of wineries in everything from rustic barns to lavish castles and historic mansions. Just west of Napa is the more intimate Sonoma Valley, cradling more than 425 wineries. Farther west and north, the wineries amid the rugged and redwood-trimmed hills of the Russian River Valley and Mendocino produce exceptional wines, many using organic techniques.
 
More great wineries can be found as you go south through the state. Gold Country has about 180 wineries, while the Central Valley’s facilities produce 70% of California’s wine grapes. Hundreds of wineries dot the rugged hills and valleys on the Central Coast around Santa Cruz and Monterey, and farther south in the coastal hills surrounding San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Another 150 wineries can be found in Southern California from Ventura and Malibu in the north to L.A. and San Diego in the south.

So it takes a big event to capture the sheer scale and diversity of the California wine scene. Whether your client is a serious oenophile or a newbie looking to learn more, California Wine Month is held annually in September, offers more than 55 events throughout the month during an ideal time of year to visit.

Craft Brewers

photo Max Whittaker

California’s craft beer movement isn’t just a fad—it’s here to stay. With nearly 500 breweries statewide, wine isn’t the only adult beverage to be perfected in California.

From the state’s northernmost stands of coast redwoods south to the Mojave Desert, the craft beer movement has touched every corner of the Golden State. Even Napa Valley, known primarily for wine, now has microbreweries to tout.
 
San Diego was one of the first areas in California to experiment with craft beer. The San Diego Brewers Guild now has more than 70 breweries, including Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Ballast Point Brewing Company, and Stone Brewing.
 
In Northern California’s Shasta Cascade, craft beer really claimed its ground. Visitors can trace the history from Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in the college town of Chico. San Francisco itself has nearly two dozen members in its Brewers Guild, all brewing within the 46 square miles of the city borders.
 
Los Angeles joined the craft revolution later on, but has certainly made up for lost time. East L.A. has Eagle Rock Brewery, which is the city’s first major player. Also suggest that travelers visit Angel City Brewery, known for its local art in addition to its brews.

By Region - North

Holly's Hill Vineyards - photo Myles McGuinness

Northern California is one of the most diverse epicurean playgrounds in the entire United States. In fact, few other places in the world have such a varied blend of chefs, farmers, fishermen, and foragers who work in harmony with winemakers and brewmasters to concoct culinary magic. 
 
The North Coast’s location is a gold mine for culinary diversity, with the ocean’s bounty to the west and sustainable farms, artisanal food makers, and vineyards scattered throughout the region. Sip award-winning wines alongside haute cuisine, or tuck into a hearty bowl of chowder, pier-side. California’s North Coast has a very strong cheese tradition as well, making fresh goat, sheep, and cow’s cheese all across the top of the state.
 
No doubt one culinary capital of Northern California is San Francisco, where ingredient-driven menus are the standard. Many San Francisco chefs work closely with local farms and food purveyors to get exactly what they are looking for. Consider the sophistication of Michelin-starred restaurants like Coi, Atelier Crenn, and Quince, or suck down tacos and burritos on the streets of the Mission District. Sample local delicacies like artisanal cheese at Cowgirl Creamery, dim sum in Chinatown, or freshly baked bread at Acme Bread.

Click here for more info on the ultimate annual EAT DRINK SF festival held in August.
 
Santa Cruz is another burgeoning culinary hotspot along Northern California’s coast. Visitors can start the day right with a steaming cup of fresh coffee, notably at Santa Cruz Coffee Roasting Company or Lulu Carpenter’s. But don’t stop there—nothing pairs better with a cup of fresh brew than a pastry. For that, visit Kelly’s French Bakery.

Come lunch time, Zoccoli’s Delicatessen is a local favorite, where the hot tri-tip sandwich is the one to beat. And for lunch, take advantage of Santa Cruz’s seaside location and visit Johnny’s Harborside or the Crow’s Nest for great sunset views and even better seafood.
 
Going hungry in Northern California is not an option. Neither is dining on the same thing two nights in a row.

By Region - Central

photo Visit California/Max Whittaker

Central California is arguably the farm-to-table capital of the state, especially in and around the Sacramento region.

The constant sunshine and nutrient-rich soil lend themselves to juicy fruit, fresh vegetables, and an ever-growing grocery list of artisanal, farm-based products. In fact, Sacramento’s chefs make use of the bounty of the region, crafting their seasonal menus by shopping at local farmer’s markets. More than 10 sprout up at different locations year-round.

One of the best ways to explore these is to have your clients join a Market-to-Plate Executive Chefs Tour, offered by Local Roots Food Tours. Here foodie travelers walk with chefs as they shop, learn their tips on what to buy, and then relax with a lunch made with the day’s purchases.

Visit in September for Sacramento’s annual Farm-to-Fork Festival–a two-week foodie celebration that gathers farmers and chefs to show off their very best food and wine.
 
When exploring Big Sur along the Central Coast, travelers are in for a different kind of dining. A great way to start the day is with a cup of coffee, local eggs, and homemade sourdough toast at Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant—a quirky establishment tucked behind a gas station. Should you be passing through at dinnertime, pop in for some of the area’s best wood-fired pizza. Dining with a view isn’t tough to find in Big Sur, especially at Nepenthe, home to the famous ambrosia burger. Order a craft brew and take in the sunset.

  • Other popular Big Sur restaurants include: Post Ranch Inn’s restaurant, Sierra Mar; Ventana Inn & Spa; and Big Sur Roadhouse.

By Region - South

The crab risotto dinner at Evergreen Lodge - photo Max Whittaker

Traveling gourmets hitting southern California are in for a cultural culinary kaleidoscope, all the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
 
Stopping in Santa Barbara means a visit to the Santa Barbara Public Market, a sophisticated food hall where travelers can snack on an array of sustainably made products that highlight local farms and artisanal ingredients. The market, located in the heart of downtown, also has a commissary kitchen that hosts cooking classes and winemaker dinners.
 
Dining in Los Angeles is a dizzying affair, with cuisine from every corner of the world, ranging from upscale dining to the most casual of taco trucks. Here is a list of some of the famous L.A. food trucks you client's can enjoy.

Naturally L.A. attracts big-name chefs, being the celebrity capital of the world. Household names like Wolfgang Puck, Rick Bayless, and even Robert De Niro all have restaurants in L.A. that are certainly worth your tastebuds’ time.  

But if cheap eats are more your speed, you’re certainly in the right city. Being such an international melting pot, L.A. is home to some authentic and reasonably priced ethnic food, especially tucked away in neighborhoods.

  • Try do-it-yourself barbecue at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in Koreatown, or slurp a perfect bowl of ramen at Tsujita LA in Little Tokyo. Or order the green corn tamales at El Cholo, an L.A. tradition since 1923.
 
Further south, in San Diego, seafood reigns supreme. Start in La Jolla with brunch at Brockton Villa, where the Crab Ipanema Benedict is at the top of the menu. Continue downtown to Anthony’s Fish Grotto for a creamy bowl of clam chowder, or perfectly crunchy fish and chips.

  • On the Embarcadero there is Sally’s Seafood on the Water and The Fish Market. For great live music, try Humphrey’s Restaurant on Shelter Island, which offers a scenic musical backdrop in its outdoor amphitheater.

  • Or disappear to Coronado to relax at Mistral at Loews Coronado Bay Resort.

Click here for more information on the largest Latin Food Fest of it's kind, held each summer,

Best Rooftop Restaurants

A view of downtown Los Angeles - photo Max Whittaker

L.A.’s fantastic weather lends itself naturally to al fresco dining—and what better place to do so than on a rooftop with a view of the twinkling city below?

Whether it's a restaurant, club, or lounge, L.A.’s dining scene above the pavement is about as sexy as it gets.
 
Over on Wilshire Blvd., The Roof on the top of the Hotel Wilshire features wraparound banquettes that provide incredible skyline views. Sip one of the bar’s signature Mule-style drinks to help ring in the evening. Also downtown is Upstairs Bar at Ace Hotel, with 360-degree views of the city and the San Gabriel Mountains.
 
For a wild and unforgettable time, secure a waterbed pod alongside the pool at The Rooftop at The Standard Downtown. Be forewarned that there will be a bit of a wait, as this continues to be one of the hottest addresses in town. But rest assured, it will be worth it.

Click here to find more information on some rooftop retreats.

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Please explore and enjoy the other sections of sales information to further reinforce your knowledge and confidence for selling California. Benefit from visiting the Supplier Directory to discover a sampling of Hoteliers and Tour Operators to start matching clients preferences, and Sales Toolbox when presenting to clients.