The Flying Foodie: Los Angeles
I was lucky enough to be invited to “Dream California with Curtis Stone” and experience a culinary and lifestyle adventure, visiting his favourite wineries, the farms where he sources produce and dine at his restaurants.
What I discovered was that exploring California has never been easier. No connecting flights required for this paddock to plate, farm to fork or barrel to glass tour. Simply take a direct flight to LAX and you are on your way to discovering the many delicious spots right in LA or jump in a car and explore the Santa Barbara wine country, just a couple of hours drive away.
Wine Tour through Santa Ynez Valley:
With the cool sea breezes streaming in across the Valley and an abundance of micro-climates in the region, Santa Ynez has some 70 different varietals grown in the area due to the mountain ranges and its east/west orientation.
As one of the original wineries in the region, Brander Winery is planted mainly to Bordeaux varieties, the classically styled wines of Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Semillon and are ideally suited to the region.
You will be treated to superb views across the vineyards, just a mere few metres from the cellar door with tastings of their white and red blends and on occasion, a pick of the founder, Fred Brander’s, own private cellar.
The mission styled estate of Bridlewood produces wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rhone varieties. Flying the Aussie flag in California is winemaker Matt Steel, he is as passionate about his wine making as he is about pairing it with food. Locally sourced cheeses and charcuterie items are the ideal match with their 2012 Block 7 Syrah. The smooth and juicy wine lingers with notes of cherry and anise, giving it bold aromas. A wine you must take home with you is the 2015 Rose Paso Robles. Ideal for the Australian summer, the Tempranillo and Grenache varieties have created a delicate, salmon hued drop that when blended with a small amount of zinfandel and viognier results in a bright and aromatic wine with a touch of acidity.
Other wineries to visit – Melville Winery and Tyler Winery.
Where to Eat
The shared dining experience at The Lark features artisanal and seasonal ingredients, which celebrates the abundance of incredible produce available on the Central Coast of California.
The starter of local oysters with a watermelon granita and red shiso prepares the tastebuds for what's to come. Large platters to share of harissa and honey glazed chicken with a side of crispy brussel sprouts will have you fighting over the last bite. Sweet, spicy and juicy, the chicken is succulent and exactly my type of dish to share. The wine and beer menu also celebrates all things Californian.
Grab a table under the outdoor patio of the old fish market building and delight in discovering the vintage objects and floral garden all around you.
Paying homage to the Avocado orchards that once grew where the restaurant now sits, Barbareno’s avocado gazacho with tarragon and lemongrass served in a shot glass rimmed with bee pollen is modern yet familiar. Taking their inspiration from the region, the team proudly showcases local fare and delicacies of the Central Coast cuisine. The Spanish heritage is embedded in the menu, the Santa Maria BBQ dish of tri tip, red oak, pico de gallo and pinquinto beans a perfect example. The ocean is well represented with dishes of sea urchin, market fish and scallops all on the menu.
With its own beach front and ideal location for exploring the region, Bacara Resort ticks the boxes for accommodation. If you indulge a little too much at the local restaurants, Bacara’s Spa Café is your ideal food stop to refresh and detox. With an Asian and Latino inspired menu, the fresh and light dishes of spa taco and edamame pot stickers are just enough to restart the body.
For a more indulgent affair, head ocean side and high on the headland to Angel Oak to sip champagne and pamper yourself with a local seafood platter.
From Santa Barbara, head back into Los Angeles, but not before stopping off at one of the family farms where Curtis Stone sources produce from for his LA restaurants.
To quote Curtis Stone, “Each dish truly begins with the finest product available,” then you can be guaranteed that McGrath Family Farm grows some of the best organic fruit and vegetables in the region.
Pick your own at McGrath Family Farm
Grab a basket and head out into the fertile fields with Phil McGrath, 5th generation farmer. From carrots, to strawberries, to flowers, this working farm is the perfect spot to start your paddock to plate tour.
Watch the farm workers pick, wash and sort the best of the best produce ready for delivery directly to the finest restaurants in the region.
Los Angeles - Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Downtown
To truly follow the paddock to plate, head back into to LA for some foodie indulgence. Curtis Stone’s first restaurant, opened in 2014, Maude, a tribute to his grandmother is one of the finest restaurants in town. He has also just opened his new venture, Gwen, at the heart of it, a butchery with a restaurant driven purely by protein.
With its Art-deco meets industrial styling, cascading chandeliers, brass and concrete flooring, Gwen is all glam, look at me. At the heart of it, sits a hearth, an open kitchen where carcasses and slabs of premium cuts hang slowly roasting over the almond wood. Smoke lingers in the restaurant, just enough to draw your attention to the feast that waits.
A tasting menu is on offer, charcuterie including duck speck, pastas, lamb and Australia’s finest wagyu beef by David Blackmore, soon to arrive on the menu. The protein, driven by the storefront butchery is the hero throughout, so much so that when it is time to carve into the meats the waiter brings out a wooden box filled with fancy steak knives, just take your pick.
Behind a discreet steel door lies a small dining room, rustic in finish, with a luxe feel that antique silverware and china plates give. Wine bottles chill in a copper basin and the open kitchen looks to run in first gear, calm and moving along quietly.
The 10-course tasting menu celebrates a single ingredient each month and when I dine, it happens to be zucchini. Frilly plates from what looks to be from your grandmother’s china cabinet are topped with dish after dish with touches of zucchini like the soft fleshy Halibut wrapped in zucchini with aromatic verbena, a fresh and floral plate. The hemp milk soup is poured from an antique tea-pot into a china cup, both delicate in nature.
While this type of dinner might not be for everyone, it is certainly an interesting journey to experience the festival of a single in-season ingredient across a variety of dishes.
Downtown LA Food Tour
Stroll the historic streets of downtown LA with Avital Tours. The four-course progressive dining experience takes you through the city’s history, soaring regency architecture and up close and personal with the chefs. From a Brazilian home-cooked restaurant nibbling on kibe and Portuguese croquettes to the beetroot spaghetti with goat's cheese. There is also ice-cream churned by bicycle, yes that is what you will find on your downtown tour, honey lavender the flavour of the day.
Where to stay:
Beverly Hills Hotel
Live like Hollywood royalty, even if only for a few days, at The Beverly Hills Hotel. From the moment you step upon the property, your stay will be filled with timeless glamour surrounded by the iconic hues of green and pink and the banana leaf print.
Marble bathrooms, a palm tree lined pool to relax by and some serious celebrity spotting opportunities – Mary J. Blige and Gordon Ramsay anyone?
Alana Lowes was a guest of Visit California and Virgin Australia.
Did this article have your mouth watering for the tasted of Los Angeles? Virgin Australia flies direct to Los Angeles from Sydney, Brisbane, and (from April 2017) Melbourne. Search and book for your flights with Virgin Australia now!