I had a friend from China who was visiting the US and wanted someone to show them around a little bit. Having been in foreign countries where everything is different, even when the same, I totally could remember being in their exec position. When I travel I love when locals show you some of their special little "secrets." Things that guide books can't tell you, thoughts and feelings that the internet isn't able to reproduce (yet). So for one week I got to play tour guide. Only thing was, I was playing tour guide in areas that were mostly new to me. But I had some benefits on my side. I know food and I know how to travel. A week later, I look back and can say I did a great job, though not at every moment. My friend got to taste America in both the culinary sense as well as a little of the persona of this great country.
You know when you go to Chinese restaurants and someone has to say, "In China the food is completely different than our Chinese." Well, it's the same for any food. Local is always best. I never liked Mexican food growing up because I grew up in New England, about as far continentally speaking, that one can get from Mexico and still be in the US. When I moved to California, Mexican food finally made sense to me. California use to be Mexico, after all. So when I said, "Let's eat Mexican tonight." my friend looked at me and said point out "I don't like Mexican food, it isn't good." Of course it isn't, if you eat it in China. But I persisted and convinced her of my ways and what happened after the meal? "That was delicious." Of course it was, it was Mexican food in Santa Barbara.
The BBQ i was a little less sure of. I've never met anyone who doesn't like authentic Mexican food, but BBQ is a different story. There are various styles and a lot of people just don't love a thick and tasty BBQ sauce. But I felt, when in America… eat as the Americans eat. So we went out and got a variation of BBQ taste. Ribs, tri tips, brisket, hot wings, beans, and we washed it down with some NOLA style bread pudding. It was decadent, delicious and a big hit. SUCCESS!!
Our breakfasts were mostly standard diner fare. Pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage, coffee, coffee, coffee (David Lynch would be proud). We did have an incredibly healthy morning in Santa Barbara as it is Santa Barbara and healthiness is key there. But most of the breakfasts were heavy and American. (I should add, lunch was usually not eaten as breakfast was so overpowering.)
In LA the food was all about Korean. Beijing is known for it's jajangmyeon, a black bean sauce noodle. However, IMO, the Korean's took this dish and enhanced it. My friend had never had the korean version so if there was some place to eat this (outside of Korea) this was the place. I researched where one of the best spots in K-town was and off we went. She liked it, and I loved it!!! I would eat this dish with my host family on rainy days and when I eat the dish now, and it's good, I am transported back there. In good culinary tour fashion, after the jajangmyeon we headed across K-town to hit a noodle house known for it's mandoo (dumplings). All Chinese people love dumplings. It's a proven fact! OK, maybe not a fact, but a relatively true generalization. So this seemed like a good place to go. And though the dumplings were great, the real highlight here was the kimchi. Sour, spicy and a little sweet. Fermented wonderfulness.
Of course the whole trip wasn't just "eat our way across California", we did stop and do some site-seeing. Spending a few days around Yosemite was wonderful. A friend of ours from China had previously said, "Why go to Yosemite, it looks just like China." But we didn't let this effect our motives. Sure it has similarities with other national forest parks in China, but it isn't the same. There aren't coyotes in China, or the cute little bears we encountered crossing the road. There also isn't giant sequoia's anywhere in China. For those who've never been, seeing the giant sequoia's in person is truly beautiful. Breathtaking. Marvelous. Awe inspiring. They are mammoth treats and they bring into one's self a sense of how minuscule we really are. And we are oh so tiny in this grand macrocosm of life.
We also spent an extra day in Santa Barbara relaxing around. I have a friend from yoga training living there and he graciously gifted us a complimentary class of his therapeutic yoga. After all the long driving, it was very much appreciated. Santa Barbara is also a very cute town to walk around and it's easy to just lose the day meandering around the adorable and friendly downtown area.
As the week is up, I will now fly back to SF for a month stay before I head off to Asia again. My friend just left on a flight back to BJ. Very happy and content with all we did and saw and both left with the same feeling… "I don't like LA."