How lucky I am to have just returned from spending 2 weeks in (not always so) sunny California on a family (and friends) holiday. I had a fabulous time, and of course, I ate at a ton of awesmazing restaurants (and some not so great), visited and shopped at farmers’ markets (local, organic avocados were my personal highlight!), and frequented local grocery stores, because that’s how we always roll when we travel as a family. There are 9 links at the bottom of this post for each of the restaurants that I reviewed.
This trip was especially fun because we were traveling with friends of ours, another family of five. In regards to food, they have their own way of wanting to eat, plus their family added 2 more people with severe allergies and two more allergies (fish and sesame) to my sister’s nut and peanut allergy – talk about challenging to make dinner reservations, but we made it work for us, and had a GREAT time together, and all know how to care for each other and look out for each other. I will highlight a whole bunch of places we ate at – a few notes and pictures in this post, and a handful of separate posts to follow – all to be published at the same time (sorry for bombarding you!).
My mother always books hotels that have fridges and kettles so that we can at least eat breakfast in the comfort of our room and can eat really clean and keep fresh food with us. A good start to the day matters! We also like to accumulate plenty of snacks (and ice creams) – not only do I love to try new things, but my little brother loves to eat just about everything, and constantly (“seriously? I’m starving!” was heard all too often, especially on hikes!). We consume a lot of hummus – it goes with everything, easy to find, and easy to eat and so always keep that and our own drinks in our fridge. Superfood oatmeals and teas are the best fast food, only needing water added, which is where the kettle comes in handy!
In Los Angeles, it’s 100% worth the trip to Erewhon Natural Foods. My mother had told me about her favourite grocery store many times, but I had never imagined that it would be as good as it was. In fact, it was our group of 10’s first night’s dinner, plus they provided the ingredients for many meals and picnics during our 4 day stay, plus, was the last place we went before moving on to Palm Springs. This store – large for a health food store, but not supermarket size, offers everything from great raw, organic juices in glass bottles, to a one of the best selections of kombucha, drinks, and grab and go meals that I’ve ever seen PLUS a large juice and smoothie bar. Then there is a fully organic salad bar, sandwich bar, meals made to order and a sushi bar. There is a chocolate bar selection that took my family quite a while to get through (we did not get the one with crickets in it!) and they put it right near the cash area, so it tantalizes you as you wait in line – smart! Obviously, there is a great produce selection, natural healthcare products and supplements and everything else you would pick up from a grocery store – just the organic versions of it all. Peter, one of the managers, was incredible at helping our families navigate what was safe in terms of allergies to eat from the prepared foods, and made sandwiches for us with clean surfaces and utensils. Erewhon also got me hooked on a new drink (for me, anyway) called, Rebbl Herbal Tonic – it does have caffeine in it, but as a treat it was amazing – and packed with healthy herbs too.
It was my mother’s birthday when we were away, and we managed to find an awesome little bakery called Breakaway Bakery (nut-free, allergen-free, gmo-free and lots of organic plus really quite delicious!). It was great to bring her some treats for after our dinner to put a candle in that we could all share! I am only sorry that we didn’t get any of the Breakaway Bakery’s cookie dough to try – next time!
In Palm Springs, we relied on the Farmers’ Market, and Nature’s Health Food. It includes a huge food and drink bar, and a small, but complete enough grocery section. I was only there once, but I think my mother went 3 or 4 times, as it was around the corner from the house we rented. Options for restaurants in Palm Springs include: Norma’s at the Parker Hotel, Trio and Workshop on Palm Canyon Drive, all serving organic, farm-to-table menus, and were decent and accommodated our party of 10, but were not wonderful or exciting enough to merit a full review each, in my opinion.
In Santa Monica, we also loved visiting the farmers’ market (my brother devoured two full containers of strawberries while we walked through alone!), and we loved being able to walk to Whole Foods where we picked up allergy safe treats for a vegan, organic ice cream bar for New Year’s Eve in our hotel with our friends. The markets are always my favourite place to walk and shop because of the variety of new things and the people.
As for the Farmers’ Markets — WOW (as you’ll see in the pictures!). I had no idea there were so many different varieties of avocados, citrus or dates. I guess that’s one of the downsides of living in Toronto, we really have a short growing season and less variety. I have posted lots of pictures below, and, as always, encourage you to visit markets wherever you might be or travel, you’ll learn a lot, try new foods and even meet neat people. Speaking of meeting neat people, I actually ran into Bob Blumer at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market! I think, besides my mother, he was the first person to really inspire me about food. I used to watch his cooking shows on TV (and still do now sometimes) and he made me laugh too. When I introduced myself at the market, he genuinely seemed happy to meet me, and I’m sure he couldn’t tell how excited I really was inside to meet him! He was super kind and even recommended a few herbs and vendors to me. The dates we bought at the market made my mother, my friends Sandi and Ryan (another one) and my brother and sister so happy that we went and visited their organic date farm on our way to a hike in the Painted Canyon south of Palm Springs – so many varieties, so fresh and a really kind, warm family runs it all year-round. Beware, they sell out by early spring because they are so good and then don’t harvest again until late summer, but the good news is that they even ship to Canada from their website!
I hope you have the opportunity to read the rest of my reviews – they aren’t all as long or thorough as I normally review, but I wrote them all at once so might have skipped a few delicious details. Happy New Year to you all!