How a California Trip Became a Theme Dinner
After a recent trip to California (see June 26, 2022 blog post “Twenty-Six Miles Across the Sea”), I decided a California road trip might serve as an interesting dinner theme. Since our theme dinners traditionally involve wine or cocktail, three appetizers, soup, an entree or two with two sides, salad, and two desserts, that meant 12 dishes. To carry out the theme, I paired each of the 12 most populous cities in California with each dish.
Some were obvious choices. For example, San Francisco has the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, so that translated to a Chinese appetizer. Likewise, San Diego shares a border with Tijuana, Mexico, so that suggested a Mexican appetizer.
Other cities were an easy match because they were associated with a single food item. For example, Sacramento is where most of the country’s sushi rice is grown (side dish). Stockton calls itself “The asparagus capital of the world” (salad). Fresno’s number one crop is almonds (and 80% of the world’s almonds come from California) (dessert). Bakersfield is where most of California’s carrots come from (and 85% of all carrots in the country come from California) (side dish), and Riverside is where the country’s first navel orange tree was brought from Brazil in the 1870’s (soup).
Other cities were harder to match.
Los Angeles is associated with the movie industry, and, of course, movie stars, so that inspired the third appetizer of star-shaped crackers (topped with artichoke pate because virtually all artichokes in this country are grown in California).
Anaheim is the home of Disney World with Donald Duck being one of its most popular characters, and the Anaheim Ducks is its famous hockey team. So, one of the entrees became duck confit.
Long Beach, where game fishing originated and where yellowtail is the most popular catch provided the other entree of yellowtail patties.
San Jose shares a border with Cupertino, which is the home of Apple, Inc. That fact translated to one of the desserts - an apple cake.
Finally, Oakland is the major city closest to Sonoma Valley, so that’s where the wines for the dinner came from.
Here’s the menu:
CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP
Kendall-Jackson Merlot (Oakland)
Simi Chardonnay (Oakland)
Guacamole (San Diego)
Chinese Stuffed Eggs (San Francisco)
Whole Wheat Crackers with Artichoke Pate (Los Angeles)
Citrus Gazpacho (Riverside)
Yellowtail (Hamachi) Patties (Long Beach)
Duck Confit (Los Angeles)
Sushi Rice (Sacramento)
Carrot Puree (Bakersfield)
Michele’s Asparagus Salad (Stockton)
Apple Cake (San Jose)
Vanilla Almond Ice Cream (Fresno)
Just for fun, dinner included a California trivia quiz. See how well you do on it:
1. Approximately how many people live in California?
a. 10 million
b. 20 million
c. 30 million
d. 40 million
2. Which of the following actors was born in California:
a. Cary Grant
b. Clark Gable
c. Mae West
d. Marilyn Monroe
3. California was the ________ state to enter the Union.
4. What animal was brought to Catalina Island in the 1920’s for a movie and
now 200 roam the island?
5. Where in California was a world heat record of 134 degrees recorded?
a. Death Valley
b. Joshua Tree
c. Las Angeles
d. Palm Springs
6. In what year did Disneyland open?
7. What percent of the country’s fruits and nuts come from California?
a. 10 percent
b. 25 percent
c. 43 percent
d. 67 percent
8. How many US presidents were born in California?
9. Is there money involved in getting a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame?
a. Yes. They pay you $100 honorarium.
b. No. No money exchanges hands.
c. Yes. You pay $1,000 for the honor.
d. Yes. You pay a $30,000 nomination fee.
10. California has a national landmark that moves. What is it?
See below for answers.
1. d. 40 million
2. d. Marilyn Monroe was born in LA
3. c. The 31st state
4. a. Buffalo
5. a. Death Valley in 1913
6. b. 1955
7. d. 67%
8. b. Only one: Richard Nixon
9. d. There is a $30,000 nomination fee
10. San Francisco’s Cable Cars