As a kid growing up in California, it seemed like more of my family’s meals were cooked outside on the grill than in the kitchen. Perhaps that’s because California provides the perfect climate, coupled with an abundance of fresh ingredients, that makes for ideal grilling conditions. Californians have a special way of doing things that lends a uniquely California flavor to each dish. Here is a look at a few of my favorite, classic California dishes.
Santa Maria Style Grilled Tri-Tip
Tri-Tip was once a difficult cut to find outside of California, but it is quickly gaining popularity across the country. The reason for Tri-Tip’s relative obscurity is that it is a smaller cut from the bottom sirloin and each side of beef produces only one cut of Tri-Tip, usually ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 pounds each
Tri-Tip originated in Santa Maria, CA where it became known for it’s tenderness and cheap price. (Read more about the history of Tri-Tip)
Tip: The trick with Tri-Tip is to avoid cutting the fat side off and instead, putting it on the fire first to let the moisture come up through the meat.
I like Susie Q brand seasoning to prepare an authentic style California Tri-Tip.
San Diego Fish Tacos
Ensenada, Mexico claims to be the birthplace of the fish taco – but it definitely is alive and well in San Diego. This can be credited to Ralph Rubio, who went to Baja on spring break over 20 years ago and fell in love with the fish taco, at first bite. He brought the recipe back to San Diego in 1983 and opened the first Rubio’s location in Mission Bay. Today there are 180 Rubio’s locations and countless other restaurants preparing endless variations of the fish taco. From late night taco stands to trendy, white tablecloth establishments.
Tip: Pair your tacos with a premium Mexican style lager, such as Pacifico or Negra Modelo.
If you are feeling adventurous, head out on a half-day fishing trip from H&M landing in San Diego and bring back local Rock Cod to grill some of the best fish tacos you’ve ever tasted, with this recipe from The Paupered Chef.
The California Cheeseburger
The cheeseburger is reputed to have been invented by a 16 year old Lionel Sternberger, while working as at his fathers diner in Pasadena. He ‘experimentally’ dropped a slice of cheese on a burger and the cheeseburger was born. Cheeseburgers may not seem like quintessential California cuisine, but they are a staple of the California diet and something we take very seriously.
On of the main things that distinguishes a California style cheeseburger is that it typically is not served with ketchup or mustard. Save that for the East Coast. In California, we like our burgers juicy, served with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles and mayonnaise.
Tip: Feel free to use a little creative license and add avocado or green chilies for another decidedly California twist.
My favorite burger can be found at The Grill at The Lodge at Torry Pines. It’s highly acclaimed by locals who will valet at one of Americas most prestigious golf courses to enjoy a near $50.00 tab for two burgers a beer and tip. You might even run into one of your favorite golfers.