10 of the best

Travelling for a month in Mexico and California meant that we ate (pretty much) in a different restaurant every night, so I thought trying to pick my top ten dishes out of all these meals would be difficult, but it was surprisingly easy once I sat down and started listing them.

So in no particular order…

1. Shrimp tacos at Taco Fish, Hermosillo

So so tender and fresh, and packed full of flavour, seriously the best ‘fast’ food I’ve ever had.

Shrimp tacos

2. Cheese risotto with sock eye salmon and brown butter sage sauce at Cook, St Helena

I  suggested Simon ordered this then spent the rest of the meal annoyed that he’d gotten it and not me. Hands down the best risotto I’ve ever had, incredibly cheesy but not too rich, the salmon perfectly cooked and fresh, and best of all the brown butter sage sauce. Heaven.

www.cooksthelena.com

Sockeye salmon on cheese risotto

3. Queso Fundido con Chorizo at Restaurant Palominos, Hermosillo

Seriously is anything better than a bowl full of melted cheese (chihuahua!) and melt in your mouth home-made chorizo? I think not.

www.restaurantpalominos.com

Queso Fundido

4. Jumbo shrimps, Water Grill, Downtown LA

I’m actually salivating thinking about this. Plump, juicy and tender, perfectly cooked, served with a delicious cocktail sauce and a garlicky saffron aioli. Love love love!

www.watergrill.com

Shrimp

 

5. Chocolate tart with chewy caramel & sea salt at The Slanted Door, San Francisco

Right, so chocolate tart base filled with flowing caramel, covered in solid dark chocolate and then sprinkled with sea salt? I think I might love you Charles Phan.

www.slanteddoor.com

Chocolate caramel tart

Last mouthful

6. Cinnamon roll, Alamos, Mexico.

Steaming rolls coated in freshly ground cinnamon goodness, slathered in a hot cinnamon sauce…I’d go back to Mexico just for another one of these.

www.teresitasalamos.com

Cinnamon Roll

7. Three Twins Organic Ice cream, downtown Napa/ Sweet Rose Creamery, Santa Monica

The best ice-cream I’ve ever had. Ridiculously creamy, packed full of delicious fresh ingredients. I tried the vanilla chocolate chip and Mint Confetti (mint ice cream with flecks of dark chocolate).

That is ’til we stopped by Sweet Rose Creamery in Santa Monica and tried their salty caramel ice-cream with a good sprinkle of Fleur de Sel on top – absolutely astounding. Didn’t get a photo as my camera broke minutes before this, but that just means I have to go back.

www.threetwinsicecream.com
www.sweetrosecreamery.com

Vanilla chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip organic ice cream at Three Twins

8. Rustic Canyon Burger, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, Santa Monica

Wow. Simply the best burger I’ve ever had. Incredibly juicy beef patty, home-made burger bun that was bordering on brioche, just the right amount of melted sharp cheddar cheese, a rich onion fondue, herb remoulade and beautifully cut french fries. Wait, did I mention we added confit bacon to the mix as well? Yep. Went back on our last night in LA to have it again it was so good.

www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

The burger at Rustic Canyon

Burger, cross section

9. Peach Crostata with Homemade Vanilla ice-cream, Rustic Canyon Wine Bar, Santa Monica

After burger bliss, we almost ordered a chocolate and salty caramel tart, but that would have been a big, big mistake. Recommended by our server, this used in-season peaches and the most buttery, rich pastry I’ve ever tried. The juice of the peaches and sugar leaked a little through the pastry, creating incredible caramelised edges. Not only did we go back and order this again but also went to their bakery for breakfast and fought over a take away strawberry and rhubarb crostata as we sat on the beach for afternoon tea. Simon said he wanted to marry the pastry chef. We could work something out, I’m sure.

www.rusticcanyonwinebar.com

Peach crostata.

10. Pretty much everything at French Laundry.

So after seeing that they had an over 6-month waiting list, we decided just to turn up at French Laundry and try our luck. And how lucky we were to get a table and experience their incredible food. A mind-blowing meal, so good I can’t say which was my favourite dish. Possibly all. But the real standouts were probably the oysters and pearls (caviar with oysters) and the butter-poached lobster tail. Awe inspiring.

www.frenchlaundry.com

Caviar and Pearls

Butter-poached lobster tails

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I heart Rolles de Canela

Simon and I went for an early breakfast, around 7am, and sat outside as it was still quite cool (well around 35 degrees or so). They brought us honeydew melon, papaya, watermelon and orange with a little bit of lime to squeeze over them. We ordered an omelette stuffed with sweet peppers, served with bacon, frijoles, potatoes and tortilla chips, and granola with natural fruit yoghurt and a freshly baked banana muffin that I smothered in homemade marmalade. It was sweet and rich, not the usual bitter flavour I normally associate with this kind of jam.

Early morning breakfast at Agave cafe in Hacienda

Omelette with bacon, frijoles and potatoes

After a walk up a nearby hill for a panoramic view of Alamos, we wandered around the town for an hour or so – we walked past cows, chickens, sleeping dogs, orchards of fruit and vegetable patches. We saw tortilla dough in one place being shaped and created by machine, and a few shops down being rolled out by hand. It’s a lovely little town full of colonial buildings and is remarkably well preserved because of all the Americans who holiday there.

Teresita's courtyard

We ended up having a late lunch and strolled in the baking sun to the other side of town, to a charming little bistro and bakery, Teresita’s. Behind the door, which doubled up as blackboard menu, was a small courtyard with a pond and a few outdoor tables. Inside, the walls were white washed, the ground was cement with hand painted carpet patterns on it, and stone boar’s head hung over a huge stone fireplace. The kitchen was entirely open and the wall at the end of it was covered in blue and white tiles.

We started with some freshly baked bread and whipped butter – a welcome change to the usual chips and salsa, and some fresh limonada.

The open kitchen - love the tiled walls

The first dishes to arrive were a gazpacho, a cold soup made from fresh tomatoes, chopped vegetables and herbs and copious amount of garlic and a Tarascan bean soup, a spicy pureed bean soup that was topped with avocado, cheese and croutons. The gazpacho was lovely and light, incredibly garlicky and had large chunks of avocado floating on top. It was a real contrast to the bean soup, which was incredibly rich and heavy and could have easily been a main course.

After this we tried an open face tartine sandwich – thick slices of ham and cheese over sun-dried tomatoes, a salad of chicken and artichoke soufflé and fresh crab cakes with tartar sauce.

The heavy bean soup - a meal all on it's own

Crab cakes

Deliciously refreshing gazpacho

Open face tartine sandwich

Chicken salad with artichoke souffle

We’d all been waiting for the end of the meal as the counter was lined with so many incredible looking desserts and baked goods. We ordered a few to share. First up was a flourless chocolate and almond torte, which was dense, moist, and surprisingly slightly bitter; following that was a dark chocolate mousse with a hint of cointreau and placed in a crunchy brown sugar bowl, which reminded me of brandy snaps you find in New Zealand that are piped with fresh cream. There was also a mango version of the mousse and this was incredibly light and fluffy, packed full of chunks of mango – this reminded me of mango puddings in Hong Kong and was a better pairing with the brown sugar bowl than the chocolate version.

We also tried a triangular shaped scone with clotted cream and homemade jam. The real star of the show however, was the Rolles de Canela or cinnamon roll. The first one was polished off in and under a minute so a second was quickly ordered. It was perfectly warm, the dough light and airy, drenched in a sticky cinnamon sugar sauce.

I want another one of these Rolles de Canela right now!

Dark chocolate and almond torte

Dark chocolate mousse

Lovely vintage cutlery

Luis and I agreed that when we were back in Hong Kong we’d spend an afternoon trying to make these rolls, and that we’d try variations on them as well – chocolate and almonds, salt caramel and milk chocolate, cranberry, nutmeg and cinnamon! Can’t wait to start experimenting!

Limonada

Baguettes on sale in the bakery