I was born in New York City and would certainly classify myself as an "east coast kinda gal", albeit a very well travelled east coast gal. Somehow, Los Angeles has not been a place that I have often visited. Why? Perhaps all New York natives have some angst towards L.A. embedded in their D.N.A., or maybe it was just an honest lack of opportunity. I had traveled there once for spring break with my family when I was about fourteen and had a great time. That was many years ago, and have not been back since, so I was excited to have an excuse to head out to the left coast for my annual culinary conference hosted by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
First off, let me say, the weather is amazing. I realize that this is not earth shattering news to anyone who lives there, but coming from pollen infested Atlanta, it was an especially welcome relief. Additionally, on a strictly vain note, I never had a bad hair day during my visit. This must be why all the movie stars and models live here. Sunshine and dry air do wonders for your physical well-being.
Now on to my raison d'être, the food. On my short visit, I only barely scratched the surface, but did my best to fit in as many tastes as possible. Certainly the most amazing adventure I had was a tour of Korea Town. From food courts to a barbecue restaurant, it was a day filled with new sights, smells and flavors. The conference provided many opportunities to sample food from local restaurants and I was lucky to have dinners out with my Atlanta colleagues as well as new friends made at the conference. We dined at Drago Centro, The Bazaar-by José Andres, The Hollywood Grill and and Pizzaria Mozza, as well as a walking lunch of tamales and tacos at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.
The conference, the people I met and of course, the city of Los Angeles left me inspired. On my flight home, I mulled over what to do with the lovely bag of figs that were gifted to conference goers by the California Fig Advisory Board. The result is my California Crunch Salad, which is a lighter, modern twist on a classic broccoli salad. The golden figs are a perfect substitute for the usual raisins, found in a broccoli salad. I think this salad perfectly embodies the spirit of L.A. It's crunchy, colorful, filled with a variety of good things, and most importantly, it is portable and can be eaten outside, while you soak in the California sunshine and show off your fabulous west coast hair.