California has so much to offer with their ground breaking culinary inventions, famous chefs, California Cuisine, just to name a few.
Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.
The state of California is home to many famous chefs of today; Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, Alton Brown (my favorite).
Chez Panisse is one of California’s most groundbreaking restaurants. It was here in 1971 that chef Alice Waters coined the term California Cuisine, churning out delicate organic dishes made with local ingredients. The restaurant is also noted for several culinary inventions, including California brick-oven pizza, goat cheese salad, and seasonal fruit bowls.
California Nouvelle Cuisine
The 1970’s brought a great deal of upheaval and new ideas to the forefront, and the world of cuisine was no exception. In June of 1975, the British magazine Harpers & Queen coined a term to refer to a new type of food that was sweeping the world: Nouvelle Cuisine.
What is nouvelle cuisine? It is, in a word, the marriage of health-conscious California to traditional France. Consider it an updated version of French cuisine- flavorful food with a light-handed, healthy approach. It’s difficult to define nouvelle cuisine in more specific terms because of its huge impact on the way food in general is prepared today. Nouvelle cuisine opened doors to a new generation of restaurant-goers who loved rich tastes and fresh combinations, but didn’t want their bodies to pay for it later.
One of the main goals of nouvelle cuisine was to excite more than just the sense of taste. A skilled nouvelle chef would be able to produce a meal that was artistically arranged on the plate and contained a wonderful mix of smells, textures, and flavors. Oils and fresh spices were used extensively to bring out the natural flavor of the fresh vegetables and pastas in these meals.
California chefs use hundreds of ingredients in their cooking, from Chinese soy sauce and Indian curry spices, to Italian cheeses and Mexican tortillas. And yet, certain local ingredients manage to stand out among the rest. Both restaurant chefs and home cooks revere them. Tourists often fall in love with them. They are the state’s major food products and the highlights of myriad signature dishes.
Artichokes, avocados, dry Jack cheese, Dungeness crab, goat cheese, sourdough breads, and sun-dried tomatoes are just a few of California’s foods that cooks and chefs alike adore in the kitchen.
California chefs know the importance of purchasing and using fruits and vegetables when they are in season. The cost is low and the taste is at its best.
The French Laundry; the King of All Restaurants
When reading about this restaurant in school; I knew that someday I had to go there; and I will….someday. Here is the history of “The French Laundry”.
In the late 1880’s, “The French Laundry” served as a saloon. Then in the 1920’s the building was purchased and made into a French steam laundry. It wasn’t until 1974 that The French Laundry was finally going to see its true purpose. In 1974, the building was purchased by the mayor of Yountville; Don Schimdt so that he and his wife could turn the building into a restaurant. Everyone in the town knew the building as The French Laundry and that is the name that has stayed with it. In 1992, Chef Thomas Keller visited the restaurant for the first time and decided he had to have it. Two years later in 1994; after scraping the money together, Chef Keller made the purchase of his dreams; a restaurant that would serve American cuisine with French influences. The same year that The French Laundry restaurant opened; it landed itself into the top new restaurant lists across the United States along with its first five-star award by the end of the year.
In 1995, Chef Keller; along with his top chefs decided to take the restaurant up a notch by setting its menu to be a “Nine-Course Tasting Menu”. In 1997, The New York Times called The French Laundry “the most exciting restaurant in America.”
Chef Keller has continued opening other restaurants nationwide; but there is still only one French Laundry.