Traveller's Guide: Gourmet California

February 24, 2012 | Independent | By Andy Lynes

Traveller's Guide: Gourmet California

The Golden State's mouth-watering cuisine covers everything from food trucks to fine dining – and the wine isn't bad either, says Andy Lynes.

For sheer scale and diversity no other single state in the country beats California as a destination for the hungry traveller. The rich ethnic mix is one great strength, a hunger for innovation another – at just one Napa Valley restaurant the menu includes crispy tuna pizza, flying fish roe and liquid nitrogen lollipop ice cream.

The climate and terrain allow for the cultivation of more than 350 different crops, and livestock and poultry generating over $10bn a year. Add top-quality sustainable seafood and some of the finest wines on the planet and you're in gourmet heaven.

From inexpensive Mexican food in the south to fine dining in the wine country in the north, there is a gourmet experience to suit every pocket and mood. The growing worldwide trend of artisan food production is alive and well here, meaning you'll find world-class cheeses, craft beer and unusual baked goods as well as award-winning wines.

It would be foolhardy to try to cover the entire state in one visit (it is, after all, America's third largest after Alaska and Texas), and navigating your way through the options can be head spinning. But a road trip focusing broadly on what's available in the coastal areas between San Francisco and Los Angeles incorporating the Monterey peninsula and Santa Barbara, with excursions north to wine country and south to San Diego, would make an unforgettable foodie journey. Milestone's (0845 678 8585; nine-day San Francisco and Wine Country Delights tour costs £2,225, including BA flights from Heathrow to San Francisco and hotel accommodation plus most meals. The next departure is 18 May.

San Francisco is the state's restaurant hub, with a scene that's dynamic and innovative enough to give New York a run for its money. There's fine dining of course, but plenty of high-quality authentic cheap eats too, such as Bun Mee Vietnamese sandwich shop (001 415 800 7696; The city is well known for its sourdough bread, and a visit to one of the numerous artisan bakeries such as Tartine (001 415 487 2600; tartinebakery. com) is a must. You could even take a weekend workshop on baking sourdough at the San Francisco Baking Institute (001 650 589 5784; Across the bay, the Berkeley and Oakland dining scenes are well worth investigating too.