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California Dreamin’

19 Apr

I’ve been thinking a lot about California lately.

A couple of my best friends moved to Lala Land a few years back, as did my favorite little cousin.

Manhattan Sunset

I have a hard time dealing with this. I am a dyed in the wool East Coaster. I understand why they did it, moved out West. They felt they had tapped New York for all it was worth, that there was nothing left to do here and that they needed a change. I’ve felt that way before, too, but that would set me to dreaming about moving to London, or Berlin, or Paris, heck even Marrakesh, Dubai or Bombay. Never Los Angeles.

Union Square, Before The Storm

I visited L.A. once long, long ago with my mother and father. I think I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade. I hated it and I’ve never been able to get over that. I hated the traffic. I hated the driving around in the Hollywood Hills. I hated the punk rockers. I hated the smell. I hated the sunshine. I hated the dirtiness.

We did other things on that trip that I loved, so I know it wasn’t just the moodiness of a 9 year old. We got a behind the scenes tour of the San Diego Zoo from a friend of my mother’s. A dolphin fell in love with my father at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. We flew to Seattle for a day. I loved everything about it. The soft grayness, the gentle smells, the smaller, more human scale. The very opposite of Los Angeles.

Chrysler Building At Dusk

But back to California…

I’ve been planning a trip out west for August. I managed to finagle a whole week’s vacation for my step-brother’s wedding at a vineyard in Sonoma. I know, I’m really bummed about it, too! But I had to decide what to do with my other 7 days; hang out in San Francisco and Northern California, or visit friends and family in Lala.

What I really wanted to do was spend two weeks out west, go the full monty, from San Diego all the way up to Seattle, but alas, I counted the years I’ve spent at my job wrong and that extra week of vacation will have to wait until next year. I had to decide.

New York Harbor Sunset, Fairway Parking Lot

I weighed what I knew. My friends love L.A. And I love them. That means, in the weird calculus of the heart, that I, too, would love L.A. (Isn’t that a song?), and maybe I could go to the Santa Monica farmer’s market, and eat at Lucques.

But on the other hand, I know I at least like San Fran. I spent a very odd long weekend there once that was pleasant enough to make me want to go back, and San Fran is closer to wine country, and I can buy beans from Steve there, and just maybe I could score dinner at The French Laundry or Chez Panisse.

Chelsea Market Bridge

But Luisa made L.A. sound almost as good as my friends make it sound, and then there was the matter of the salad. Tucked blithely into her Los Angeles dispatch was this nugget:

I still can’t stop thinking about our pink and green salad starter. Lightly dressed frisee and radicchio were tossed with fresh tarragon leaves, slivered blood oranges, and snowy-white shreds of sweet, fresh crab. Simple, bright, and explosively flavorful – that was a salad for the ages. No photo would have done it justice either, but if you’ve got access to good crab, for God’s sake, go and put this together. No recipe required.

I’ve been obsessing over that description, dreaming about that salad. The ballsy mix of bitter and buttery greens with bright citrus acidity, anise-tinted, earthy tarragon and creamy, briny seafood. It’s genius. Pure genius. And something I had to try. I mean, how could a city that can come up with that ratio of greens to herbs to crustacean be bad?

Squid Salad, Lala!

So I tried it. At home and with squid in place of crab. Yep, here we go again, put a recipe in front of Ann, and she just has to go and tinker with it! But here’s the thing. Now that I’ve had the one dish I knew I wanted to try in L.A. I was able to make a decision with a (somewhat) clear conscience.

Squid Salad, Lala!

Come mid-August we’ll be hanging out in San Fran for a few days and then heading north into wine country and along the coast, ultimately ending up in Sonoma.

Sorry, L.A. Sorry Mon, Poodles and Cousin S. I promise, next year, I’ll come see your magical world. I’ll give it another chance. The salad has won me over.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Squid Salad, Lala!

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