Dine in true American style during California holidays
Posted on Friday 15 June 2012
in United States of America, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica
By Rory MacTavish
Cooking cuisine on an outdoor grill is a classic staple of American culture. Summers would not be the same without the faint smell of charcoal wafting through the air, whether passing by an afternoon party in the park, a backyard barbecue or simply just a family enjoying a dinner in the seasonal heat. When Kiwis plan to spend a summer holiday in the U.S., they can discover what the nation has to offer in terms of traditional cuisine, sampling various takes on the classic burger at eateries across the country. One of the best places to start is on the West Coast, where getaways are exhilarating and the food is delicious, fresh and even at times revolutionary.
Step up to The Counter for the ultimate burger
Santa Monica, the beachfront city in western Los Angeles, California, is a seaside town that acts like a magnet to tourists from around the world. Getting to Santa Monica is simple, as flights to Los Angeles bring Kiwis just 13 kilometres south of the bustling coastal city. Once travellers have arrived in the always-hopping Santa Monica Pier, they can gear up their appetites for a trip to The Counter. Practically never making the same burgers twice, the build-your-own-burger shop boasts a menu that crafts about 300,000 different combinations of the American dish.
Using locally sourced and sustainable protein - including beef, chicken, turkey, veggie or their market selection - cheese, toppings, sauces and bun choices, this fresh take on the "fast food" burger is one of the best in the region. Diners have free reign over exactly what goes on their patty, whether they wish for an herbed goat cheese spread, dried cranberries, tzatziki sauce or grilled pineapple. Clutching a clipboard and a pencil, guests of Santa Monica hotels spending the day on the town may feel like they're making a checklist when they first step inside, but in fact they're preparing for the ultimate, self-indulgent meal.
Taste a burger with class in Beverly Hills
When California tourists are ready for round two, they can savour the sights of rich-and-famous Beverly Hills and drop in for lunch at Wolfgang Puck's renowned Spago. While dozens of items on the carefully crafted menu will pop out at guests, the grilled prime hamburger has led even the most refined foodie experts to lick their lips. Conde Nast Traveler recognised Puck's take on the traditional cuisine as one of the worthiest in the country - and with good reason. Topped with smoked onion marmalade, garlic aioli and Vermont farmhouse white cheddar cheese, the flavours pack a punch that any diner will enjoy. According to Puck, however, the quality of the meat is what truly makes this burger decadent.
"It's a simple burger that lets the grilled meat shine," Puck told Conde Nast Traveler.
Find zucchini "pickles" at Zuni
Aside from the fact that San Francisco's Zuni Cafe uses house-ground, grass-fed beef for its hamburgers, the quality of its meals and the presentation of even the simplest dish is what makes this spot stand out from its competitors. To complement her burgers, owner and head chef Judy Rodgers opts for thinly sliced zucchini strips pickled in apple cider vinegar, mustard seeds and turmeric instead of using traditional cucumber pickles. Sandwiched between grilled rosemary focaccia and slathered with aioli, this American sandwich will make travellers feel like they just ordered a filet mignon rather than a good old hamburger.
Cali burger lovers walk "in 'n out" and back in again
Lastly, a burger that has withstood the test of time against other fast food chains can only be found in the western region of the nation. Kiwis will likely find In 'n Out Burger throughout their travels in California, as one can be found in Anaheim Hills, Corona and Santa Nella. Although this signature spot is in fact a chain, travellers should not let that stereotype fool them. The eatery's burgers are made from Harris Ranch beef and cooked to order every time, so the result is like ordering takeaway from a holidaymaker's favourite American family restaurant.
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