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Get a Taste of California

With an approach to food and dining so singular and fresh it gave rise to its own genre of cooking — California cuisine — the Golden State is recognized as one of the world’s premier foodie destinations. From Los Angeles’ game-changing food trucks to the galaxy of amazing restaurants featured in the MICHELIN Guide California 2019, the cornucopia of dining options is truly mind-blowing.

Fueled by the state’s vast supply of fresh ingredients from both land and sea, the ever-evolving food scene is powered by talents ranging from passionate young chefs to seasoned veterans, inspiring culinary icons like chef/restaurateur Alice Waters and food ethicist Michael Pollan. California has also made a point of absorbing the cultural influences from its vibrant immigrant communities representing Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and beyond. Whether it’s a delicious hole-in-the-wall gem hidden in Los Angeles’ Koreatown or fusion cuisine from a celebrity chef, it’s clear the melting pot has always had a prominent place on California’s table.

No matter if it’s the latest food trends like the locavore movement (we just call it Calivore) and molecular gastronomy, or something as old school as barbecue, California adds its own spin, forging a unique culinary identity. A case in point is Santa Maria-style barbecue along the Central Coast. A simple recipe that dates back to the rancheros of the 1800s, the key is an open fire of local red oak that imparts a distinctive flavor that just can’t be produced any other way.

Long a haven for healthful dining, California is also at the forefront of sustainable, plant-based eating, taking vegetarian and vegan cuisine to new gourmet heights. Even techie Silicon Valley is getting in on the action, with one startup developing a vegan burger as tasty and juicy as the real thing.

Creativity isn’t just limited to your plate: Rock-star bartenders are in on the act as well, whipping up seasonally inspired cocktails made with organic produce and spirits from boutique local distillers. In addition, California’s dizzying collection of killer microbreweries in places like San Diego now stand tall as one of the country’s top destinations for craft beer.

Of course, it's the wine industry where California’s cup really runs over. According to the nonprofit Wine Institute, there are more than 4,000 wineries throughout the state – ranging from garagiste operations to lavish facilities with on-site restaurants, gift shops and entertainment venues – that are responsible for almost 90 percent of the country’s wine production. With vineyards originally planted in the 18th century by Spanish missionaries, the state stands alone after Italy, Spain and France as the world’s largest producer of wine.

With some 25 million acres of land dedicated to farming and ranching, grapes aren’t the only product where California corners the market. More than a third of the country’s vegetables and nearly two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California, with a total cash value of $45 billion, making us the country’s no. 1 agricultural state, according to the USDA. California accounts for just about every single almond, artichoke, plum and pomegranate (as well as several other crops) grown in the USA.

The Pacific Ocean provides another source of bounty: lobsters, oysters, abalone, tuna and halibut. And naturally, there is a plethora of view-enhanced eateries all along the coast to enjoy the day’s catch.

Beyond the restaurants, there are other temples of California gastronomy, like the gourmet food vendors at San Francisco’s landmark Ferry Building Marketplace and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, a castle-like campus in the Napa Valley where you can shop for just about any kitchen gadget imaginable or browse through an endless assortment of cookbooks. Californians can’t get enough of their farmers’ markets, too — all 700-plus at last count — and you’ll find them just about everywhere. Californians also love to celebrate our abundance with festivals saluting everything from avocados to zucchinis, oysters to garlic.

Vegans, vegetarians, fruitarians, pescatarians and omnivores — whatever your preference, something is always cooking in California.