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Regional Californian


chefzadi
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Let's talk about regional differences in California. More specifically "ethnic" influences. That includes everyone. Even if you are a "born in in this country, tanless American" you are to some others here "ethnic". So these questions can apply to all of us. (note the overuse of the word ethnic) :laugh:

Some questions:

1. What type of cuisine did you grow up eating?

2. When did you first try another ethnic cuisine?

3. When did you start noticing ethnic restaurants?

4. Do you remember which types of ethnic restaurants first opened in your neighborhood? What came after? And so on and so on.

5. What was the first ethnic meal that you had an ethnic friends house.

Come on, we can write a bit of personal history here as well Californian history.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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1. "Home cooking" from cast iron pots and pans.

2. Too young to remember.

3. Too young to remember (American Chinese and Mexican)

4) See #3

5) Enchiladas at the Serta Family ranch, Sonora, Mexico.

Note on 2, 3 , and 4:

My mother always had us "try" everything, at least once.

From my earliest recolections, I've been eating just about everything.

Therefore, "cuisines" in and of themselves, really don't stand out.

For Bangkok eats, check out my Cheap Eats Bangkok

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I was born in Tustin, California. When I was born, my father was in Japan (something about a war in Vietnam...) Consequently, the first truly original, elegant meal I remember as out of the ordinary was a Japanese restaurant in Orange County called Miyako's. It was our special occasion restaurant as my Dad sent home cool Japanese stuff to decorate our house and we all knew how to work chopsticks at a very young age. Miyako's was one of the Japanese restaurants where you had to remove your shoes upon entering -- that was very cool for a kid. My mother always ordered Sukiyaki and a child's version of Tempura was ordered for me. I loved the pretty colors of the food and how much prettier all the food looked than what Mom made at home.

When I was nine, both of my sisters left for college and instead of keeping a big, giant house, my parents bought a condo on the beach in San Diego county. That opened up the world of 'real' Mexican food as dashing across the border for fish tacos and grilled lobster on the beach in Rosarito was an easy thing to do. Occasionally we would visit a fancy French restaurant because I was totally obsessed with the French culture and French food. My parents started eating escargot because their 9-year-old daughter wanted them.

When I was 20, I married this man who brought me to a Greek restaurant for the first time in my life. While my parents were in the military, they had had their fill of mutton cooked in the mess hall and hated lamb. I had never eaten lamb before in my life. Thinking back on it, my Dad didn't like Spaghetti so we never went to Italian restaurants either. The entire spectrum of Mediterranean food became a new playground for me to play and experiment in. Up until my 20's "Italian food" was only pizza and then it was from Shakey's! (edited to add that when I was 26, I got divorced and moved from San Diego to Los Angeles... not wanting anyone to think I'm still married to "this man!")

Now, in my 40s, there is not a culture whose cuisine I won't try. I am enamored with Islamic Chinese food and curious what Estonian's eat. I'm still not thrilled with Mexican food, but am learning that there is more than just tacos and enchiladas.

And I love Japanese food more than all...

Edited by Carolyn Tillie (log)
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My wife took me a couple of Islamic Chinese restaurants. One in Rowland Heights, another in Torrance. They served an interesting bread with scallions in it? It was so long ago.

I guess I should answer some of my own questions.

I was born in France to Algerian parents. I grew up on Algerian and French food. The first "ethnic" food that I tried and actually liked was Korean, but that took a long time too. But now I eat it several times a week. I had a typically chauvinistic "French" palate untill I met my wife. (Algerian food is pretty common in France and this style of couscous is one of France's favorite foods). And I haven't been in Los Angeles long enough to know which ethnic restaurants came first. They were all pretty much here by the time I arrived. I will post later though about different areas of LA that have a concentration of certain cuisines.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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My wife took me a couple of Islamic Chinese restaurants. One in Rowland Heights, another in Torrance. They served an interesting bread with scallions in it? It was so long ago.

Yes! I lived near Torrance for a number of years and ate there a few times, preferring to head out to Tung Lai Shun out in the San Gabriel Valley. There was a recent eG excursion to the one in Torrance and you can view pictures and read the discussion here.

I need to hunt out the Islamic Chinese restaurant in NoCal -- there is nothing like a giant plate of Beef Tendon or steaming bowl of Duck Tongues!

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Okay, so I'm really trying to make this section of the forum more "vibrant". Two people responded to my questions (thank you). I think that there is at ONE question that all of can answer whether we are experts or the "P" word. It can make for an interesting "oral" history of California as well.

Or am I just deluded? :wacko:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Born in LA. Grew up eating a variety of food including the great Jewish stuff from the Fairfax area. I suppose Miceli's in Hollywood or on Ventura was my first ethnic food though I never really thought of Italian as ethnic. In terms of what I considered ethnic, that would have to be Chinese food.

We moved to SF when I was 10 and I lived there through college -- though the fam moved back to LA while I was an undergrad at Cal (Go Bears). As a teen in SF, we were exposed to all kinds of food. Japanese including sushi before America knew what it was, greater variety of Chinese food including Szechuan before America knew what that was, Central American, Russian bakeries. Mom -- ever the culinary explorer, often found ways to make holidays non-traditional as she preferred cooking new things over traditional. I remember having Asian or Latin inspired Thanksgiving meals for instance. Though, we often stuck to standards for Jewish holidays -- latkes, brisket with Lipton's onion soup mix, etc.

Being in the Bay Area in those days, I suppose I was exposed to stuff just in the atmosphere though I never really understood what was going on. I remember when Peet's was just a little coffee house in Berkeley. I never had the money to eat at Chez Panisse when I was there but I suppose those influences were all around. Great bread, great cheese, etc.

Coming back to LA to visit the parents while still at college, and then living here as a young adult, I do remember at least once going to the old classics -- Scandia, Le Dome. And then there were the new and emerging classics as the CA culinary scene began to transform -- Citrus, etc.

I also spent some time in DC as a young adult where I first had Ethiopian food, in Boston for grad school where I had great New England traditional (and sometimes not so traditional) seafood, and visiting New York where you eat anything and everything.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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The Fairfax distrct is still alive and kicking. When my wife and first got married we lived near Pico Blvd and Robertson (further south, I know), otherwise affectionately known as the "Kosher Korner" We had a lot of great neighbors too. Total mix, no one was interested in polite multiculturalism. I'll get into this more later.

I've had a few of those multi-cultural, Global cuisine holidays meals myself. Not exactly fusion, just alot of seemingly disparate dishe served at the same time. Last Christmas we had a standing rib roast AND Korean kalbi, we had kimchi AND a simple green salad dressed with a dijon mustard vinaigrette, we also had couscous with a chicken and beef tajine. Does this make sense?

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Let's talk about regional differences in California. More specifically "ethnic" influences. That includes everyone. Even if you are a "born in in this country, tanless American" you are to some others here "ethnic".  So these questions can apply to all of us. (note the overuse of the word ethnic)  :laugh:

Some questions:

1. What type of cuisine did you grow up eating?

2. When did you first try another ethnic cuisine?

3. When did you start noticing ethnic restaurants?

4. Do you remember which types of ethnic restaurants first opened in your neighborhood? What came after? And so on and so on.

5. What was the first ethnic meal that you had an ethnic friends house.

Come on, we can write a bit of personal history here as well Californian history.

I am not a California native but feel that California is my adopted state.

I grew up in Richmond, VA, eating mostly good southern (VA style) food. We didn't really have much exposure to ethnic cuisines, other than Americanized Chinese and Italian foods.

I don't know if it would be called ethnic, but I went away to nursing school in Philadelphia back in the late 60's and was exposed to a lot of new foods, among them the rich heritage that Philadelphia has. I had my first really good Chinese food there, somewhere in the city where there was a larger Chinese poplulation. Forgive me, I don't know the area that well: it has been over 20 years since I was even there.

The nursing school I attended was in a poorer section of Philadelphia, with a large hispanic population. We used to shop for stuff in a market that had strange things in it, at least to my mind.

Fast forward: I moved back to VA after school, then moved to DC where I had a lot of new things: German, French, Chinese, and I think the first Thai restaurant in DC. It is on upper Connecticut Ave, but I have no idea if it is any good now. It was newly opened, and we had to bring our own beer and wine.

I formed a dining group at work and we ate out at a new restaurant every month. I forget which ones now..

All this time, I was collecting cookbooks (The Foods of The World series) and I was exposed to other cuisines at least on paper.

I got itchy feet in the early 80's and started traveling west. I discovered NM cuisine then. I was working as a traveling nurse then and took a contract in L.A, where I was working with a really mixed group of people. That was my first exposure to Filipino foods and homestyle Thai foods.

I fell in love with California then, and even though I settled in NM for a few years, I couldn't stay away. I moved to the SF bay area in the mid 80's and have been here off and on, with a few years in KY in between.

I don't think I have ever really had an ethnic meal at someone's home, but I am up for it, if I am invited. :wink:

Since moving to California, I have been exposed to more cuisines than I can remember. Thai, of course, Cambodian, Chinese, Mexican, Ethiopian, and I forget what else.

I am working currently in San Jose, where I am a minority at work. A lot of Koreans, Vietnamese, Filipinos at work. When we have potlucks, the foods range from Pancit, to various Korean specialties to Vietnamese spring rolls and beyond.

My housing is near a large Vietnamese community, so I can find excellent banh mi within blocks. And Pho restaurants. Strip malls with little hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurants.

There is so much to discover in this state!!

Edited by artisan02 (log)
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I'm hardly a native either! These are the stories I enjoy reading the most. You take us from Va to CA. One of the "oldest" parts of American to the "newest" part. Strict rules to almost no rules. Tell us more.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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I'm hardly a native either! These are the stories I enjoy reading the most.  You take us from Va to CA. One of the "oldest" parts of American to the "newest" part. Strict rules to almost no rules. Tell us more.

What more?

I still feel my VA roots. I find myself fixing cornbread with not the white cornmeal I grew up with, but stone ground yellow cornmeal. And sometimes putting chiles in the cornbread.

I get enamoured of a dish that I have, such as a Thai dish, and try to make it at home now.

I am not as much a restaurant goer, as an at home eater. I love ethnic markets, and California is full of them.

Hmm..I didn't mention all those, did I.

I discovered the 99 Ranch markets up here, as well as some tinier markets that have both Mexican and Asian customers equally. I can get Asian ingredients there, as well as some obscure Mexican and South American ingredients. And in Berkeley, there is a market that specializes in Thai ingredients. And there used to be a wonderful Mid East Market in Berkeley that had a major fire a few years ago. I understand that it is reopening soon, if not already. I haven't really visited a lot here, such as the halal markets that seem to be great, or the Mexican markets in the Mission in SF. Or even the great Italian delis/markets in SF.

If I get back up here for another contract, I would love to join a tour of all these types of markets. Maybe we can organize something like this when I am up here again.

I haven't discovered all that there is in LA, not by a long shot. I would love to know more. I wonder if there would be folks there interested in getting together to explore some of the varieties of ethnic markets that are there? I have some on my list already, and I will be driving over there from Idyllwild, to have a "food" day, to explore some of these on my list.

Got suggestions, all?

Edited by artisan02 (log)
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I grew up and still live in Torrance and lived on "surfer food" ie taco's, teriyaki bowls and anyting else you could get and eat fast while on the wway to or from a surf trip. I got older, married and had kids while working in a very diverse community as a young police officer. I began a long standing love for small family run places run by immigrants that often served amazing food but were overlooked by most people that did not dare venture into those neighborhoods,

I began writing my newspaper column witth those places in mind a little over 2 yrs ago. I feel great that I have been able to expose people through my column to places they would not go to unless they were "told" about them. I love to cook almost anything except fish and my skills have improved greatly from my youth. I now consider myself a pretty good "home cook" but nowhere near the caliber of a decent chef.

my mantra of food, eating annd writing is to look for the clues that lead me to good food, just like I follow clues and evidence in tracking down crooks....

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Artisan-

There you go, you told us more. What's the saying, God is in the details or is it the devil?

Edited by chefzadi (log)

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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The "surfer food". My wife surfed before she shot out two kids. She still has the body and the strength, but ya know two kids, she can't get enough sleep. On top of that she's all into nursing and child led weaning. A long board, down in trestles (Sp ?) San Diego and Malibu. What exactly is surfer food? I know what my wife tells me. But we can also talk about this too!

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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Funny, I just told someone most of this recently.

1. What type of cuisine did you grow up eating?

I consider myself a native Californian because I've been here a few decades. I grew up in Connecticut in an Irish Catholic town. As a third generation 100% Polish American (how common is that in the US), we were considered ethnic. You were not proud of ethnicity at that time in America. You wanted to be an American. I remember at school all the other kids bringing their Wonder Bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off and little perfect bags of carrots. There I was with a sardine sandwich on rye that would leak through the brown paper bag.

In the town I grew up in, to marry outside of your ethnicity was a scandal. The town primarily had Irish, Italians, French, Germans and Poles. There was one Chinese restaurant run by Caucasians and I remember cans of Chung King on the shelves. There were some Puerto Ricans in town, but that was really too exotic for the Europeans. I never had Latin Food until I was in my 20's.

We ate primarily Americna food, but frequently had Polish food. Having friends over to dinner, I remember seeing the look on thier faces when my dear father tried to get them to eat a little more cabbage soup with saurkraut and pigs feet. :shock:

I grew up with home made pierogi, kielbasa, pickles, beets, horseradish, cucumbers in sour cream and ... mushrooms, wonderful mushrooms fried in butter with onions and mixed with sour cream. Then there were the fragrant dried mushrooms sent to my grandparents from relatives in Poland. Mushrooms personally gathered from the forests of Poland. My grandmother had chickens that were primarily used for eggs. Eating an actual chicken was a big deal.

The way the rich people like Martha Stewart can afford to live with vegetable gardens, homebaked goods, chickens, etc was how the working class lived in those days due to lack of money. And I envied the kids with the Wonder Bread.

Once a week we would stop by the German Bakery where we would buy a big almost black loaf of pumpernickel still warm from a brick oven. Acme can only dream of making bread as good as that. On Sundays after Mass we would stop by Stanley's Polish Bakery for the rye bread and Polish cheesecake. No, that's not why I chose that last name.

Christmas Eve was a big deal and Catholics in those days didn't eat meat. There was a huge meal with fish and many, many dishes. You had to eat a little of each dish or you would have bad luck the following year. My mother would make her special secrect cryschici (fried dough and I'm messing up the spelling). Her secret was the assemly. Fried they would look like roses. The center had red and green dabs of jelly and all was sprinkled with powdered sugar.

On Easter there was Polish ham surrounded by rings of Kielbasa and a babka. There was also this aspic like dish where you boiled pigs feet until the meat fell off and then mixed the liquid meat and shredded carrots until it gelled. My mother would put it in the cool cellar to set.

2. When did you first try another ethnic cuisine?

While people didn't marry outside of ethnicity we all lived together. I remember the nice Italian lady next door, Lucy Emery, bringing us all sorts of Italian dishes. Now we never went crazy and ate eel, but had everthing else. Lucy and family never went crazy and ate the pigs feet. Mr. Barberrie would bring my father jugs of his homemade wine. I remeber the wonderful homemade italian cookies from the wedding of Lucy's daughter Carol.

My mother was a waitress and one of the cooks in the bland American restaurants was a French man called Fern Oulette. He would make my mother these amazing cakes for special occasions. On Christmas we always had his Buche de Noel beautifully decoarted with marzipan mushrooms. He made the most amazing buttercream filling. No one, not Tartine, not Crixa not any fancy restaurant or bakery I've ever been to has ever come close to Fern's cakes.

3. When did you start noticing ethnic restaurants?

Well, there was the Chinese place, but no one ate there. It was next to the bus stop and I would peer in there waiting for the bus. We would go to Ponzellis and I remember the antipasto plate. There was Nardelli's outstanding grinders. They are still in business today and as wonderful as ever. I remeber my dad taking us to Mama Leone's in New York City and all the wonderful Jewish Delis there.

At 16 I had my first 'Asian' food ... a pupu platter in Hartford. We all thought that was quite the delicious dish.

Yep, pretty much ethnic was Italian in my neck of the woods.

4. Do you remember which types of ethnic restaurants first opened in your neighborhood? What came after? And so on and so on.

When I was five I knew I wanted to live in California, being influenced by Disneyland. At seven my destiny was sealed when I read Jack London's Call of the Wild. The dog Buck starts off living in "the sunny Santa Clara Valley'. I knew I wanted to live there and I did.

So the minute I graduated from High School I left my home town. I've been back a few times. There's now a Taco Bell, but there still aren;t that many restaurants that are all that ethnic. The Chinese restaurant is gone.

5. What was the first ethnic meal that you had an ethnic friends house.

Other than Lucy's, I had a French friend and remember at 10 going to dinner at her house. They had this special dish, I never will remember what it was but it was awful, awful awful. My mom taught me to be polite, so I suffered through it and had seconds. Collette suffered through our cabbage soup since her mother taught her to be polite.

So when I moved to California I started to expand my horizons. I remember my first Mexican food at the Old Mill in Sunnyvale. It ws so exotic and I felt quite the woman of the world. A Korean coworker took me to a Korean Restaurant in Japantown and I had my first kimchee ... look out.

Our California neighbors were Filipino and it was in their home I tried my first lumpia and pancit. Later, when my mother was in a nursing home, the Filipino nurses would invite me to share in occasional pot luck dinners.

There was all that wonderful Chinese food .. Golden Gate's pork buns, Dim Sum at Yank Sing. But still nothing that exotic.

As part of my job, I opened up a few International computer departments. I spent a year in Mexico where I learned Mexican didn't mean tacos. I spent some time in Taiwan and I remember the beautiful box of moon cakes the Sheraton gave me during the moon festival (yeah, moon cakes, the Chinese version I learned later of fruit cake).

With my frequent flyer miles from work, I traveled from Greece up through England. I never had a meal or a cup of coffee in Italy that I didn't like. One of the best meals in my life was on one of those super trains going from Barcelona to Mddrid. Real china and linens and absolute drop dead great food. At a thee star restaurant in Paris, I told the waiter that in California we had wonderful wine too ... ouch .. the memory of that still hurts. THey WERE three star and were so charming and gracious and I remember every bite of that meal and the wine that tasted and smelled of wonderful apples. Outside of London I remember the clotted cream, strawberries and biscuits that I had at a castle.

But it wasn't until I started participating in food forums (yeah, the other one), that the secret world of ethinc cuisines opened up ... It was like being invited into these peoples families and learning how to eat such lovely wonderful dishes. There was no going back.

I hope the people on this board will invite me into their virtual kitchens and we can swap dishes, so to speak. In the next few days I'll do a round up of the best Polish Food in the Bay Area.

I no longer eat Wonder Bread.

Edited by Krys Stanley (log)
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The "surfer food". My wife surfed before she shot out two kids. She still has the body and the strength, but ya know two kids, she can't get enough sleep. On top of that she's all into nursing and child led weaning. A long board, down in trestles (Sp ?) San Diego and Malibu.  What exactly is surfer food? I know what my wife tells me. But we can also talk about this too!

I spent many days hanging out at Sano and Trestles, when I usd to work at the Chart House in Redondo Beach we would get up and surf our heads off get really sunburned and then go work making great food, still covered in sea salt from the ocean. There was actually a room at the restaurant where employees kept the surfboards.

Surfer food is stuff that does not need to be eaten with knife and fork and can be consumed while doing a "surf check" of the local breaks. Pedro's Taco's in San Clemente was a must after any long session at Sano. They have fish taco's, tasty beef burrito's with tons of awesome hot sauce....man I could tear those up. Teriyaki is a must as well, after an early morning session in manhattan beach you could head down to the Beach Hut and get a chicken teri plate witth eggs, rice and some grilled Kings hawaiian bread....on man....that was the life.....

Its been years since I have had the pure joy of times like that....on my days off, my wife works and I am on kid patrol....getting older, balder, fatter...it sucks! I have made a vow that I will start surfing again this summer when it gets warmer....we will see!

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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Krys Stanley-

Your vivd story reminds me of my own childhood in France. I was born in Lyon but when I was 7 my father moved the family to a nearby village, population about 3000. We were the only Algerian family. In the entire country of France, the Algerians are the largest "ethnic" group, if add in the Tunisians and Moroccans in the country the North Africans are a pretty significant group. But why did my father moves us to a place where we were the North Africans? Who knows. Most of my memories are filled with gold, but I also recall some of the French kids at school calling me a White

Nigg**. And now couscous is France's favorite food. A conservative French politician even snidely referred to as "Conquest by couscous."

Anyway my wife remembers dearly wishing her Korean mom could pack, polite "wonder bread" school lunches. It was a different world back then. Flash forwad to today, our daughter proudly takes rice and roasted seaweed for lunch and alot of her friends who aren't Asian go nuts for the stuff.

I'm learning alot here about how attitudes towards food and people from different countries has evolved.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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The Fairfax distrct is still alive and kicking. When my wife and first got married we lived near Pico Blvd and Robertson (further south, I know), otherwise affectionately known as the "Kosher Korner" We had a lot of great neighbors too. Total mix, no one was interested in polite multiculturalism. I'll get into this more later.

Fairfax is still alive but it ain't what it used to be. There were tons and tons of bakeries on Fairfax and Third -- Canter's, King David, Diamond, and so many more. As LA's Jewish community spread out, other neighborhood develped such as Pico/Robertson but also areas not known as Jewish communities with large enough Jewish populations to warrant their own Jewish eateries. So, you've got Nate & Al's in BH, Mort's in the Palisades, Fromins on Wilshire in West LA, etc. And that's before you even head to the Valley. Heck, I know people who remember when Fairfax was the start up area as LA's Jewish community moved west from Boyle Heights.

So long and thanks for all the fish.
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The "surfer food". My wife surfed before she shot out two kids. She still has the body and the strength, but ya know two kids, she can't get enough sleep. On top of that she's all into nursing and child led weaning. A long board, down in trestles (Sp ?) San Diego and Malibu.  What exactly is surfer food? I know what my wife tells me. But we can also talk about this too!

I spent many days hanging out at Sano and Trestles, when I usd to work at the Chart House in Redondo Beach we would get up and surf our heads off get really sunburned and then go work making great food, still covered in sea salt from the ocean. There was actually a room at the restaurant where employees kept the surfboards.

Surfer food is stuff that does not need to be eaten with knife and fork and can be consumed while doing a "surf check" of the local breaks. Pedro's Taco's in San Clemente was a must after any long session at Sano. They have fish taco's, tasty beef burrito's with tons of awesome hot sauce....man I could tear those up. Teriyaki is a must as well, after an early morning session in manhattan beach you could head down to the Beach Hut and get a chicken teri plate witth eggs, rice and some grilled Kings hawaiian bread....on man....that was the life.....

Its been years since I have had the pure joy of times like that....on my days off, my wife works and I am on kid patrol....getting older, balder, fatter...it sucks! I have made a vow that I will start surfing again this summer when it gets warmer....we will see!

We used to go to the Redondo Beach Pier back in the 60s and 70s. For us it was always Tony's on the Pier - the old one before the storm removed the rickety outside stairs and long before the fire that wiped out most of the pier.

They had the best lobster and fantastic abalone steaks, probably the best I have ever eaten at a restaurant.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Andie-

My wife remembers going to the Redondo pier during the mid to late 70's with her family. It was a regular ritual. Fresh live crab. There were also several Korean fishmongers there who had grills at the table for eel with kochujang marinade. We went a couple of years ago with our daughter before our son was born. It was dizzying.

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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1. What type of cuisine did you grow up eating?

Born in Stockton & raised in Modesto, I grew up eating Chinese & American food in the San Joaquin Valley. We owned a family-owned take-out Chinese restaurant in Modesto for about 6-7 years. My father was in the Chinese restaurant business most of his life. So, eating Chinese food wasn't “ethnic” to me. Mind you, it was still special, particularly around Chinese New Year. I remember my family and all my relatives taking me and my cousins to a Chinese restaurant hosted by our Chinese family association and eating a seven-course banquet meal. It would start with something like bird's nest soup, followed by boneless duck (pressed duck?), fried squabs, abalones & Chinese black mushrooms, Chinese whole fried chicken with fried shrimp chips, gai-lan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce, steamed whole fish, and steamed rice. This is more the Hong Kong-style, Cantonese-style food I grew up with.

2. When did you first try another ethnic cuisine?

3. When did you start noticing ethnic restaurants?

When I left Modesto for Los Angeles in 1983 to do graduate studies at UCLA (Go Bruins!), that's when I started noticing and trying ethnic cuisine. My first recollection would have to be eating a falafel sandwich at the Falafel King in Westwood. It was these fried falafel balls with chopped salad mix and tahini sauce all inside a pita bread. It was wonderful, it was Middle Eastern, it was vegetarian! I still go back there whenever I'm over in the Westside.

4. Do you remember which types of ethnic restaurants first opened in your neighborhood? What came after? And so on and so on.

When I moved into my first apartment in 1986, it was in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood on Pickford near Sherbourne.

The Fairfax distrct is still alive and kicking. When my wife and first got married we lived near Pico Blvd and Robertson (further south, I know), otherwise affectionately known as the "Kosher Korner"

chefzadi, do we know each other? Let me PM you. Okay, back to topic ...

I was familiar with bagels already, but I never heard of bialies. So what's a goy suppose to do? They were delicious. Then from 1987 to 1989, I went totally ethnic. I moved to do my master's degree program in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Culinary-wise, I got familiar with pig pickin's (with chopped pork that was smoked for 1-2 days, slaw, hush puppies), fried okra, and Smithfield ham. I remember my former roommates taking me to Hillsborough to the Colonial Inn restaurant. While in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, I was surprised that there were a couple of pretty good Chinese restaurants and a small Chinese market that made their own fresh tofu! After I received my MSLS in library science, it was back to Southern California. Over the years, I became familiar to varying degrees with the various ethnic cuisines of SoCal: Mexican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Peruvian, Armenian, Southern/Soul, Creole, Jewish, German, French, Italian, Swiss, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and of course, Chinese.

5. What was the first ethnic meal that you had an ethnic friends house.

Back in LA, a friend took me over this person's house. He was from Sri Lanka. The meal was rather simple. What I remembered was how we ate our food, without forks, spoons, chopsticks, or utensils. Yes, eating rice and chicken with our hands. Actually, eating with our fingers without dirtying the rest of our hands. It was quite peculiar.

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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1. Korean. Mom is the best cook. She's from a region that is known for having some of the best produce in the world. Helped that her family once owned a lot of it.

2. In Korea, I left the country when I was 5, but I remember Chinese-Korean restaurants were quite a treat. Chiajang Myun was a favorite. Japanese food was also known to.

3. Immediately after my family immigrated here. I was one of those kids that always liked trying new things. I immediately like Mexican food, that would be the first that I recall. Koreatown, which was basically a few churches and two Chinese-Korean restaurants has boomed. Later I noticed Thai restaurants when I was in junior high school. It was around this time that I recall a sort of backlash against French restaurants and a ton of Italian places started opening. Later in high school I recall noticing more Central American (mostly pupusa) and Vietnamese. Indian has been around for a long time too. I was in high school to when I first went to the SFG. Wow!

My parents were pretty generous with allowance for me so as soon I could get around on my own (even by bus when they wouldn't drive me) I liked to try new foods, so I had a pretty broad food experiences growing up. They even treated me to several culinary tours of South Korea. We went around tasting regional dishes.

4. Answered covered in 3.

5. First meal, I think I was 6 something Mexican it was probably tacos. No, actually I was 5 it was standard American, but exotic to me. The family lived on the same block and the girl who was a year younger than me sort of latched onto me. But I really didn't like eating at their place cause the mom kept trying to "teach" me American table manners. Which I thought was rude and annoying. Growing up I had friends from allover so I had lot great home cooked "ethnic" meals. Lucky me. :smile:

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I'm with Krys, I feel "native" (been here for fifteen years, don't want to ever leave), but my experiences are based on... let's just say "a midwest state".

1. What type of cuisine did you grow up eating?

Beef'n'potatoes. Standard midwestern fare.

2. When did you first try another ethnic cuisine?

I was probably four or five. Chinese. I was precocious, meaning I knew that if we were going Out To Eat, I should order an expensive item -- so I tried the curry prawns. I liked them, and continued to order them as often as we went there.

3. When did you start noticing ethnic restaurants?

Given that the Chinese curry prawn dish is bright yellow and looks nothing like cube steak, taters, and green beans, I'd say #3 is answered by #2...

4. Do you remember which types of ethnic restaurants first opened in your neighborhood? What came after? And so on and so on.

I lived there back before this sudden explosion of cuisines. There was Mexican (gringoized for the most part), and Chinese. When I returned one holiday from college I was amazed that they had a Benihana. It's very diverse now... but these days, every town of 5,000 people has a dozen restaurants (however bad) of different ethnicities. It's the essence du jour.

5. What was the first ethnic meal that you had an ethnic friends house.

Probably when we went to a Jewish friend's house (dietary restrictions effectively make it ethnic), but I did not notice that meal at all. The first one I can actively recall was at the home of an Indian Sikh friend. It was incredible: vegetarian, but spicy(!), and there were these crispy bread things (papadum) that were beyond description. A huge selection of items, too. Considering that just one woman cooked them all, in a fairly short time, I was very impressed. I wished I could move in with them...

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