California Dreaming and Eating with ‘Top Chef’

A whirlwind food-lover’s tour of Southern California featuring some popular attractions and great places to eat

Ron Stern

Top Chef Season 13 aired its first episode on December 2, 2015, and for this chapter, the show journeyed to California, including stops in Los Angeles and San Diego.

California is known for its mild weather, easy-going lifestyle, and innovative cuisine. Some “cheftestants” from current and past seasons have made The Golden State their home and opened eateries that reflect their passion, creativity and vision.

Here then is a whirlwind food-lover’s tour of Southern California featuring some popular attractions, upscale accommodations, and great places to eat:

The San Fernando Valley is a good starting place to begin your visit to L.A., and The Garland Hotel in North Hollywood is an excellent choice for luxury accommodations. After undergoing an extensive $20 million renovation, this property has been redesigned into a 1970s-style retro hotel that showcases “classic California architecture.”

Once owned by the late screen actress Beverly Garland, the hotel has been garnering some major accolades of late, including being ranked #5 out of 15 Top Hotels in Los Angeles from the 2015 Conde Nast Readers Awards.

The property has all the amenities you would expect and an indoor/outdoor restaurant called The Front Yard which features some excellent cuisine and libations.

Spend the day exploring some of L.A.’s major attractions including Universal Studios, City Walk, NoHo Arts District, and the Hollywood Bowl. An authentic on-site trolley offers free rides to the L.A. Metro and Universal/City Walk. The latter is a neon-lit food, shopping, and entertainment extravaganza.

If you have never had a Pink’s hot dog, you are in for a treat as there is an outlet here. There are several types of “dogs” on the menu, and after one bite of any of them you’ll know why this eatery, founded way back in 1939 by Paul and Betty Pink and now run by their grandchildren, is a Los Angeles institution.

Here are a couple of dining options located a short distance from The Garland:

Barrel & Ashes
Chef-owners Timothy Hollingsworth and Rory Hermann, together with Chef de Cuisine Michael Kahikina and mixologist Julian Cox have created a Southern-style barbecue-lover’s paradise in the San Fernando Valley.

Barrel & Ashes has a mouth-watering menu that will turn many a vegetarian into a carnivore if given half the chance. You can choose from tender meats slow-smoked over California Red Oak including brisket (cooked 16 to 18 hours), spare ribs, sausage, chicken, pulled pork, and pork roast. Sourcing is paramount to good tasting food and the owners make a point of obtaining some of the best products from Mary’s Free Range Chicken, Salmon Creek Farms, and Greater Omaha Beef.

Bring your appetite because there are several delicacies on the menu you’ll want to try. Start with a snack such as Frito pie or the hush puppies. Their kale Caesar salad with almonds, parmesan and croutons is out of this world and might make you a fan of this leafy vegetable. Our table couldn’t get enough and enjoyed this as much as the barbeque. Be sure to look at their vast drinks selection as well. 

The Gadarene Swine
Owned and operated by Phillip Frankland Lee, one of Top Chef Season 13’s “cheftestants,” The Gadarene Swine serves vegan-friendly cuisine.

Lee features seven to 12 course tasting menu along with wine pairings. Visually, Lee sees himself as an artist creating an edible masterpiece on a plate, using simple vegetables and combining spices like turmeric, ginger, and honey to create flavorful sensations which he believes even many meat eaters will love.

Philip Franklin Lee

Ron Stern

One of his most popular dishes is blackened cauliflower. He starts with a base of cauliflower puree; then layers the dish with roasted cauliflower (including colorful stems), lemon and red onions soaked in lime juice, sea salt; and tops it off with pistachios.

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After you’ve had breakfast, whether at The Garland or a nearby eatery, head over the hill to West Hollywood to start a full day of sightseeing and culinary exploration.