Southern California

ieentranceI just love the food and wine community on social media. They find all the coolest and latest places to go when you head out on the road. While our trips to wine country always center on finding the best new wineries and visiting old favorites, ballast - in the way of great eats - is equally important if you want to survive a day in the tasting rooms. The Santa Ynez Valley (also know as Santa Barbara Wine Country even though it's 30 minutes north) is home to over 100 wineries, but the towns are pretty small. This leaves your lunch options a bit slim especially in the Buellton area, unless you're looking for fast food or are hankering for a bowl of pea soup. So when I heard about a new place called Industrial Eats, I just had to check it out. Well, I actually saw a picture of one of their pizzas on Facebook and it made my mouth water. So on our next foray up the coast I made it our lunch destination.

Open for about a month or so, there isn't much info out there about it, so it was not the easiest place to find. I have to admit we initially drove right by it, finding ourselves at the end of the road and out of luck. There was only one option and that was to turn around and look up the address again. This is something that happens quite a lot in wine country, as many of the best places are not on the map, so to speak.

Located on Industrial Way (which I guess has something to do with the name), it's sort of tucked in behind the owner's main business, New West Catering.  Jeff and Janet Olsson have been putting their 30 years of restaurant experience to good use in the Vally for over a decade and this is a clear expansion of their efforts. Why not put your catering kitchen to a secondary use during the week and bring your talent to the public at large?

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chungkingextFinding a great restaurant isn’t easy. I read hundreds of reviews and clip the best ones but they usually just languish in a file. I would never have gone to Chung King but for Jonas Goodman. Foremost on his list of must-try-restaurants is Chung King, recommended to him by his friend, the wonderful novelist, Nicole Mones, an expert in all things-Chinese.

Not all Chung King’s are created equally. The only one to try, according to Nicole is the one run by Linda Huang’s at her address at 1000 S. San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776 (626/286-0298). The restaurant inhabits a cinderblock building on a non-descript block in San Gabriel. The exterior doesn’t invite you in, which is why the recommendation of a noted author and respected authority on Chinese cooking is needed.

Our visit was completely serendipitous. We had driven out to Banning to pay our respects to my mom who is buried there. If you have ever gone to Palm Springs, you have passed through Banning, which sits at the foot of the Idyllwild road. My parents moved there when I was in High School and I don’t have fond memories of the town but that’s where my mother is buried, so we make the trip there to spend a quiet moment with her.

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plums cafe 1Here's what I like about California: People think nothing of driving 82 miles for lunch. (In New York, this never happens.) The Thin Man and I are now two of those people as we head out from La Jolla to Plums Cafe in Costa Mesa. We've brought the Boston mechanical lady along to tell us where to get off. She acclimates, more or less, and in no time it's north on the 5. Our LA cousins, who are meeting us, drive 56 miles and they've lived here long enough to get over their New Yorkiness. I guess we have too.

Just in case, The Thin Man prints directions. As it turns out, she not only does not get lost but she sees into the future. Five miles ahead, on the way home, she tells us repeatedly to get off because there's trouble ahead. We don't, there is, but it works out.

How do you define an ideal California lunch? Although I'm no slouch in the lunch department, a perfect lunch will be one I didn't have to make. Ideal is every plate beautifully arranged. Ideal is having to choose. Will it be soup and salad, waffles, chopped or Caesar, greens? Ideal comes with a brother and cousins. Ideal is a chic vibe. Home? If only.

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deer_lodge2.jpg You ordered Grilled Ostrich last night? Venison medallions in cherry sauce? Roast duck breast that tasted like the best gelato you ever had? Killer game splattered everywhere - into all soups and on top of all salads? 

Well you were probably sitting as my dinner guest at a rustic table next to a wooden carved motorcycle sculpture that is parked in doors in front of a fireplace that sits beneath deer antlers festooned with xmas lights at the Deer Lodge in Ojai, California. 

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