- Grazing at San Francisco's Farmers' Market: In 2003, San Francisco's favorite outdoor culinary fair moved to the Ferry Building Marketplace, where some of the best artisan food producers and restaurants have storefronts. Stop by to peruse the exceptional, abundant selection of gourmet shops and restaurants, or join the locals during open-air market days to feast on the freshest vegetables, fruits, and prepared foods from beloved restaurants.
- Dining on Dungeness Crab at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf: Eating fresh Dungeness crabmeat straight from the seafood vendors' boiling pots at the corner of Jefferson and Taylor streets is a classic San Francisco culinary experience.
- A San Francisco Dim Sum Feast: No place this side of China does dim sum as well as San Francisco. Experience a taste of Hong Kong right at your table with myriad mysterious and exotic little dishes -- from dumplings and potstickers to salt-fried shrimp and ducks' feet. At the city's best dim sum house, Ton Kiang (tel. 415/387-8273), you'll be wowed by the variety of mysterious dishes. For downtown dim sum, the venerable Yank Sing (tel. 415/957-9300) offers an exotic edible surprise on every cart that's wheeled to your table.
- Point Reyes Oysters: Drake's Bay Oyster Farm (tel. 415/669-1149) sells its farm-fresh oysters -- by the dozen or the hundreds -- for a fraction of the price you'd pay at a restaurant.
- Samoa Cookhouse (Samoa; tel. 707/442-1659): When lumber was king in Northern California, cookhouses were the hub of Eureka. Here the mill men and longshoremen came to chow down on three hot meals before, during, and after their 12-hour workday. The Samoa is the last of the great cookhouses, and the food is still hearty, served up family-style at long red-checkered tables; nobody leaves hungry.
- A Gourmet Picnic at the Hollywood Bowl: What better way to spend a typically warm L.A. evening than under the stars with a picnic basket, a bottle of wine, and some naturally amplified entertainment. Home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Bowl hosts visiting performers, ranging from chamber music quartets to jazz greats to folk humorists. The imposing white Frank Lloyd Wright-designed band shell always elicits appreciative gasps from first-time Bowl-goers.
- Grand Central Market (Los Angeles; tel. 213/624-2378): Fresh produce stands, exotic spice and condiment vendors, butchers and fishmongers, and prepared-food counters create a noisy, fragrant, vaguely comforting atmosphere in this L.A. mainstay. Prepared foods of every ethnicity are served at counters throughout the market, from hefty tacos (around $2) to a complete Chinese plate for around $5.
- A Date with the Coachella Valley: Some 95% of the world's dates are farmed here. While the groves of date palms make evocative scenery, it's their fruit that draws visitors to the National Date Festival in Indio each February. Amid the Arabian Nights Parade and camel races, you can feast on an array of plump Medjool, amber Deglet Noor, caramel-like Halawy, and buttery Empress dates. The rest of the year, date farms and markets sell dates from the season's harvest, as well as date milkshakes, date coconut rolls, and more.
- Fish Tacos: These tasty treats migrated north from Baja California and were popularized in San Diego some 30 years ago by Rubio's Baja Grill. Now a sizable chain, Rubio's is still a reliable choice, but better yet are casual fish markets/eateries such as Point Loma Seafoods (tel. 619/223-1109), Blue Water Seafood Market and Grill (tel. 619/497-0914), and Bay Park Fish Co. (tel. 619/276-3474).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.