Southern California is a food lovers paradise! Usually when I arrive in San Diego, the first road trip on my agenda is a visit to Chino's Farm in Rancho SantaFe and Aniata's Cheese Shop on Del Mar. A visit to Chino's is an unbelievably memorable experience.
My sister has told me that if you're really lucky and if you get up there early enough, that you'll see some of Southern Cal's finest chefs handpicking vegetables for their daily menus. Although I've never seen her, I know that Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame gets daily shipments of vegetables from Chino's and so does Wolfgang Puck. I'm always thrilled to rub elbows with such greatness, simply being there is thrilling! On my last visit, I bought strawberries and the lovely woman who is always behind the counter asked me " American or Frais du Bois?" Jesus...I thought that I had died and gone straight to heaven! I also bought fresh sweet peas, sweet pea greens, three kinds of baby carrots, French breakfast radishes, arugula flowers, mache' , two colours of fresh baby beets and somehow managed to resist the purple baby artichokes! All of it was organic, and all of it had been harvested just minutes before. On previous visits I have purchased gorgeous French melons, enchanting white pumpkins and fragrant silvery sage!
After leaving Chino's Farm, it's a short drive up Via de la Valle to Aniata's, the most wonderful cheese shop that I have ever been in. You can find them on the web at www.aniata.com , and they will ship their wonderful cheeses almost anywhere, and thankfully to Ohio! Spending a hour or two in Aniata's is really FUN! The owners, are very generous with their knowledge and you can taste anything that you want to. They cut their cheeses carefully and wrap them in paper not plastic, so that they continue to breathe and ripen. On this most recent trip, I wanted to purchase a cheese that I bought the year before,however I couln't remember it's name. It was a buttery truffle cheese, that was dusted with spices and my husband who is crazy for truffles loved it. I was in awe when they looked up my name in their computer, and printed out a list of every cheese that I had ever purchased from them. This trip I bought 2 kinds of truffled cheese, an English bleu cheese, a soft ripened cows milk cheese, and at least 3 more incredible cheeses that I can't remember the names of! (But if I called them, they could tell me!)
All of this great food went home, and became the loveliest hor d'eourve ever. It was so pretty that all it required was a bottle of California merlot, a handsome plate to set it on and a appreciative audience! The pure tastes of the fresh produce and the exquisite texture of perfectly ripened cheeses were a feast for a palate dulled down by the heavier meals of an Ohio winter. Ahhhhhh....California dreamin on such a winters day...........