The food your…er, vacation.
I don’t know what it is about me, but the older I get, the more food-centric my vacations become.
We just returned home from a week-long trip to Southern California. Starting a month before we went, I was making phone calls to make sure we secured reservations at our favorite restaurants. It’s a familiar refrain. We travel to SoCal a few times a year, and there are several “must do” restaurants, so I have it all down to a science…starting 30 days in advance.
This trip we managed to hit all our favorites and even added a new favorite or two. We know which restaurant we like for Asian fusion. We know which restaurant we prefer for steak. We know which one we prefer for seafood. We know which one we like for comfort food. We know where our favorite desserts are. And now we have a new “boujie” favorite.
Interestingly, we are pretty low-maintenance most of the time. In “real life,” I’m happy to have a simple salad or sandwich most days. I meet friends for lunch a couple of times a week, but we don’t always do the “boujie” lunch…occasionally, but certainly not always. In fact, tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend at Arthur’s, a restaurant on the bottom floor of our local Belk store. It is a locally-owned restaurant that has been open for 40 years, and everyone I know who grew up in Charlotte has a story about Arthur’s to tell from their high school days. It’s not fancy. It’s certainly not boujie, but it’s good comfort food. Personally, I love their French fries. My friend, Jennifer, who grew up here, loves their Turkey Grinder. I have to admit it’s pretty good. Their burgers are fantastic, and I have another friend, a native Charlottean, who swears by their cheesesteak sandwich.
I even go on vacations to more laid-back places (small islands in the Bahamas or beach towns along the Gulf of Mexico) where I know the local dives serve the best food.
But in SoCal? It’s all about the food…and the people-watching…because really, who doesn’t love to see a celebrity or two? I will admit, I am a stargazer. I’m not a rabid fan. In fact, I have seen lots of celebrities and even met lots of them, but I rarely “fangirl.” I have gone a little “fangirl” a couple of times, but seriously…only a couple. My daughter loves that I can spot a celeb; it takes a special eye. I just happen to be a face person. Lots of people in the world are “surroundings” people, but I’m not one of them. You might remember what color the walls are in a room, but I’m going to remember the faces of the people I see there. And that’s why I’m a good star-spotter…because I look at faces. In fact, on this most recent trip, I spotted a celeb from a favorite teen movie from the 1980s (Ben Stein), a very famous rapper (Nelly), an Academy Award winner (Nicholas Cage), and a recently reunited celebrity couple (Bennifer!). And every time, I had to point them out to my daughter and her friend. They wouldn’t have even seen them if I hadn’t made them aware.
But back to the food. We had reservations every night of our stay. A couple of nights I skipped out so the girls (they’re 18) didn’t have to be accompanied by a parent while they dined. I remember 18, and I know how important it is to feel independent. One night I had a migraine anyway. But there were certain restaurants I was not going to miss. One favorite is on the beach in Malibu…incredible food and exciting atmosphere. Another favorite is in the hotel where we stay…nice people in a beautiful setting, and the best dessert in town. We added a new “boujie” lunch option this time after seeing it on a friend’s Instagram. My daughter and her friend had “order envy” when my lunch arrived. They ordered burgers but I ordered “Risotto disguised as a pizza.” And it was fantastic. We have reasons beyond food for dining at certain restaurants, but even with good atmosphere, the food has to be acceptable. Also, because I have gallbladder issues (having surgery for that on July 14…it has been delayed several times), I rarely eat red meat. I try to eat fish and chicken for protein, so I love places that have great fish and chicken dishes. And Southern California has lots of great options.
We flew home late Tuesday night…fat and happy. I probably shouldn’t eat anything for two weeks. I likely need to go running every day for two weeks…or more. And I have taken it easy on the eating. I will say this: it was worth it. We simply can’t get the same kind of food in North Carolina. We live in a lovely city in a great state, but “nothing comes close to the Golden Coast” where food is concerned.
So yes, we enjoyed our vacation…also known as “the food tour.”