As a former food editor and now the editor in chief of Salt & Wind, a website dedicated to food and travel, Aida Mollenkamp has tasted her way through some of the world’s best cities. In a recent trip during January’s California Restaurant Month, the Golden State native sampled food in Oakland, Gilroy, and Monterey. (Find her favorites from each area on the California section of Salt & Wind.) Mollenkamp shares insights from her trip below.
1. What was the top highlight of your trip to California?
As a native Californian, I love making like a visitor in my home state. I travel abroad so much that having some time to staycation and to explore the latest and greatest in my own backyard is tons of fun.
2. You got to experience one of California’s hottest culinary cities—Oakland. What were your impressions of the restaurants?
Ever since I worked as a food editor in the Bay Area, I’ve been a fan of the Oakland food scene. The city has so much diversity in a relatively small area and it makes for a super interesting food scene. It’s exciting that you can hit up a classic spot like the bar at the Claremont and then head down the street and get something local in the Temescal neighborhood. That said, one of the best dishes was the mezze spread as well as the musakhan (sumac-spiced confit chicken and pine nuts) at Dyafa.
3. Did you do any shopping or sightseeing while you were in Oakland?
Yes, I headed to Temescal Alleys to check out the local boutiques like Equeleto, Baggu, Crismon Horticultural Rarities, and Homestead Apothecaries.
4. What was your experience like in Gilroy?
Gilroy was small town at its best—everyone was so sweet and it was nice to see so many small businesses in the area.
5. Any insider tips for visiting the Steinbeck House in Salinas?
Be sure to book a docent-led tour when you make a lunch reservation so that you can get the full insider look into the house.
6. What were some of the food highlights from your time in Monterey?
The commitment to local comes alive with the seafood in Monterey and the highlight for me was at Wild Fish restaurant in Pacific Grove.
7. What else did you do between meals that you’d suggest to others?
To get out and be active! California is a state that’s best seen by being outdoors and the Bay Area allows you to do everything from hiking to [hanging out at the] beach.
8. Which picture or social media post best sums up your trip and why?
My trip was a mix of classic meets modern and that was best summed up by my time at the Claremont Hotel.
9. Why would you recommend the locations you visited to other food lovers? Any tips?
California takes farm-to-table seriously and the Bay Area is a place you can really see that come to life. Be sure to visit a mix of the bigger cities and smaller towns so you can taste a mix of cutting-edge and classic spots!
10. Why do you think travelers should visit during California Restaurant Month?
So you can eat local and get a taste of how each spot celebrates the best flavors of California!