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California Now Podcast


California Cuisine, Sonoma County, Yosemite

Food & Wine magazine’s Hunter Lewis shares some tasty recommendations with host Soterios Johnson

Episode 14 of the California Now Podcast offers a culinary history lesson of sorts as Hunter Lewis, editor in chief of Food & Wine magazine, explains what California cuisine is, how...


California Curiosities, Architecture, East Bay

Today on the California Now Podcast we showcase some unique experiences with Atlas Obscura

Editor’s note: This episode of the California Now Podcast opens with a Public Service Announcement addressing the recent wildfires in California. For more information on these tragic events,...


Solo Travel, L.A. Street Food, Olive Oil Tasting

A New York Times travel writer discusses the merits of exploring the world on your own

Can it be more rewarding to explore the world by yourself from time to time? Absolutely, says Stephanie Rosenbloom, author of a new book called Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities and the...


Redwood Coast, Favorite Hotels, Sacramento Dining

This episode focuses on California’s most impressive redwood forests and its very best hotels

In Episode 11 of the California Now Podcast, travel writer Alison Bing explains why Lonely Planet named California’s Redwood Coast the top destination in the country. Bing, a self-...


Jonny Moseley, Orange County, Museum Hack

Learn about an Olympic Gold Medalist’s Wildest Dreams, explore the O.C., and see two museums in a new light

Episode 10 of the California Now Podcast begins with a conversation about Jonny Moseley’s Wildest Dreams, including several nail-biting anecdotes about the making of the...


Rock Climbing, Best Campgrounds, L.A. Shopping

Host Soterios Johnson uncovers the most awe-inspiring places in California to climb and to camp

In January 2014, the world watched as Kevin Jorgeson and his climbing partner Tommy Caldwell made history as the first free climbers to summit Yosemite’s Dawn Wall. In this episode of the...


Anderson Valley, L.A. Music Venues, Family Travel

This episode of the California Now Podcast features a scenic road trip through Mendocino County wine country

Join host Soterios Johnson as he climbs into the passenger seat alongside Travel + Leisure Editor in Chief Nathan Lump on an audio road trip across the Anderson...


Culinary Gems, Hidden Beaches, Napa Valley Wine

Soterios Johnson unearths a few of California’s best-kept secrets—including some under-the-radar restaurants, secret beaches, and surprising Napa wineries

According to the online media brand Eater, “the Golden State is hands down the best place to eat in America.” In this episode, ...


Curtis Stone’s Culinary Tour, Lake Tahoe, Death Valley

Join Soterios Johnson on an audio trek up the California Coast, with detours to Lake Tahoe and Death Valley National Park

When Curtis Stone decided to showcase Central Coast wines at Maude, his 24-seat Beverly Hills hotspot, he knew he had to conduct some serious hands-on research. In other words: road trip! Stone...


Stargazing, Best Bike Routes, Mid-Century Modernism

Astronomer Dennis Mammana takes Soterios Johnson on a tour of the cosmos while author Sam Lubell discusses retro-chic architecture

On the latest episode of the California Now Podcast astronomer Dennis Mammana offers his take on mankind’s connection to the heavens above. Mammana lives in Borrego Springs, an International Dark...


San Francisco Dining, Channel Islands, Luxury Hotels

Esquire magazine’s Jeff Gordinier, author Ken McAlpine, and Forbes Travel Guide’s Amanda Frasier join the California Now Podcast

What happens when an intrepid food critic is asked to consume 13 Michelin stars worth of cuisine in the space of four days? California Now Podcast Host Soterios Johnson explores this very topic...


Atlas Obscura, Packing Tips, Wine

Soterios Johnson discusses California’s hidden gems with Dylan Thuras and talks wine with author Jon Bonné

This episode of California Now kicks off with a conversation with Atlas Obscura co-founder Dylan Thuras, who specializes in surfacing curious and wondrous travel destinations.The Atlas Obscura...


Bucket Lists, Craft Beer, San Andreas Fault

Travel expert Patricia Schultz, filmmaker Jeff Smith, and tour operator Bob Schneider join the California Now podcast

This episode of California Now features veteran travel writer Patricia Schultz, who talks about bucket list travel and then offers up some Golden State destinations that travelers should consider...


Big Sur, Waterfalls, Oakland

Host Soterios Johnson explores Big Sur with Samantha Brown; gears up for waterfall viewing; and chats with chef Tanya Holland

The first episode of California Now features a conversation with veteran travel host Samantha Brown, who traveled to Big Sur and Monterey Bay for her new PBS series, Samantha Brown’s Places to...

Timothy Archibald

California Questionnaire: Soterios Johnson

California Questionnaire: Soterios Johnson
The New York City radio veteran and podcast host reveals why he loves living in the Golden State

Soterios Johnson is not exactly a California expert—not yet, anyway. And that is one big reason why he is the ideal host for the brand-new California Now Podcast. Johnson, the former host of NPR’s Morning Edition on WNYC in New York City, is a relative newcomer to the Golden State and is actively seeking to fill up his personal travel to-do list. As the voice of the interview-based California Now podcast, Johnson will talk to a diverse collection of experts and extract tips and insights from dozens of insiders. Johnson will leverage both his journalistic skills and his personal curiosity to uncover the best things to do and the most fascinating places to explore throughout the state. 

Although much of what is captured below may be rethought over the months ahead, Johnson eagerly answered our California Questionnaire.

Where do you live? Woodland.

Why there? It’s right next to UC Davis, where I work. It has a charming downtown area, some great old architecture, and a nice mix of people—newcomers and old-timers.

Who or what is your greatest California love? It’s hard to pick just one! I love the weather, the people, the super-fresh farm-to-fork food options, and the laid-back vibe. I love spending time on the beach, and I’m still on a quest to find my favorite stretch of sand in California.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That they have their heads in the clouds. Sure, some can be a little loopy, but that just adds character. Most of the Californians I’ve met are thoughtful, smart, generous, self-aware people. I think the rep of being “out there” comes from California being on the forefront of so many movements, and it takes a while for the rest of society to catch up.  

What is the stereotype that most holds true? Everyone drives everywhere. That said, you don’t have to. Many cities have good public transportation options, and you can find areas with excellent infrastructure for walking and cycling. 

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Spending some time on a beach away from the crowds. I’m thinking somewhere in or around Laguna Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes, Malibu, or Coronado

Time for a road trip—where are you going? I would take a leisurely drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from the Sonoma Coast down to Big Sur. I would start in Sea Ranch, where you have these serene sounds of nature and views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Sea Ranch is a small, secluded, environmentally planned private community developed in the late 1960s. It’s quiet and remote—a good spot to plan my trip and start fresh. My other stops would include Bodega Bay, a fishing village where I could chow down on clam chowder and just-caught seafood and then check out where Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds was shot. Next: Point Reyes, where I would explore the beautiful coastline at Point Reyes National Seashore. And then I would stop in San Francisco so I could visit SFMOMA and the Legion of Honor museum, and have dinner in Chinatown.

The next day I would head south and sample the food scene in Santa Cruz before continuing down to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row. And then, of course, I would spend as much time as possible exploring Big Sur—including a walking tour of Garrapata State Park, a place I learned about after interviewing Samantha Brown for the California Now Podcast.

If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? I picture a Sonoma vineyard. I’m sitting outside, overlooking rolling hills and grapevines and enjoying local wine, cheeses, and seasonal produce. 

How do you define California style? Very casual and comfortable—linens and cottons. Untucked. Shorts, sunglasses, skateboard shoes or flip-flops.

Best California song? I love “Another Day of Sun,” the opening song from the film La La Land. And who can forget that amazing opening dance number on that freeway ramp in Los Angeles? While the music is upbeat and exuberant, the lyrics betray an acknowledgment that dreams don’t always come true, even if you live in a sunny wonderland. The irony is masterful. I’m also a big fan of the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” Is it a sociopolitical statement about American culture or an allegory about hedonism? Not sure, but any way you slice it, it’s a great song with one of the best guitar solos ever. As a kid in New Jersey, listening to that song while staring at the album cover photo of the palm trees and Beverly Hills Hotel set against an eerie sunset definitely left an impression.

How would your California dream day unfold? First off, this is not a realistic day—I would need a Star Trek transporter to achieve this. Having said that, I can imagine letting the sounds of the Pacific Ocean serve as my alarm clock. I wake up whenever and then take a dip in a pool before I enjoy a Southern California breakfast of locally grown ingredients, including fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Afterward I would bike to the beach to swim and chill until it’s time for lunch at a food truck or In-N-Out Burger. My afternoon would be spent touring the Getty Center and, if there’s enough time, a Hollywood studio tour. Next I would enjoy a relaxing dinner in Wine Country, and then end this perfect day somewhere very, very dark so I could enjoy a bit of stargazing before hitting the hay.