Several weeks ago I had a work related conference to attend in Anaheim. I took advantage of the free plane tickets and extended my time in Southern California so I could revisit the land of my youth. If you were not aware, I was born in San Dimas and spent the first 13 years of my life in Glendora, both located in Los Angeles County. My mom flew down from Sequim, Wa and we met up with my auntie, who lives in the area. The following is my account of our time together via the food we ate. There are so many memories linked to food and many of the places we visited together were to relive some of those memories. We talked a lot about my grandmother, who passed away just as I was entering college. Where ever we ate, my mom or auntie would list what my grandmother would have ordered. It comforted me to know that she loved food just as much as I do.
My mom and I spent the first day together visiting Glendora. The last time I had been there was when I was just about 13. Everything seemed much smaller and beat up. I guess that’s what 17 years will do to things. It was a little sad to see how things had changed but it was also comforting to be an adult and to know my way around town. I remembered where a lot of our old homes and favorites eats were. Our first stop was at The Donut Man.
One of the things I really miss about California eating are the donuts. I was amazed to see so many donut shops all across the area. The Donut Man was Fosters Donut when I was a kid. It’s still owned by the same person and they are still cranking out delicious maple bars just as I remember them. They actually might be a bit bigger than I remember. I can’t seem to find any maple bars in the Philadelphia area and it is something I long for. These donuts were so light and airy and frosting sweet but not too sweet.
A quick non-food related comment, my mom could not believe that I still remembered this house but look at it. How could you forget it? I was told as a kid that the owner used to work for Disney. I have tried finding info about it online but to no avail. It both scared me and intrigued me. It still does.
The next stop on memory lane was probably the most important to my mom. North Wood’s Inn, located in Covina (there are 3 of different locations), is a restaurant my mom holds very close to her heart. My mom celebrated around 15 of her birthdays here. My mom and auntie both commented on how they remembered waiting in the dimly lit sitting area as kids while my grandmother sipped on a scotch on the rocks. It was one of my her favorite restaurants so my mom always feels close to her when she dines here. My only experience at NWI was when I graduated preschool and my mom and grandmom took me there to celebrate. My lasting memories of the place were that it had a big stuffed bear and you could throw peanuts on the floor. I was excited to return as an adult so I could experience the food.
Opened in 1967, North Woods Inn has a upscale lumberjack vibe, if that is possible. It’s part loungy, part rustic. It also feels as though you are in a theme park. I loved every minute of it. Dinner was probably around 10,000 calories or something but I enjoyed every bite.
My mom always orders the same thing, their two salads and cheese bread. OMG. I’m sorry but this stuff has no nutritional value but it’s so good. The “green” salad consists of iceberg lettuce and heavily doused with their famous blue cheese dressing. The lettuce was basically vehicle for the delicious dressing. It worked. The dressing was creamy and had big chunks of blue cheese in it. The “red” salad was red cabbage in a light dressing, almost like a slaw but so much better. Vinegary and sweet, it would have been great on a pulled pork sandwich. And last but certainly not least was their cheese bread. You can actually buy the bread and cheese spread so you can recreate this at home, you can also just find a copy cat recipe. They slather sourdough bread with this cheese/butter spread and then toast it. It is crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. And cheesebuttery. I just made up a word!
Not knowing what to order I was drawn to the “freshly ground HAMBURGER STEAK”. This thing came with fried onions and two sides, a baked potato with their cheesy butter spread (different from the bread) and rice pilaf. The meat was some of the tastiest and well season meat I have had the pleasure of biting into. It was cooked as ordered and I was even offered some mushroom gravy so I could make an upscale Salisbury steak. Nommmm. The baked potato was of course delicious because anything with that amount of butter and cheese has to be. Shockingly, I was unable to finish my dinner so I had some leftovers to enjoy.
While the food was very great, what I really enjoyed was being their with my mom and auntie, remembering my grandmom. It was also satisfying to be there as a grown woman and enjoying a certain right of passage with the other women in my family.
Because I have been talking so much about them, here are a picture of these two crazy broads. My mom might kill me for putting up that last one but it so perfectly illustrates just the way I love my mom. Laughing. So if there is one thing to know about my auntie is that she loves all things relating to Mexican culture. With auntie there is always tequila or Pacifico nearby and long talks about Mexican food. I could talk about food with her all day and we kind of did. Auntie took mom and I to lunch at one of her favorite restaurants, El Cholo. The pictures below might have something to do with the fact that we started the morning with mimosas and then went on to have Cadillac margaritas for lunch. I love being on vacation!
Let’s get to the food. The one thing I can’t believe I forgot about when eating in California is how plentiful the avocados are. Plentiful and cheap. Sigh. Everywhere we went, guacamole was 9 dollars and made table side in a big molcajete. Sigh again. This is the life. We were initially given their plain old salsa but then my auntie asked for something a little spicier and we got this beautiful chunky salsa you see below. My carnitas were a little dry but I really enjoyed the beans, rice and fresh tortillas that came with them. Auntie surprised me with El Cholo’s cookbook so I am going to try to recreate some of their dishes at home. I also had a long talk with auntie and her friends about making refried beans and they gave me some good tips so I am going to get on that right away.
So that’s pretty much it. I actually have two other places I want to share but they deserve their own posts. I need to get back to Philly related topics so you might just have to wait for it. It will still be great a month or so after the fact, right? Maybe I will wait till the middle of winter, when we all need a little California sunshine. My absence from Southern California was much too long. I plan on visiting much more often. I have actually already begun looking at plane tickets to plan my next visit. I didn’t get in as much burger eating as I would have liked so I have got to make another trip just for burgers. Till then sweet homeland of my birth.