Food writers and My Kitchen Rules NZ fan favourites Jay Wanakore and Sarah Chas share their picks for a family LA getaway.
Malibu Beach - Malibu Farm Pier Cafe
The best moments in life are unplanned. That's exactly how we wound up on Malibu beach. We had booked an RV and travelled along the whole west coast of America for three weeks with our three kids and Nana. We were on the home stretch, it was a beautiful sunny day and we were fed up with driving so we pulled over.
Purely by chance we ended up right on Malibu. We were stoked to have our first swim and spent three hours just soaking up the sun and playing in the sand. We also headed up to the famous Malibu Pier, which has breathtaking views from down the boardwalk. It's also home to the well-known and beloved restaurant, the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe. It doesn't get much better than this.
The food at the cafe is fresh and organic. Just about each and every menu item is prepared with wholewheat flours and whole grains, plus a lot of fresh fruits and veges.
The best part is they use products from their own farm, so you know you'll be in for a nutritious and delicious meal.
Sugarfish - By sushi Nozawa
We actually stumbled across this cool little sushi joint after the place we originally planned to visit was closed. Now, this isn't just any old sushi shop with your standard California or Boston rolls. Sugarfish's "trust me"-style menu leaves it all entirely in the hands of the chefs and that's the best/scariest part.
You will receive your sushi in the order that they see fit and you will eat it in the way they intend you to. Aka, keep that soya sauce far away. It is fresh, with beautiful cuts of fish (some even from New Zealand) that just melts in your mouth.
And at $30 for seven different cuts of premiere sushi ($25 at lunch), this is the best deal in town for what you're getting.
Whereas Chef Nozawa's sushi speaks for itself, it's the overall concept and social approach that has led to Sugarfish's success.
Tourist Tip: With any popular restaurant be sure to go early and make sure your whole group is there. They won't seat any incomplete dining parties so someone could get that table that you were eyeing up because one of your mates was late.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
You can't go to LA without visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame to snap a pic with your favourite star. Note the stars also go down side streets so wear good comfy shoes and factor in about an hour to get a good look. While you're there you can also check out the life-sized celeb sculptures at Madame Tussauds wax museum, including of our local girl, Lorde, whom you will see as soon as you walk in. You can pop next door to take a tour at the famous Chinese Theatre where they host lots of movie premieres. If you're looking for LA merch and US souvenirs, you'll also find loads of stores within walking distance.
Tourist Tip: Go early to avoid the crowds. The lighting is better for pics then as well.
With Nana on holiday with us, we made sure to ditch the cooking duties and schedule a date night out to enjoy a decent restaurant-quality meal. We wanted to make it special so headed to the award-winning Redbird in Downtown LA.
Inside the former rectory of Vibiana Cathedral, Redbird serves California-inspired innovative fare in an elegant indoor/outdoor setting. We knew this was "the" place to eat because when booking we had to pick another day as they were hosting an Emmy awards party the night we wanted.
The food was flavourful, plated beautifully and every dish had a variety of textures to excite the taste buds. Carnivores would love the Arrow Ranch Venison with squash flan, lentils, and huckleberries, or for vegetarians, the tagliatelle with foraged mushrooms would be a great pick. Their desserts were amazing and they had a delicious range of cocktails too.
We are huge fans of healthy whole foods and when we put the word out for recommendations for the best plant-based raw cafe in LA it was a unanimous vote for us to visit Cafe Gratitude. This fresh and natural gram-worthy cafe setting serves inventive, delicious and wholesome food and the surroundings and people are all about good vibes and good times.
The items on the menu are given self-affirming names that you can use when ordering your drinks and food, starting by saying "I am". So we ordered with an "I am" Enlightened (Energising greens smoothie) and "I am" Decadent (Almond buttercup smoothie). The waiter then confirms the order by saying "You are Decadent and Enlightened". Such a positive way to boost a person's morale.
All the meals were fresh, flavoursome and surprisingly affordable considering the price comparison to some of our favourite NZ based whole-food cafes. Their mains were US$13-$16.50 and the kids' meals were all about $7-$10.
Sprout Farmers Market
If you're looking to do a bulk food shop for day trips or, in our case,to fill up the RV for a few weeks, we would highly recommend that you check out a Sprout Farmers Market.
They have the biggest and most amazing selection of whole-food and organic ingredients, products and fresh produce. We would spend about US$120-$150 for a week's worth of food to feed six people. They have loads of two-for-one deals - we got two punnets of blueberries for $3, two large watermelons for $4 and they even sold Koru Apples grown in little old New Zealand.
So if you want to save some money we suggest stopping in to stock up on a whole bunch of fresh produce that you know is healthy and nourishing for the family.
Tourist Tip: When road tripping, you'll be buying lots of bottled water. Be sure to look out for alkalised water, and always check the labels because lots of generic bottled water brands contain lots of additives.