8 of California's Most Flavorful Cities
California is the golden state for a reason. There's a golden glow to all of its 482 cities, but it looks different in each place. In some bustling cities, it's the glittering lights, gleaming boardwalk, or the bright reflections from high rise windows. In other cities, you can watch the sun peek over the mountains each morning or sink back down at the end of the day. The California sunset casts a golden glow to the horizon of our many beaches and it adds color to the sky to complement vast vineyards and historically preserved architecture.
In fact, California is so full of different cities with different cultures that last year, WalletHub officially ranked it as "the most diverse state in America." 1 They might all share the same sun, but each city offers a unique experience and culture. Its own flavor, if you will. Some Californian cities are light and sunny, while others are bold and colorful, and still others have a classic twist to them.
California can boast a diversity of rich flavors in a literal sense, too. All over the country, people covet our wine, dairy, and fresh produce. More than anywhere in the United States, California's wine country is a mecca for wine connoisseurs. California farms have been the #1 dairy producer in the United States since 1993.2
We make it our job to showcase a taste of California in our Taste of California gift baskets. For example, our wine gift baskets include wine from Napa wineries, gourmet cheese from Sonoma creameries, and plenty of fresh fruit and gourmet food from all over California. We want to celebrate the many flavors of California, as well as the cities that remind us of those flavors. So to that end, here are just 8 of California's most flavorful cities.
The Special Flavor of San Francisco
When people think of San Francisco, they may think of cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge. Massive, bright red, and funky in its own way, it's a good representation of the vibrant, colorful city. "The flavor of San Francisco is diverse and innovative," said Laurie Armstrong Gossy of SFtravel.com. This flavor speaks to more than just the food in the city. San Francisco has long been celebrated for its diverse multicultural population, a vast arts scene which can be found anywhere (even in the basement of a laundromat in Chinatown) 3, and even its architecture is proudly bold and eclectic.
In San Francisco, you can find some of Frank Lloyd Wright's modern stately buildings, classic opera houses and luxury hotels, but one of the architectural marvels that attracts the most photography opportunities is the Painted Ladies (or Postcard Row). A collection of seven Victorian row houses, each painted a different color, is often used to represent San Francisco in TV and movies, and for good reason.
But the diverse flavor of the food in San Francisco is nothing to sneeze at, either. "The culinary scene is ever-evolving, influenced by diverse cultures, an abundance of fresh ingredients, and friendly competition between chefs," Gossy explained. The San Francisco culinary scene is always trying new things to keep foodies on their toes, while also making the most of their close proximity to the wine and cheese of Napa and Sonoma. So innovative is San Francisco's culinary scene that Washington Post featured it in their "search for America's best food cities."
You can keep up with our friends at SFTravel by checking out their hashtag on social media, #sftravel. Whether to stay or just for a short visit, a great way to welcome someone you know (or even yourself) to San Francisco is with our California Gourmet Wine Gift Basket. Just like San Francisco of snacks and treats all from California businesses. But the thing about this box that really spells San Francisco to us is the Generosity Cellars California Chardonnay.
A Taste of San Diego
If you're looking for a California city where you can chill and relax on the beach, but still enjoy excitement like that LA or San Francisco, San Diego is the place for you. The 70 miles of coastline are what tends to draw most people to San Diego, but according to Edna Gutierrez of the San Diego Tourism Authority, there's much more to it than that.
San Diego offers a range of opportunities that appeal to all ages, interests and budgets, she explains. Comic book and pop culture fans often save for months to attend San Diego Comic-Con, which Forbes calls, "the largest convention of its kind in the world."6 Others might visit San Diego to see emerging theatre on its way to broadway. San Diego's own Balboa Park is even "the largest urban cultural park in North America, exceeding New York City's Central Park in size."
The relationship and proximity to Baja California, Mexico, makes San Diego a unique destination...where art, architecture, cuisine and more build cultural bridges on both sides of the border. A trip through Old Town San Diego feels like a step into the past, with its celebration of historic architecture, Cali-Baja restaurants, and the Cabrillo National Monument, commemorating the place where Europeans first arrived in California in 1542.
As far as the culinary scene goes, the first thing anyone in San Diego will tell you about is the expansive craft beer scene, home to over 150 breweries. It is in San Diego that the West Coast Style IPA originated. San Diego is also largely influenced by its close proximity to Mexico. "San Diego sits at the intersection to two culinary styles: California cuisine, distinguished for its devotion to fresh local ingredients, and Mexico's Baja Med cuisine, a food revolution that began in Tijuana, combining traditional Mexican ingredients with those of the Mediterranean," says Gutierrez. "San Diego's top chefs and restaurateurs created a seafood and produce-centric cuisine that blends cooking techniques from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border."
It's for this reason that if we could give San Diego any of our cheese gift baskets, it would be the Tres Amigos California Wine Gift Box, featuring a taste of California through its west coast inspired snacks, and three different SunSol wines.
A Taste of Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a city of extremes. It has the largest population in California, with 3.976 million according to the most recent census, as well as enjoying the largest land area in the state.7 It's one of the most diverse cities in the world. GQ also calls it "the most exciting dining city in America."8 Why? According to Shawbong Fok of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, it's due to cutting-edge chefs unafraid to try new things.
Culinary adventures tend to blossom in LA because of the lack of tradition, he explains. "There's a culture of experimentation in LA that's seen nowhere else." Los Angeles metro area hosts a large population of Asian Americans and Latin Americans, and the fusion of Asian, Latin, and European cultures with LA's love of crossing new frontiers creates a culinary adventure for tourists and residents alike.
Los Angeles is no stranger to setting the trends. Made famous by Hollywood and the film industry, it remains today a hub of arts and culture to which the rest of the world looks and many artists aspire. "Many people also come for the positive vibe...and Hollywood glamour," says Fok. "There are many opportunities for artists and entertainment industry professionals...it's also increasingly a tech center, which people might not know about."
Everything is bigger and brighter in Los Angeles, including the gift baskets. We think this Ultimate California Bounty Gift Basket encapsulates the culture of Los Angeles, featuring Sonoma parmesan peppercorn cheese, and Sonoma cheese straws, dried fruit and nuts, Martini olives, and Martinelli's organic sparkling cider.
Napa's Special Aroma
When people hear Napa, they think of one thing: wine. Of course, Napa Valley is wine country, and Napa is right in the heart of Napa Valley. Despite this, it's actually a smaller California city. With a population of less than 80,000, it offers a reprieve from the rat race of some of the larger cities.
It also allows bigger, more picturesque nature views. It is in Napa that you might have a mountain in your own backyard or drive past a beautiful vineyard on the way to work. Downtown rests against Napa River, where you might see a family of beavers, otters, and other wildlife. Needless to say, biking, picnics, hiking, sailing are all popular pastimes in Napa.
Unlike in Los Angeles, where the culture tends to be glittering, fast, and experimental, the culture in Napa is one of rich history and taking the time to fully appreciate things. Especially when it comes to wine. Sparkling wine is particularly popular in Napa Valley. Downtown Napa is sprinkled with tasting rooms, wineries, and wine and cheese shops all offering the finest that wine country has to offer.
You may be able to find your favorite wine and cheese combos in Napa replicated in this Best of California Wine Gift Crate, including cheese spread, chocolate espresso beans, butter toffee pretzels, and of course, a bottle of Chardonnay. It's perfect for a picnic on one of the many mild weather days in Napa before going on an exhilarating hike.
The Flavor of Sonoma
A small city in the larger Sonoma Valley, Sonoma has a pleasantly quaint, historical flavor to it. Just look at the architecture exemplified in the Sonoma Plaza: the Mission San Francisco Solano, Casa Grande, and the Blue Wing Inn all date back to decades and even centuries past.
In addition to the unique shops of the downtown area, you can enjoy quiet, relaxing beaches in Sonoma and there's a good amount of farmland and vineyards as well. What Sonoma is largely known for, however, is cheese. Sonoma Creamery cheese, a brand founded in Sonoma California which continues to operate out of Sonoma California still today, produces some of the most loved jack cheese in the country.
To be considered Sonoma jack cheese, it has to be made by Sonoma Creamery. But you can enjoy Sonoma jack yourself wherever you are, particularly with our California Farmstand Gift Crate.
Savory Santa Cruz
Here's a reason for a celebratory cheese gift basket: Santa Cruz was ranked the third happiest place to live in the country according to the Gallup-Healthways State of Wellbeing survey.9 In fact it ranked first on one key question of the survey: 76% of the population of Santa Cruz claimed that they "learn or do something interesting every day." It's a statement that's not often said of cities ten times the size of Santa Cruz's 64,465 population.
There's certainly plenty of interesting things to learn or try in Santa Cruz no matter who you are. There's a retro drive-in theatre that's still going strong, a vivacious boardwalk with one of the best carousels in America,10 an active surfing scene, and of course the Mystery Spot 11, a gravitational anomaly located in the redwood forests just outside the city. And of course, everywhere there's a beautiful natural landscape.
We're definitely home to a lot of firsts in our region, says Christina Glynn of Visit Santa Cruz County. "We're the birthplace of mainland surfing in the United States. Surfing started here in 1885 when three Hawaiian princes came to study in what is now Silicon Valley. They took a break in Santa Cruz and saw the waves, and then they carved for themselves surfboards made from redwood and introduced surfing to the mainland. We're also the birthplace of the organic farm movement. It was very alternative at the time, and now, of course, farm-to-table is a common part of the vernacular, but Santa Cruz is considered ground zero for that."
Still today, the organic farm movement shines in Santa Cruz through their farmers' markets. "We have about as many farmers markets as there are days in the week," Glynn explains. The farmers of Santa Cruz who participate in their farmers' markets are always happy to educate visitors and residents alike about who produces their food and how the food is produced. Local businesses like the Penny Ice Creamery and The Picnic Basket were spawned from that movement and buy their food from the farmers' markets. "A lot of people are putting in the effort to learn about what goes into their bodies and being resourceful." Glynn says this resourcefulness extends beyond just the culinary scene of Santa Cruz. One of the big surfing trends in Santa Cruz is making surfboards out of reclaimed wood.
With decadent chocolate and fresh seasonal fruit packed into a reusable crate, this Cali Fruit & Chocolate Favorites Gift Crate reminds us of Santa Cruz.
A Taste of San Luis Obispo
Image credit: San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce
According to Gallup-Healthways, San Luis Obispo's not far behind as the 7th highest-ranking community in the United States. If you want good wine, sunshine, and Mediterranean climate all year round, San Luis Obispo is the perfect place to find it. The gorgeous natural landscape makes it perfect for biking, hiking, or just soaking in some fresh air. It's not a place that's short on culture or activity, either.
Image credit: San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce
"SLO is the cultural, commercial and entertainment hub of California's scenic Central Coast," says Molly Kern with the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce. "The charming downtown is filled with charming shops, restaurants, breweries and hotels tucked into turn-of-the-century mercantile buildings, and an engaging nightlife and cultural scene..." And as to the farm-to-table culinary scene, well, "SLO shines as a foodie destination. Don't let the easy-going vibe fool you, San Luis Obispo is home to some serious craft brewers and winemakers, urban gardeners, and original chefs."
Image credit: San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce
In fact, one of the most exciting times to visit the city is during the Thursday night San Luis Obispo Farmers' Market, which seems like less of a simple farmers' market (although it is one of the largest farmers' markets in the country) and more of a street party celebrating local farmers, urban gardeners, as well as local artisans and entertainers. From 6-9 pm, nine blocks are closed and local merchants even extend their hours to make the most of the event.
It's for that reason that this Golden State Wine Gift Crate, reminds us of San Luis Obispo.
Flavorful Huntington Beach
Huntington Beach offers beautiful beaches and a relaxed atmosphere just a short distance away from all the action of Los Angeles. Also called Surf City USA, the main draw to Huntington Beach should be fairly obvious, but there's more to it than just a place to surf or watch surf competitions (although that's all pretty great on its own). Interested in emerging indie films? You can attend the SoCal Film Festival every September in Huntington Beach. Art fan? There's a Downtown Huntington Beach Artwalk every Thursday showcasing local artists, with many of the artists there to discuss the work. There's even an annual Kite Party every March for kite enthusiasts or those looking to try something new.
Healthy living is an important part of the culture in Huntington Beach. There are health bars, organic options, and plenty of vegan options throughout the city. There's an annual YMCA Fall Fitness Festival to promote healthy living and raise money for organizations like St. Judes, Taidus Strong, and Red Cross.12 You can add to that culture of healthy living with this fruit and cheese gift basket.
When it comes to flavor, California is hard to beat. These are just eight of its most delicious cities, but far from the only cities with their own signature styles and culinary tastes. Fortunately, even if you don't live in California full-time, you can still enjoy a taste of it. These California gift baskets full of gourmet goodies and are delicious wherever you are.