California's Flavors and Ingredients Spread Coast to Coast

California's Flavors and Ingredients Spread Coast to Coast

Plate |
Apr 13, 2017

Photo: Anjali Pinto

It should come as little surprise that the gold standard for locally sourced cuisine was established by the Golden State. But you don’t have to work there to transport California’s fresh bounty and flavor across the country.

Take C.J. Jacobson, the executive chef/owner of Ema in Chicago. Pulling from his Orange County roots, Jacobson incorporates California produce on a mezze-style menu that prizes both fruits and vegetables as savory centerpieces. Case in point: One of his signature dishes is a chilled, summery fusion of marinated English peas with housemade yogurt and Fresno chile, bathed in a granita of blackberry-sumac.

“Many people, especially in the Midwest, will tell you they’re ‘meat and potatoes’ people, but much of the reason they are is because that’s all you can really get in the winter here,” Jacobson says. “Part of [bringing] California-style food to Chicago is education—we keep the mindset of fresh produce, and I use a lot of citrus and high acid flavors that bridge Mediterranean food with California produce.”

For Justin Smillie, of New York City’s Upland, the inspiration to bring California cuisine to the Big Apple largely came from memories of his mother’s garden in San Bernardino County. There, he learned about the beauty of foraged cuisine, which he showcases at Upland in dishes like the salmon bowl served with farro, avocado, pumpkin seeds, pickled beets and Oro Blanco grapefruit wedges. “California cuisine is really about a reaction to the garden. It’s not about 50 steps of service or a big bottle of wine,” Smillie says. “Farmers’ markets across the country owe California a debt of gratitude.”

Yet while produce remains a valuable asset at Chicago’s Summer House Santa Monica, the restaurant’s California-inspired cuisine equally pulls from the state’s own overlapping ethnic influences. On the menu, the wood-roasted Ora king salmon features common Asian fixtures like ginger soy, togarashi and baby bok choy. Then there are the spice-rubbed bigeye tuna or mahi mahi taco platters, which accentuate fresh, Mexican-influenced seafood often found along the West Coast.

“The idea is, ‘What would you serve to your friends and family if you had a beautiful beach home in Santa Monica, and you could cook for everyone?’” says chef/partner Jeff Mahin. “To me, California cuisine is Alice Waters’ perfect beach—it’s the most simplistic sophistication anyone can find, and a melting pot of cuisines, so I get to steal from every influence.”

Media Contact

Emily Clark pr@leye.com 773-907-7347

You May Also Like...

In The Restaurants
Where to Eat Lunch
Feb 15, 2018

For that one hour escape from your office, you want to make sure to make most of your lunch hour.…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce in Love: Weddings with Lettuce Parties
Feb 13, 2018

It's almost Valentine's Day and love is in the air. Believe it or not it's a tale as old as time (or…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Presidents Day 2018
Feb 8, 2018

Enjoy your long weekend on Presidents Day (Monday, February 19) by staying up late, sleeping in and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to go on Valentine’s Day 2018
Feb 4, 2018

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? It's right around the corner and there's lots of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
EXTENDED: Chicago Restaurant Week 2018
Jan 25, 2018

Been dying to try one of our spots but were waiting for a sign? Well, Chicago Restaurant Week has…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Big Game 2018: Where to Watch and What to Carry-out
Jan 25, 2018

Need a place to watch the big game on Sunday, February 4, 2018? The below restaurants are a great…

read more >
How To
How To Make the Perfect Game Day Dip
Jan 22, 2018

A staple for your Big Game Sunday spread is a delicious dip! In case you need some inspiration, we…

read more >
How To
Already Fell Off the Healthy New Year’s Resolution Wagon? Let’s Eat.
Jan 12, 2018

"New Year, Same Me" more your speed? Well, we're right there with you. Celebrate one of our favorite…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to Eat: Martin Luther King Day 2018
Jan 6, 2018

A long weekend calls for long brunches filled with sweet and savory treats. And don't forget about…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Cheers for Mocktails
Jan 3, 2018

If you're doing Dry January, mocktails are the perfect way to still enjoy Happy Hour without the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Our Chef’s Predictions and Resolutions for 2018
Jan 2, 2018

Our chefs aren't psychic but they do have a finger on the pulse of what's on the horizon for the New…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
Jan 2, 2018

Chef / Partner Jeff Mahin of Summer House Santa Monica, Stella Barra Pizzeria, M Street…

read more >
How To
You’ve Made Your Healthy Eating Resolution: Here’s How to Stay on the Wagon
Jan 2, 2018

When the new year strikes we all inevitably vow to eat healthy, exercise more, drink less; just be…

read more >
In The Restaurants
These Ingredients are Unexpected Perfect Pairs
Jan 1, 2018

With the New Year comes new menus, and just because it's cold outside doesn't mean that there is a…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Vegetarian Comfort Food
Dec 28, 2017

A New Year's resolution that we are making is to incorporate more veggies into our diet, but it's…

read more >
How To
Gift Guide: Beyond a Bottle of Wine
Dec 15, 2017

Your mother told you this a million times and it still holds true today - never go to a party…

read more >
How To
12 Days of Holiday Cookies
Dec 4, 2017

‘Twas the first day of the holiday season, one of cheer and treats The best month to warm up by…

read more >
How To
Thanksgiving Leftovers Can Transform Your Brunch
Nov 22, 2017

Everyone knows the real reason you look forward to Thanksgiving is for the leftovers. So don’t…

read more >
How To
A Guide to Selecting the Perfect Thanksgiving Wines
Nov 7, 2017

Fact: wine stores are intimidating. More truth: we're here to help! We've tapped the minds of our…

read more >
How To
How to Host Friendsgiving
Nov 1, 2017

Friendsgiving (n): the turkey-centric festive feast held by your chosen family - your friends - to…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Fall Harvest’s Best Dishes
Oct 30, 2017

The bounty of fall harvest comes at a time in the year when we are craving the comfort of cool…

read more >
How To
Recipe: Ema’s Pumpkin Hummus
Oct 30, 2017

Enjoy your favorite fall ingredient the Mediterranean way and make Ema's Pumpkin Hummus by Chef CJ…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Gluten-Free Friendly Restaurants
Oct 24, 2017

Finding gluten-free friendly restaurants has gotten a lot easier than it used to be. At Lettuce…

read more >
In The Restaurants
All Pumpkin, Everything
Oct 22, 2017

'Tis the season for everyone's favorite fall ingredient, pumpkin. Whether you're preparing pumpkin…

read more >
How To
It’s Apple Season: Where To Get Them and Where To Eat Them
Oct 19, 2017

Yeah, yeah, pumpkin this and pumpkin that, but let us not forget about our other favorite fall…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Brunch this Weekend
Oct 18, 2017

If you're anything like us, you plan your weekend around brunch. Here is your guide to all of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Where to Eat & Drink in October
Oct 2, 2017

Throughout the month of October, Lettuce Entertain You restaurants are donating a portion of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your Guide to Game Day Grub
Sep 1, 2017

Fall is the kick-off the football season and no matter what team you are rootin' for, several of our…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Fall Foliage: Five Ways to Enjoy the Season
Aug 31, 2017

Days are getting chillier and the leaves are starting to turn. Fall is on the horizon, and there’s…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Kid-Friendly Dining Options and Activities
Aug 1, 2017

You've been to the zoo, the beach, the pool... the kids are starting to get stir crazy. We've got…

read more >
In The Restaurants
The Best Time of the Year: Patio Season
Aug 1, 2017

Warm weather is here, which means al fresco dining is too! We've rounded up the best patio spots at…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Here’s Where to Happy Hour
Aug 1, 2017

It's 5 o'clock somewhere! Here are all the happy hour deals at select Lettuce Entertain You…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Be Your 4th of July Cookout’s Hero
Jul 1, 2017

It's 4th of July weekend and we know you don't want to show up empty-handed to your BBQ. We're here…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Now Serving: Brunch at Ēma
Jun 21, 2017

Your weekend plans have been decided for you thanks to Chef CJ Jacobson. Ēma in River North is…

read more >
How To
Camp Fire Cookin’
Jun 12, 2017

A cookout is synonymous with summer but not all of us are well-versed on how to create a…

read more >
In The Restaurants
In Bloom: Strawberries
May 21, 2017

Summer is on the horizon, which means strawberries season is back to brighten our palates! From…

read more >
How To
How to: Eat Clean
Mar 21, 2017

Let’s be honest, the vegan, paleo, gluten-free talk can get a little, well, intimidating. What…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Mezze Madness
Mar 14, 2017

March is all about epic matchups; be it on the NCAA basketball court or tableside at Ema. In the…

read more >
In The Restaurants
‘Tis the Season: Cozy Cocktails
Dec 16, 2016

Like it or not, winter is upon us. It’s getting quite chilly, the darkness approaches sooner than…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Halloween Candy-inspired Desserts
Oct 1, 2016

Pumpkins are being carved, costumes are being purchased, parties are being planned, and the best…

read more >

Recent Posts

In The Restaurants
It’s Tequila Time! National Margarita Day is February 22
Feb 21, 2018

As if you needed an excuse to drink margaritas, here's one more: National Margarita Day…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Now Serving: Naoki’s Fried Chicken
Feb 21, 2018

When the winter starts to get the best of you, fried chicken is always the answer. Bonus points if…

read more >
In The Restaurants
New Additions to the Windy City Smokeout 2018 Lineup are Here!
Feb 20, 2018

Announcing three new acts to the Windy City Smokeout music lineup! Midland returns, performing on…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Trending Now: Emochi at Sushi-san
Feb 15, 2018

Sushi-san is now open in Chicago's River North and if you've checked Instagram lately you may be…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to Eat Lunch
Feb 15, 2018

For that one hour escape from your office, you want to make sure to make most of your lunch hour.…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Lettuce in Love: Weddings with Lettuce Parties
Feb 13, 2018

It's almost Valentine's Day and love is in the air. Believe it or not it's a tale as old as time (or…

read more >
In The Restaurants
5 New Dishes to Try with Your $25 Holiday Bonus
Feb 12, 2018

If you received a $25 Holiday Bonus during the Lettuce Entertain You Gift Card Promotion, pick a…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Your New Happy Hour Destination: M Street Kitchen
Feb 10, 2018

Calling all of our friends in Cali! Do you like happy hour deals just blocks from the beach? Well,…

read more >
In The Restaurants
A Few of Our Favorite Pizzas for National Pizza Day
Feb 9, 2018

There's a food holiday out there for everything but today (February 9) is National Pizza Day and we…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Presidents Day 2018
Feb 8, 2018

Enjoy your long weekend on Presidents Day (Monday, February 19) by staying up late, sleeping in and…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Where to go on Valentine’s Day 2018
Feb 4, 2018

Have you made your Valentine's Day plans yet? It's right around the corner and there's lots of…

read more >
In The Restaurants
Mardi Gras 2018: Let the good times roll!
Feb 4, 2018

It's that time of the year again to don your favorite feathered mask and live it up like you're in…

read more >
Lettuce Consulting Group

Grow Your Business

Learn More
Career Opportunities

Join Our Team

Search Jobs
Latest Articles

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now

Lettuce on Instagram

Checkout our feed @lettuceentertainyou!