West Coast: Top 4 Dining Destinations

west coast food

After returning from the West Coast of America, I’ve found my expectations concerning food have dramatically risen. The state of California has got it going on in the food department. I have a feeling my mum will need to up her game in the kitchen in the coming weeks.

After watching programmes like Man Vs Food, I was convinced that the only option I would have when it came to dining in America would be a hamburger, or some other grease-filled meal at Macdonalds. But the reality was far from this. We found a bunch of restaurants and cafes that served a huge variety of soups and salads and other such healthy (grease-free) meals.

There are a few places we ate at, that still have me drooling in the late hours of the night, which I thought I’d share with you; to help you out if ever you decide to visit the West Coast. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself loving them as much as I did and we can share these food fetishes together.

1. The Cheesecake Factory

I’m sure you’ve heard of this one as it’s relatively well-known. Aside from, of course, selling the world’s most deliciously, creamy, mouth watering cheesecakes, the cheesecake factory is also a fully-fledged restaurant. It offers basically everything; from pastas to pizzas to salads to burgers. It’s a great all-round restaurant with luscious food and classy decor.

Price: Very Good – The quality of the food here was incredible! I tried six dishes and loved every one of them. Taking into account the high food quality (and the sheer size of the meal) I thought the prices were very reasonable. A main course, such as a large pasta, would cost on average $15 (equivalent to £9). https://fastfoodmenuprice.com/cheesecake-factory-menu-prices/                      

Service: OK – The reason I’ve gone for ‘OK’ as apposed to ‘very good’ is purely down to the fact that the restaurant is extremely popular and as a result gets many customers.This means the service is rather slow and we found ourselves waiting for 20-30 mins for a table and then another 10-15 mins just to get a basket of bread. The waiters themselves, however, are lovely. Friendly, polite and very helpful.

2. Pinkberry

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Did I mention it’s amazing? I don’t think you understand how amazing- my life literally peaked after tasting that yogurt. I swear one of the reasons we came to the West Coast was just to experience the fabulousness that is Pinkberry, once again. For those of you who don’t know, Pinkberry is a frozen yogurt franchise based in North America. They sell the most light, refreshing and delicious frozen yogurt you could imagine. There are not only a wide variety of yogurt flavors on offer (which you can sample before making the important decision of which one you will choose to take home) but also a HUGE choice of toppings; from mangoes to cookie dough. The shop itself is well-decorated (cool and minimalistic) which helps you to enjoy your refreshing yogurt experience.

Price: Very Good – My family and I shared a large yogurt, costing around $7. The portion was large fill up four hungry adults/ adults-to-be. This meant it cost around $2 a head, which I feel is a great deal. http://www.pinkberry.com/menu/ 

Service: Excellent– The staff there are very friendly, open and happy people which is always nice. There are many bodies, enough to rapidly serve the long line of customers, so the wait time to receive your food was pretty much non-existent.

3. Zameen

This little Mediterranean restaurant was an unexpected gem. We first went in simply because we were starving and we saw some form of food brewing inside the building. (We weren’t in the position to be picky). But we actually found, to out surprise, that the food tasted absolutely incredible. The portions were large and the flavors in the dishes were so unique but so delicious. The Mediterranean influence was prominent and the food was not overly greasy or oily like I found in similar restaurants. If you are in the mood for something different, something you’ve probably not tasted before, this is the place to be.

Price: Excellent – Main courses in this place were a maximum of around $15, and that’s the creme de la creme of the menu. Most dishes ranged from around $9-$12, which is remarkable considering the size of the portions and the quality of the food.  http://www.zameencuisine.com/

Service: Very Good – There is nothing too special to say about the service. We got out food in good time and the staff were friendly enough but if I spouted huge compliments about how I loved the waiters, and how they are all such delightful people, I would not be telling the truth. But overall there was a calm, relaxing and friendly vibe in the place.

4. Crepevine

As you’ve probably guessed from the name, Crepevine specializes in making crepes and pancakes. This may sound rather mundane and bog-standard and I would agree, if it weren’t for the fact that these crepes can come with every filling you could possible imagine. From Nutella and strawberry’s to bacon and hash browns; they literally have it all. The cafe itself is also a really cute place to spend your morning. This would be the place you would imagine yourself on a lazy Sunday, having woken up a bit too late for breakfast, coming into town for a nice brunch and a good ol’ chinwag with some friends.

Price: OK – The portions in this place are gigantic. Like, an actual giant probably wouldn’t be able to finish one. But even so, I felt the dishes were overpriced. We payed around $18 for a crepe which I think is ridiculously expensive. So I guess, the only reason I’m not giving this a ‘poor’ is due to the size and quality of the food. http://www.crepevine.com/

Service: OK – Again, the service was nothing too exciting. The waitress did her job; she wasn’t unhelpful but I wouldn’t say she was particularly friendly or enthusiastic either. We waited around 20 mins for our food- that is to be expected as the cafe seemed to be extremely popular. Clearly the central ‘hub’ for socializing.

So, I hope you found this helpful in one way or another and that it enlightened you on the dining prospects awaiting you on the West Coast!


San Francisco: Top 10 Things to See and Do

aahhh…San Francisco. What a peculiar little city. The city which has constantly been outshone by the glitz and glamour of New York and Los Angeles and other cities of the sort. I must admit I wasn’t all that enthusiastic to be visiting San Fran and did not expect to find anything too exciting there. The little I had seen and heard of the city, on TV and in magazines, had not convinced me that this was a place I would be thrilled to stay in.

I was however, utterly and completely, 100 percent wrong. It took me about one look to completely fall in love with it. (So that’s a bit of an exaggeration but let’s just roll with it.) The city is so quaint and welcoming and bursting with culture and vibrancy.

Of course, my mum packed around 182736 guide books in her hope that this holiday would not pan out as every one of our holidays has; with us having next to zero idea of where we are or what we are meant to be doing. But as with other such far-fetched dreams and ambitions, that hope fell through. Saying that, we ended up having a fabulous couple of days and I thought I’d share with you a few of the things we enjoyed doing.


1. Sausalito

This little town is found just across the Golden Gate bridge. It reminds me almost of an old European town in some ways. It’s filled with tiny boutiques, buzzing restaurant and cafes, cosy houses, of course has stunning view of the the ocean and The City from every side and whole atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. It has a completely different feel from the City itself and I would thoroughly recommend visiting if you would like a change of pace or just a beautiful, relaxing place to spend a day.

farmers market

2. Farmers Market

There are several farmers markets dotted around San Francisco (there’s one of Market Street named ‘Heart of the City Farmers Market’, one at Crocker Galleria) but the one we visited was a little outside the main City in an area called ‘Foster City’. I love these things. The markets have an incredibly vibrant atmosphere and I would recommend going just to see that. The produce itself, for example the fruit and veg, is so fresh and I would say of better quality than those sold in surrounding stores. You are able to get immersed in the weird and wonderful stands in the market for hours and it was most definitely one of my favorites.

houses san fran

3. Victorian Houses

I would suggest taking a car and just drive around the residential streets in the city. The houses are wonderful. Differently shaped, sized, decorated, they really are a sight to see.

bike ride 3

4. Bike Ride

Walking can get tiring, and renting a bike in San Francisco is easy and fairly cheap. My family and I loved it. We rented a bike at Fisherman’s Wharf and rode over the bridge to Sausolito. It was one of the best days of the trip and I guarantee you’d love it as much as we did. The company we rented from were based in Fisherman’s wharf next to the Ben and Jerry’s shop: http://www.bikerentalsanfrancisco.com


5. Golden Gate Park

Again another biking trip.This time we took our bikes around Golden Gate Park. The park is huge and there is such a vast variety of things to do in there. Far from just being a large grassy areas with a couple of flower beds, the park offers: a conservatory of flowers, several museums including the California Academy of Sciences museum (which has an aquarium, a planetarium and a rain forest), an art gallery, a Japanese Tea Garden and that’s just to name a few. I would recommend taking a picnic and a football and spending the day exploring the depths of this enchanting park.


6. Union Square

At the center of the City, the square is host to a vast array of restaurants, shops and hotels. The square is filled with energy and vibrancy and is a must see for anyone visiting San Francisco. It’s easily accessible by foot and has it’s own parking underground so coming by car is just as convenient.


7. Fisherman’s Wharf

A neighborhood at the city’s northern waterfront which is possible the most touristy area is all of San Francisco. I admit it was a little too touristy for me but again, it’s one of those places you can’t visit San Francisco without seeing. And although I wouldn’t recommenced eating here as the prices are ridiculously expensive, the Wharf has many activities to offer. We visited the numerous art galleries and of course this is the central hub for boat rides and cruises. There is also a lovely beach which is a nice spot for eating lunch or just resting the legs. However, the main attraction for me was the Ghiradelli Chocolate shop and factory, a locally founded chocolate company. I didn’t even know you could get chocolate in so many flavors! And it’s not just chocolates, there’s a factory where they show you the processes of making the chocolate and there’s also an entire cafe dedicated to making as many different types of food and drink as possible from this chocolate; from sundaes to ice-cream to cake. I loved this place and it’s honestly some of the best chocolate I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste.


8. Golden Gate Bridge

Of course, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge would be on this list. I didn’t find the bridge itself too special (aside from fact it’s one of the most famous bridges in the world) but the views from it are stunning. Just make sure you don’t go on during the time of the fog.

9. Crooked Street

Another iconic location, which is undoubtedly found on many postcards and the cover of many guide books. Although there isn’t a lot to do or see here, you must take at least one picture in front of this eccentric little street. You could also attempt to drive down it but really, it would be more enjoyable for the onlookers as they watch you struggle to maneuver yourself on that road than for you.

china town

10. China Town

I would say this is possible the most famous Chinatown in the world. It’s certainly the oldest in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. I, for one, loved walking through the town and looking at the shops and markets on show and just watching this Chinese Community get along with their day. As soon as you step into the place, it honestly feels like you have been transported halfway across the world and have landed in China itself. it’s incredible. The town is so vastly different from the City and it is quite literally busting with culture. However, we didn’t spend long there, as there’s not a lot to do in terms of activities.

People watching…

Sometimes the best thing to do is sit down, put your feet up and let your fellow citizens entertain you. After a gruelling day of walking and sweating and standing in queues so long we didn’t even know where the end and then sweating some more, we decided to do exactly that. And let me assure you, we came across many interesting ‘specimens’ (as my dad so politely calls them).

20140713-192847-70127648.jpg Whether it was middle-aged men with farmyard animal fetishes,

20140713-193548-70548342.jpg Or four year-old kids who had desires to chase ducks with their iPads at ten o’clock at night,

20140713-194148-70908588.jpg Or girls in the hotel who enjoyed canoodling with pillows, or men with scarily strong resemblances to swamp ogres (I’ll resist putting a photo of this particular specimen in here) ,

20140713-194901-71341274.jpg Or whether it was just my dad, so gracefully taking his afternoon power-nap, we found ourselves being well and truly entertained.

Saturday Mornings…

Saturday mornings pose a dilemma for us, as I’m sure it does for a lot of you. It’s usually, at least where I live, the one day of the week you can rely on for a little warmth and sun for the start of the day. And so, obviously, some oh-so-great, elaborate plan is made for the day ahead, which usually consists of a ridiculously early start of 7am followed by a hike or two in the sunshine and a cake in the local cafe to end. The problem comes however, when the alarm rings and thoughts emerge in your mind of who could have been so incredibly stupid as to make plans to wake up at this time, a few groans of frustration are let out and you roll over and get on with your night’s sleep. Today however, we hitched up our skirts, got out the door for eight (only an hour late, not too shabby for my family) and set off for Rosberry Topping

20140511-133745.jpgFor those of you who don’t know, Roseberry Topping is a 2km hike, with an approximate height of 300m.

20140511-134052.jpgThe view from the top is incredible and stretches on for miles. The atmosphere is beautifully serene and you receive a great sense of accomplishment as you come out at the top breathing so hard you begin to question your fitness levels.

20140511-134448.jpgOn the way down, you are engulfed by this overwhelming stretch of bluebells. The perfect site for a small drink and of course taking photos. I alone have at least 20 photos from here which my mother insisted on taking and having me, and my less obliging dad, pose for.

20140511-134947.jpgClearly, we are not the only people with that idea.