I spent my summer of 2012 in California, my favourite place in the world -- after my couch (ok, maybe Japan comes in as a close second).
It was a pure blast, from the moment I landed, designed and help build out the Umami Mart shop, just to get on the plane again a month later. Everything is just bigger, wilder, more real and more over-the-top, off-the-hook crazy than anywhere else I have been. I love it. It truly is the land of dreams. At least for food. You can eat anything here. Except Danish food. But that's a good thing, really.
Berkeley Campus grounds -- a beautiful forest of warm scented pine trees, old historical buildings and the cutest, almost too-tame squirrels.
California has it all: the great weather, the swaying palm trees, the exotic cacti, the beaches, the abundance of fresh produce, the beautiful vast nature, the love for animals, the laid back friendly attitude and a generally more positive outlook on life.
It's such a contrast to sad, dreary, dark, rainy, windy and trivial Copenhagen where you always find the same shit in the same stores, where everything is super expensive and people do not come off as laid back or friendly at all, more like pessimistic and gloomy. You're basically met with a slap in the face when you walk into a store in Copenhagen. So in that regard, California -- and most of the US in general -- comes off as a pretty cool place in the eyes of a Dane.
Berkeley street corner
One of the biggest American influences on modern global pop culture is of course: fast food. And even though there's a lot of focus on better eating and green healthy living, fast food is still a main player on the Californian culinary scene. Which is totally ok with me since I'm a sucker for anything American pop culture: the food, the movies, the candy, the music, the architecture. Just hand me a Beach Boys tune, a surf board, a burger and a strawberry milkshake on the beach and I'm game.
Check out some of the things Team Umami Mart and I did for some all-American unhealthy fun:
Kayoko is living it up on top of Matthew Broderick.
That's right. Guilty as charged. We hit Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. What a pair of suckers. Such a cliché!
But we loved it, so give us a break, will ya? We even found the stars of our favourite actors and laid down on the sidewalk in pure awe and love.
Hollywood is part of LA we love to hate. It's overtouristed, it's ridiculous and lacks any soul at all. But it's there, it's a huge part of pop culture and so how can you not go?
... And so we also hit Universal Studios!
The Universal entrance mall. I love the huge burger & milkshake on top of Johnny Rocket.
The new Simpsons ride. Pretty awesome exteriors. Krusty's eating the visitors!
Universal Studios is not as big as Disneyland, but it's still pretty amusing. Movie rides, fun decor, studio backstage tour, parades -- everything you want from a movie theme park.
We're shopping at the KWIK-E-MART! Apu says thank you and hi.
View across Los Angeles, city of dreams. The weather was perfect.
Classic Burger with fries + chocolate strawberry malt milkshake at Mel's Drive-In in the park.
The burger was chunky and crunchy, fries were ok fine. The milkshake was really refreshing and perfect. It was so mainstream 1950's corporate-fast-food-chain-diner-tastic!
Dippin' Dots! Liquid nitrogen flash frozen ice cream in many flavours.
First it's crunchy, then it's melting, then it's refreshing: it's an endless rollercoaster of mouth fun! Thank you, strange ice cream company of the future (and Kentucky).
The UM Editor and I leaving the Studios high on sugar and mainstream entertainment. Better go home now and rewatch those French art films and listen to some indie music!
On the road, on 101 along the coast. We stop at Carl's Jr. for peeing, phoning and inhaling of this extremely wonderful hybrid milkshake.
Banana ice cream shake with chunks of dark chocolate and whipped cream on top.
Being a true fan of ice cream, especially with chunks, this made my week. I still wake up in the middle of the night, craving this banana milkshake and start sobbing when I realize that I might never taste it again (it was a summer campaign special at the burger chain). Tears!
We also stop at a supermarket for stamps and I was truly shocked by the size of these buckets of this Party Pail Ice Cream.
$5.49! Seriously? A predinner dessert snack for Roseanne, maybe, but for the rest of us this is just insane.
Driving back to San Francisco. Land of foodies & tech nerds.
Shopping old school 1950's chocolate at See's Candies before watching the Dark Knight Returns. I love the store concept, although the back of the counter is a little messy.
Fellow UM writer and shop owner Yoko dresses up to match the interiors as well as the customer behind her.
Berkely plant from alien planet.
Probably not edible, otherwise it would be part of a dish at Chez Panisse right now.
Shopping at TARGET with my fellow white trash mamas.
Love the tongue on this packaging design...
...However, Cindy aka Wormfun thinks it's obscene and wants to call security.
But what I love even more are the trolley escalators! You just push Mr. Trolley into his own moving staircase and move over to your own lane. It's a double win: you both get to avoid burning any calories!
Reason #1 why American kids have weight and health problems:
If this is what American moms hand their kid every morning before school it's really sad.
Hanging at Burger Meister in downtown Berkeley and enjoying the tasteful decor.
I sample the California Burger with pickles, avocado, melted cheese and more. Really good though slightly pricey at over $11.
Old school locally produced ice cream tart IT'S IT - a delicious treat on a hot day. Available from many kiosks and small supermarkets.
After work pizza eleganza extravaganza! Observe the classy eating habits due to our good breed.
These pizzas are locally made in Berkeley, at Emilia's Pizzeria. They're so popular you have to call a number at a certain time and book your pizza. There's no spontanious ordering, just get on the list or you're a pizzaless nobody.
Perfect crust, great sauce. Size feeds two in the US, twenty in Europe.
OMG Kayoko brought Ben & Jerry's in two flavours I've never had! Virgin moment.
They were both surprisingly good! Peanut Butter Cup is sweet, melty and crunchy. Peach Cobbler is refreshing, different and very interesting. When are these launching in Denmark? I guess I should write the main B&J office.
Everyone stuffed their face and overate. Even Nessie the dog needed a nap in the lap.
Next day: more trash eating! Burger & home fried taters at local joint on Telegraph Street in Berkeley. The least good burger up until now, but can't win every time.
More burgers at Barney's.
The Summer Burger was with avocado, cheese and sprouts on wheat bread. Interesting combo, I liked it.
Fresh fries with roasted garlic bits and mayo. Crunchy and perfect.
Chocolate Strawberry milkshake. I was totally amazed by the fact that along with your full glass you also get the leftovers in the shaker, which pretty much doubles the amount.
In Denmark this would have just been thrown out rather than giving the customer more.
Next week I'll write more about all the boring REAL food we also had in between the fast food junk visits to heaven.
Stay tuned, as they say over there.