There’s no sunset as beautiful as a Southern California sunset, and there’s no burrito quite as delicious as a California burrito. If you’re really lucky, you can eat one while watching the other.
My family and I recently traveled to Southern California for a wedding, and just as I remember from growing up in San Diego – winter just doesn’t exist in that particular corner of the U.S. The entire trip was highlighted by temperatures in the mid-60s, which isn’t bad at all considering my sister came in from Chicago where it’s a balmy three degrees Fahrenheit this time of year, and my dad and I spent last weekend on top of a mountain in the middle of a snow storm (which was at once perfectly ideal for skiing, but completely miserable the second we stopped).
The wedding we attended for two of our family friends was beautiful; it took place at sunset at Ponte Vineyards in Temecula, which is nestled in the wine country (my favorite kind of country) between Los Angeles and San Diego – plus the grooms walked down the aisle to Beyonce, which was totally the icing on the (wedding) cake. It was a stunning venue: vineyards as far as the eye could see, quaint buildings dotting the estate (and by ‘quaint,’ I mean 6500 square foot guest houses) and a sky that was absolutely on fire during the wedding and outdoor cocktail hour afterward.
The wedding was stunning and tons of fun, but the day after the wedding was actually my favorite day of the weekend; myself and two good friends made the 45 minute drive down to San Diego to sight-see, eat and watch the sunset over the Pacific. We started by getting off the highway and driving through my old neighborhood, a place I hadn’t been in over a decade. We drove past two of my childhood houses (located about 100 yards apart…not a major U-Haul bill that day, I’d imagine), and I pointed out the hill my sister and I used to roller blade down (backwards) and the park where we would attach our wagon to our bikes to pull each other down the steepest slope in the neighborhood. As it turns out, that trip down memory lane will now be known as the day I discovered that my sister and I had multiple (what can only be described as) death wishes at the tender ages of nine and ten. From there, we drove through town and wound our way towards my middle school and high schools, where I reminisced about running away to Mexico (Tijuana, no less) with my best girlfriends junior year (which means I also had a death wish at age 17).
Next up was a trip to my absolute favorite Mexican food joint in the entire world – Jalapeños in Carmel Mountain Ranch. This place was on my weekly rotation throughout middle and high school (when you run cross country and swim all day, every day, you can eat whatever you want, I guess), and is – without a doubt – the best place to get your hands on a SoCal staple: the California burrito. A California burrito is, basically, a carne asada burrito with the addition of french fries inside. Which means that the list of ingredients includes, and is limited to: a flour tortilla, french fries, steak and guacamole. Douse that in hot sauce and I think we’ve pretty much defined what my own personal nirvana looks (and tastes) like. The burrito was as good as I remember, plus the guy behind the counter (Eric) still remembered me, which made me both proud and sad (my God, how many burritos did I eat over a DECADE ago that this guy still remembers me?!)
Full of burritos (and pure joy), myself and my friends made our way out to the beach and pulled up to one of my absolute favorite San Diego spots (that doesn’t sell burritos): Jake’s in Del Mar. This place is right on the water and has massive windows all the way around with the absolute best view of the San Diego sunset. We ordered drinks, took a walk on the beach, watched the sunset (which really outdid itself) and then headed back to Temecula. It was a truly wonderful day, the kind that makes you really thankful for the fact that you didn’t die in Tijuana or while barreling down a hill in a wagon hitched to the back of your sister’s bike at age 9.