When I lived in NJ and heard the classic Mammas and the Papas tune it always evoked certain feelings of sand, ocean air and carefree living. Thankfully I now live much closer to the golden state and get to regularly visit my favorite spots.

While on a recent getaway with my daughter, we not only took in the beaches and sights, but of course some of the best food offered by California’s culinary gems – both on the water and in the City.

On our way to Balboa Island we had to make a pit stop at a place that one Yelper described as dishing up the most tender calamari he ever had. Never one to pass up a calamari claim like that, I had to investigate. Choosing an outdoor table on the marina at Blue Water Grill in Newport Beach, we decided to share a large appetizer of calamari and follow up by sharing a fish & chips entree. Neither disappointed. The calamari, indeed, was the most tender I had ever eaten as well. Being more of a tentacle person than a ring, I quickly attacked most of what appeared to be tiny octopus – or would that be octopi? Either way their tenderness stumped me. Was it the light coating they used? A certain tenderizing or frying method? Who cares? We both just kept happily popping the sweet morsels into our mouths while soaking up the sun’s rays and smelling the ocean air. My daughter tells me the fish and chips were delicious too but I couldn’t get that calamari experience out of my head. Yes… it was an experience.

The next day took us to downtown LA where our agenda was topped by a long awaited visit to Bottega Louie’s. Since they don’t take reservations we arrived at 2 pm when lunchers were clearing out and the dinner crowd was still a few hours off. We grabbed a small table next to the bakery case which turned out to be a great decision for 2 reasons. First, it fended off the noise level this open-air restaurant has a reputation for and second, we got a bird’s eye view of what to order for dessert. We started off with a few small plate offerings of portobello fries, arancini (rice balls) and roasted baby beets. Each were delicious and prepared different than usual, with the arancini having a smokey bacon addition that I really appreciated. Having purposely saved room for dessert, we decided to sample a few of their signature macaroons, a chocolate cupcake and a butterscotch budino. … well, we wouldn’t want to offend their hard working bake staff now would we? Both the chocolate ganache and the salted caramel macaroons were sublime. Chewey almond deliciousness sandwiched around fillings that just melted in my mouth. Oh and the cupcake and budino — a butterscotch custard topped w/sea salt whipped cream — weren’t half bad either. The perfect ending to a dreamy California getaway!