16 Foods and Drinks Invented in California (Part 2)

I'm continuing on from yesterday's post, highlighting beloved foods and drinks that were invented in California. Today I'm sharing eight more foods that, like me, were born in the Golden State. 

Foods and Drinks Invented in California

Rocky Road Ice Cream

As I'm finding with practically every food I research, there is some controversy as to the exact story behind the invention of Rocky Road. Everyone seems to agree that Rocky Road was born in Oakland, California in 1929. Also free from controversy is the naming: William Dreyer and his business partner, candy maker Joseph Edy, named Rocky Road following the Wall Street crash. From here, opinions differ. Dreyer's story is that he cut up walnuts and marshmallows (with his wife's sewing scissors - gasp!) and added them to chocolate ice cream after tasting one of Edy's candy creations that featured walnuts and marshmallows in chocolate. However, Fentons Creamery claims that Melvin Fenton was the first to mix these three ingredients together. 

Fortune Cookie

You probably already knew that fortune cookies are an American invention. There are competing stories about where and when they originated. Two of the most popular possibilities include San Francisco in 1914 and Los Angeles in 1918. The strongest evidence to back San Francisco's case? Fortune cookies were displayed at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

Mai Tai

The Mai Tai seems Hawaiian, but it's as Californian as I am. The original recipe (fresh lime, almond syrup, rock candy syrup, orange curacao, and amber rum) was invented by Victor Bergeron in Oakland in 1944. Bergeron is better known by his nickname, Trader Vic

Chicken Tettrazini

Tettrazini made a regular appearance on our family's dinner table when I was growing up in the 1970's. My mom's version usually had turkey, not chicken. Occasionally she made tuna tettrazini (shudder). Most sources credit Ernest Arterrbogast of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco with inventing this creamy pasta dish in 1905. He was inspired by the Italian opera star Luisa Tetrazzini, who stayed at the Palace Hotel following her American debut. 

Jelly Belly

Jelly beans have been around for a long time, but it was Herman Goelitz who was the first to flavor the center of a jelly bean. Previously, only the shell was flavored. These mini beans, first introduced in 1965 in Oakland, became a favorite of Governor Ronald Reagan. They grew in popularity. In 1976, the company introduced eight flavors under the name Jelly Belly. 

Ranch Dressing

Credit for the invention of ranch dressing goes to Steve Henson. He and his wife opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch outside Santa Barbara, California, in 1954. Guests loved the delicious tangy buttermilk dressing the Hensons served and many asked for jars to take home. Before long, they were shipping their beloved salad dressing to people all over the country. 

Cobb Salad

The Cobb salad was named for Robert Cobb, the owner of the Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles. The salad was invented late at night using leftovers from the day's service, including lettuce, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, tomatoes, chives and avocado, plus some freshly cooked bacon, all tossed with their house French dressing. Who exactly did the tossing? Maybe Cobb himself, but more likely one of his chefs. When did this happen? Maybe 1937, but possibly 1929 or 1938. Regardless, the Cobb salad was definitely born in California.

French Dip Sandwich

Two Los Angeles restaurants both claim to be the birthplace of the french dip. Both restaurants (Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet and Philippe the Original) opened in 1908 and both are still operating. Cole's claims they've been serving a french dip sandwich from the start, while Philippe's claims they invented it in 1918. How was it invented? Perhaps it was accidental, with a cook dropping a completed sandwich into a pan of meat drippings. Or maybe it was made to avoid food waste, with meat drippings softening bread that was getting stale. There's even a claim it was made for a customer with sore gums who couldn't eat the bread roll without discomfort. We'll probably never know. 

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