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Golden State Plate – The Backstory Behind California-Born Food and Drinks

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In the late 1800s, Pisco Punch wasn’t just a drink. Ordering a glass was a status symbol. (Carly Severn/KQED)

This week we’re dishing up some of our favorite stories from our Golden State Plate series, which explores the backstory behind some iconic California-born food and drinks.

Listen to these and more in-depth storytelling by subscribing to The California Report Magazine podcast.

Pisco Punch: The Pricey San Francisco Cocktail That Was a Gold Rush Knockout

If you’re a cocktail drinker, you’ve probably tasted a few Pisco Sours in your time. The pale foamy drink is made with Pisco - a highly potent Peruvian brandy. The first recipe for the Pisco Sour came from Peru, back in the 1940s. But many years before that, 19th century San Francisco was gripped by a craze for another Pisco concoction that maybe should have come with a health warning. KQED's Carly Severn takes us back to the time of the Gold Rush.

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos: The Humble Beginnings of a Junk Food

These days, some folks can’t seem to get enough of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. This spicy, California-born snack has a devoted following. Bianca Taylor tells us more about the person who invented them. Richard Montañez worked as a janitor at a Frito-Lay factory for nearly two decades before he came up with his concoction. He had grown up picking grapes, living on a farm for migrant workers near Rancho Cucamonga with his 10 siblings.

Unwrapping the California Origins of the Fortune Cookie

What comes with the check at almost every Chinese restaurant? Fortune cookies. Like orange slices after a blood draw or apples at San Francisco’s Fillmore, they're a given. But how did they come to be? Are they really Chinese? And if so, why do they serve them at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park? The California Report’s Suzie Racho unravels a mystery.

What Makes Your Salad Taste Like California? Hidden Valley Ranch

This “Golden State Plate” story is about something as ubiquitous as ketchup and mustard: ranch dressing. It’s everywhere, and it’s a California concoction. As Peter Gilstrap tells us, the place that gave the creamy buttermilk dressing its name was a real ranch on the Central Coast.

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