The West is a big, big place, and every week our staff is all over it, digging up the shops and restaurants, beaches and trails, performances and, well, phenomena that make the region so vibrant. Here’s the Best of the West this week

4505 Oakland
The #2 plate at 4505 Burgers and BBQ. Photo by Ed Anderson

A Bitchin’ Vegan Dip

I recently attended an 8-year-old’s birthday party and was standing near the snack table when I noticed a few boys elbow each other, whisper excitedly, and then giggle uncontrollably. I would’ve not given it a second thought, until I noticed them pointing at a harmless-looking container of dip. Upon closer inspection, I noticed the dip bore the label Bitchin’ Sauce—yes, the astute grade school-aged observers had identified a cuss word in plain sight (LOL). And it turns out that the dip is super tasty! It’s made of almonds, oil, garlic, lemon, salt, and spices and comes in a variety of flavors, from original to chipotle (which I had the pleasure of trying at the party), and is the perfect accompaniment to crudités and crackers. Plus it’s made in California—where else could you expect to find a vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO snack product that’s, well, totally bitchin’? —Jessica Mordo, associate digital director

Bitchin' Sauce

Meet Emily, the Squirrelly  Santa Cruz Escape Artist

Those dang tree rats are at it again! I don’t know that I can really call this the “best” thing this week—squirrels are the bane of my existence (their favorite hobby these days is taking a single bite out of each peach on my tree while making unbroken eye contact)—but I have to admit I’m a sucker for a good “rascally animals behaving badly” story. Give ‘em hell, Emily. Give ‘em hell. —Heather Arndt Anderson, garden contributor

Candle 03 Is Our New Number One

Fun ceramics are my personal obsession, and I’ve got my eye on Alison Wu’s new Candle 03 that just came out this last week. The final item in her three-part candle series, the Portland-based recipe developer and wellness blogger paired with three artists to create a different cool vessel for each one. Candle 03 caught my eye for the earthy design, with a colorful half-circle punch of blue or orange. The best part? Once you’re done with the candle, you can turn it into a little latte mug. Nena Farrell, associate home editor

Candle 03

Big Sur’s Biggest Opening

Development in Big Sur is pretty much not a thing, which is good. So when a new restaurant opens in that idyllic, hard-to-get-to slice of perfectly preserved mythic California coastline, it is a very big deal. Enter the new Big Sur Smokehouse: the first restaurant opening in Big Sur in 15 years, a model of right-sized progress, and an organic addition to the limited dining options in the tiny town (man cannot live on Nepenthe alone). Housed on Highway 1 on the edge of the Ventana Big Sur resort in the original 1867 homestead of the pioneering Post family, the joint serves tender smoked brisket, hot links, and chicken smoked over oak with herbs and onion skins from Ventana’s kitchen garden for an added layer of flavor. You can get burnt-end baked beans, mac and cheese, and the like, while the quinoa salad with kale and smoked tomato and vegan smoked mushrooms honor the location’s hippie California heritage. The shaded wrap-around porch is a lovely spot to sip a hazy IPA and take a brisket break on a summer ramble down Highway 1. —Hugh Garvey, executive editor

Keep the Ball Rolling

Did you get caught up in World Cup mania earlier this summer? It used to be very difficult to follow your favorite Women’s National Soccer Team players between international tournaments, but that’s less and less true now that the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) exists. You can see a lot of the players that you enjoyed watching cruise to victory in France playing club games at stadiums around the West. The Utah Royals FC, for example, play in Sandy, Utah, and feature the trophy-winning trio of Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara, and Becky Sauerbrunn. The Portland Thorns FC, who play at the city’s Providence Park, have Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath. And in Tacoma, you can see Allie Long and the polarizing but electrically talented Megan Rapinoe play for Reign FC. If you don’t like to see the band broken up and scattered all over the country, the National Team will be back together for a friendly against Ireland at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on August 3.  Nicole Clausing, digital producer

East Bay Meat-Up

4505 Burgers and BBQ is a San Francisco institution—the joint on San Francisco’s busy Divisadero Street always has a line out the door. So, when this East Bay resident learned that butcher-turned-restaurateur Ryan Farr was bringing his smoke show to Oakland, I was thrilled. 4505’s new location in Oakland’s Laurel District serves up the same mouth-watering BBQ as their SF location but has the added benefit of a huge outdoor space, perfect for families, dog owners, and anyone looking for some sunshine with their ribs. On my recent visit, we were greeted by many happy people queuing up for BBQ. Why so happy? 4505 keeps everyone in a good mood by serving wine and beer to people waiting in line (genius). After enjoying a Hazy IPA from Temescal Brewing (the wait was about 10 minutes), I ordered a #2: two meats, two sides, and a roll. My brisket and pulled pork were cooked to perfection, the roll was a little cloud of heaven, and the baked beans were the best I have ever had. I completed the meal with another Hazy—the rounder, slightly sweet IPA was a fantastic complement—and a cone of vanilla soft serve. I can’t wait to go back. —Kendra Poppy, audience growth editor

The Snack That Makes Me Feel Like I’m at Summer Camp

Graham crackers are one of those snacks that instantly take me back to water balloons, tie dye, and the giggle fits that come with sneaking out of your cabin. They feel summer-exclusive and almost like a special occasion snack—it’s more fun to munch on these during a day spent outdoors than a night in watching Queer Eye, right? Right now, these Kodiak Cakes Bear Bites are my favorite nostalgia-inducing snack that still check off the I’m-a-functioning-adult boxes: whole grains, non-GMO ingredients, and a considerable amount of protein. The bite-size crackers come in honey, chocolate, and cinnamon flavors, but the real child-like wonder happens when you mix all three together in a Ziploc bag. Get your hands on a box and thank me later. —Maya Wong, assistant editor

Bear Bites

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