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This, That, and The Other Thing

Hello, it’s me!!

I am starting my own blog because even though I am retired I feel I still have plenty to offer. I have a couple clues how to do this and I will make up the rest as I go along. I want my blog to reflect not only how I feel about three of my passions – books, art, and food, but also a little about this new chapter of my life.

I want this to be enjoyable for me to write and for anyone who happens to read it. Although I have to warn you, I have opinions, informed or otherwise, and look forward to expressing them.

In my blog posts, I will write about “this and that” and end the posts with “the other thing,” which is the unique element that enhances or detracts from my overall experience. I wanted to end this introduction with “I hope you enjoy my pithy bon mots,” but my son thought that sounded too pretentious, so I’ll leave it out. Happy reading!

Barbara

 

Featured post

Newport Beach Restaurant Week

 

Fifty one restaurants are on this list of establishments participating in Restaurant Week (It’s actually two weeks this year). My feeling is that these restaurants take this marketing opportunity to offer special pricing in order to lure more customers — the goal being that if you like it you will return, thus generating more business.

With that in my mind, I was greatly disappointed with the $25 fixed price menu offered by Bluewater Grill. Wouldn’t you want to feature a signature dish or a currently in-season fresh fish?  No so. Here is the menu:  Hot fresh Sourdough bread and Butter, Soft drink of Choice, Soup or Garden Salad. The choice of one entree was Grilled Salmon Sandwich, Beer Battered Fish and Chips, Aki Poke Bowl, Angus Burger or Shrimp Louie.

Our experience began well enough with a nice glass of house Pinot Grigio (not included in price) and a small bowl of chowder that was scrumptious – very creamy with lots of clams and the right blend of seasonings. Lynn’s Shrimp (and Crab) Louie looked and tasted great. Louie dressing was served on the side. I opted for the Grilled Salmon Sandwich so I could at least get some fish. Attractively plated, it was impossible to actually eat as a sandwich. The ciabatta bun was so dense and the 1/4 pound of arugula they used  with slices of cucumber and tomato were too much. I took the sandwich apart and made a lovely salad. The citrus vinaigrette dressing that came with the sandwich was quite tasty. The salmon, however, was overcooked and very dry.

Combine this with the waitress thinking that Restaurant Week was already over and the sun beating against our table (a sun shade eventually pulled down after several customer requests), it was a meal to remember, but not in a good way for me. Bluewater Grill has been in existence for many years – I assume because of its extensive menu of fresh seafood and its good service. It was not apparent this day.

To try another restaurant on the list, we drove to Balboa Island for dessert at Free Range Café (former food truck operation) on Park a block or so from the entrance to the ferry.

Outside signs are very clever, but I think this day was doomed from the start. There was only one other customer (it was after 2pm), and the waitress who I think was possibly the baker/manager was irritated that we were not there for lunch. She explained that since Mondays are always slow days for them, they did not have many desserts available – just a tray of  large cookies and something that looked like a dense cupcake.

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We had to carry our own plates to the table, and it took forever to get our hot drinks. When you need to cut cookies with a knife and have to press hard, you suspect that they were not same-day baked. Lynn’s Macchiato and my spiced Chai Latter were quite delicious however – a saving grace to the end of the day.

In fairness to this café, there were some standouts such as a bucket full of doggie treats outside the entry along with two bowls of fresh water. Their lunch menu does look kind of interesting, so it is not totally inconceivable to think of a return visit. I do believe in second chances – after that, not so much.

The Other Thing – I took one half of the chocolate chip cookie home for my brother to taste. After one bite he said, “How old is this cookie??”. I nuked the ciabatta bread I took home and made a tasty grilled cheese for dinner – perhaps the best meal I had all day!

 

Saint & Second

 

For those of you familiar with Belmont Shore, Saint & Second is the new restaurant opened a while back in the space formerly occupied by Hof’s Hut and then Lucille’s. You would never recognize it now. It is amazing. There was a lot of thought, planning, and money put into this operation, and it has paid off in spades. Everything about this restaurant is perfection. The contemporary atmosphere is welcoming and the wait staff is friendly and thoroughly acquainted with the menu.

The menu is extensive, and everything sounded delicious. My new foodie friend and Long Beach resident Johanna was on her first culinary adventure with me. Every dish that passed by our table looked like something we wanted to order. Johanna had eaten here previously and recommended a couple of items to which our server gave an enthusiastic thumbs up. We shared the Roasted Turkey Sandwich with avocado, brie and pesto mayo and the Apple Pear Shrimp Salad with potatoes, cheddar with apple-celery vinegar dressing……..beyond yummy!!

We were pleasantly full after these delights, but we couldn’t resist a little dessert.

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A fudge brownie ice cream sandwich was served that no ice cream truck driver ever dreamed could taste this good. This was a lovely finale to our lunch experience.

The Other Thing — that made this experience so enjoyable is my attachment to Belmont Shore. I lived on St. Joseph back in the 90s and I still miss it to this day. It was so nice to come home, park my car and be able to walk everywhere – the cleaners, bank, grocery store, coffee shop, restaurants…..and the ocean!

McFadden Public Market

Located at 515 North Main in Santa Ana, This food court is a little different from ones I have previously visited. Upstairs at “Mission Control”, there is a huge room loaded with arcade games and a full bar that is open from 11am until “late-ish”. I can imagine how busy it gets at night. It looks like a fun place to hang out in the newly revitalized downtown area.  Weekend brunch  at Public Market is 11am until sold out.

The parking structures cost a whopping $3.00 for 3+ hours. They are located off Main Street, and there is a metered parking lot at 3rd and Bush.

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As for food choices, there is the requisite coffee place called Solid Coffee Roasters. Didn’t have any but the baristas are certainly friendly. Fried chicken by Rooster Republic, ice cream by Milk Man, Viking Dogs, En Tu Boca food with a Mexican-Asian flair, and a Vietnamese concept called  Bone Steak.

Sandy and I shared some En Tu tacos which were pretty good but the real winner for us was the fried chicken at Rooster Republic. The chicken was moist and tender and was coated in a very flavorful light breading of what looked like cornflakes. These yummy fingers were served with mac and cheese and mashed potatoes topped with red gravy. Carbs never tasted so good!!

The Other Thing is a feature I hadn’t noticed in any of the restaurants that I have recently visited – an Uber station where you can call and/or wait for your ride. It is located just inside the main entrance door. What a good idea and a reminder that fun and games come with a price that no one can afford to pay.

Now off my soapbox and on to a new adventure.

 

 

SteelCraft Food Court

This open-air food court on Long Beach Boulevard is unique in its design and structure. It looks like a giant cage with gates that close and lock at night, securing everything inside. It is very open inside with lacquered top picnic tables and benches for eating. I woulcall this place industrial chic.

I was meeting Julie here – we finally have a food court to visit in her territory. I got there a little early so I had a Decaf Vanilla Latte at Steelhead Coffee. The baristas were very friendly and the coffee was good. The lovely foam double heart lasted all the way to the bottom of my cup.

Although SteelCraft officially opened on February 3rd, we were unsure how many vendors were in operation. There were only 4 currently open for lunch – Waffle Love, Pig Pen Delicacy, Tajima, and Desano Pizza Bakery. We opted for Pig Pen – which was not actually all about pork. Julie ordered a MacDaddy Burger with candied bacon, American cheese and barbecue sauce served between their signature mac-n-cheese buns. I opted for the Chicken Sandwich with garlic aoli, spring mix, tomato and melted feta served on a brioche bun. Both of these were quite good. Beef patty cooked just right and the chicken breast nice and juicy.

SteelHead Coffee sits right on the sidewalk so passersby, walking or in their car, can stop on their way to work. There are 30-minute parking spots marked in that block of Long Beach Boulevard so you can actually pull your car right up in front.

The Other Thing – I think I could hang out here. It seems that Long Beach Firefighters  like Steelhead Coffee.

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Puesto Mexican Street Food & Bar

Always on the lookout for good Mexican food (and heaven knows there are plenty of choices out there), a mention in Orange Coast Magazine got my attention. Puesto is located in the Los Olivos Marketplace off Irvine Center Drive in Irvine.  The article said “Irvine’s new Mexican venue brings delicious twists to our taco scene”.  So on a cool but sunny Monday my friend Jennifer and I decided it was worth a try.

We sat in the spacious outdoor patio area that contained a full bar for eating as well as drinking. First impressions are very important when you enter a restaurant, and this visit began well. The hostess and our waiter were very friendly. Everything on the menu even sounded good.  I chose a taco trio – mushroom, chicken al pastor and filet mignon which were very creative and unbelievably delicious. Jennifer had the equally delicious carnitas bowl with grilled corn, delectible guacamole, cheese, black beans and rice. With a side order of  Esquito (that same wonderful grilled corn with chile, lime, queso and crema), we had a meal to remember. The bottle of surprisingly tasty Mexican sparkling wine probably had a little to do with our fun time. We sat down at 12:30 and left at 4.

This lovely meal called for dessert, and I will let the photo speak for itself.

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Our waiter was staying late to help serve the party of 300 Yelpers who were coming in for dinner. We wished him good luck with that. I seldom read a good Yelp review but I don’t see how that could possibly happen at Puesto.

The Other Thing – And I am sure this was rectified by dinner time, the restaurant was out of coffee when I requested it after consuming a half bottle of bubbly. That is almost unheard of, but it did not diminish our experience.

A Day in Beverly Hills

Art in the park in Beverly Hills – could it be anything but classy. The semi-annual Beverly Hills Art Show is held at Beverly Gardens Park on Santa Monica Boulevard between Rodeo and Rexford. It is not your typical arts and crafts fair with local mom and pop vendors. The art displayed here was very upscale, gallery worthy and priced beyond my means. It was all lovely to look at and to envision a certain painting over your living room sofa or that that lovely flower sculpture in your backyard. If it didn’t cost thousands of dollars, it would make a great jungle gym for kids.

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That was the beginning of our Beverly Hills adventure. Next we were off to the newly opened the 5-star Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the only one I am aware of outside of New York City. The name itself brings to my mind elegant lobby furnishings,  beautiful fresh flowers everywhere,  and crystal everything. On that level it was a bit disappointing. It was quite nice but not the breathtaking effect I was expecting. In my past life I was in a position to frequent many hot spots, eat many meals from award winning chefs in many-starred restaurants.  Sometimes I over expect, and the experience falls short. That sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it?

My son Jeff and I and our friends Mickey and Erin were anxious to taste the food. Jean Georges is world famous. Reservations for dinner were booked for “eons” so we went early for drinks in the lobby and then a light lunch on the rooftop where we got the last reservation available that day.

The service in the lobby lounge was beyond what you would normally expect. Our wait person knew the menu backward and forward, gave interesting suggestions, and attended to our needs before we knew we needed anything — plus she was adorable. I told her should be the head of the hotel’s marketing department! We shared a small pizza with a crust so thin it was almost not there. Two cappuccinos and two sparkling sodas cost a week’s pay here, but everything was tasty and we enjoyed the experience.

The view from the rooftop was spectacular – Beverly Hills, the Valley, Downtown Los Angeles and, if there weren’t so many tall building in the way, you could probably see the ocean. We did see a few swimming pools. This is definitely a meeting place for those who can afford it on a regular basis. The atmosphere is friendly and the seating comfortable. A light lunch with still no alcohol was pretty expensive – but split 4 ways was doable.

The food was very good, but I would like a chance to have the full Jean Georges experience for dinner. I am saving up now. In about 6 months when reservations are available, I should have enough that might also include alcohol.

My son lives in Studio City. I stayed over and forced him and Mickey to take me to see “It”. No one in my neighborhood wanted to see it. I am a huge Stephen King fan. We all liked it, and as I expected as it drew to a close, Chapter Two would be coming soon.

On the way home from the movie we stopped at Big Sugar Bakeshop for some desserts – Lemon Square, Vegan Chocolate Cupcake, 3 Doughnut Muffins, Raspberry Red Velvet “cakewich” from CakeMonkey,  and Southern Banana Pudding. Photo doesn’t do them justice. They were all so very yummy!!

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The Other Thing – Beverly Hills was fun but the next morning it was off to Hugo’s for a good old-fashioned home style breakfast. Like they say (who is “they” by the way), it’s (Beverly Hills) nice to visit but there is no place like home!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Doings

My food buddy Jennifer and I headed for Pasadena on our first culinary adventure of the day. A small cooking supply store and café called Little Flower was our destination. Located on a residential section of Colorado Boulevard, this gem is cute and cozy and so neighborhood-friendly, it made you smile just walking in. You could go in for breakfast and stay for tea and cookies.

There were lots of Halloween treats on display and great ideas for Holiday gifts. I didn’t really need anything for my kitchen but was tempted anyway. I took a deep breath and ordered breakfast instead.

Jennifer and I shared since we knew were having something special for dinner at a friend’s. The Chicken and Cheddar Quiche was piled high with yummiest in a very flakey crust. We also got the Green Soup because it sounded interesting. There were lots of green vegetables of course, with the dominant flavor being asparagus……very nice. I topped my share off with a Rose Rhubarb Spritzer, and as a rhubarb lover from birth, I was thrilled. It didn’t disappoint.

After buying a hostess gift for later, we headed to Old Town Pasadena and drove around looking for trouble. We didn’t find any so we headed off for our next adventure in Sherman Oaks, to the home of our friend Erin.

My son Jeffrey, whose lifestyle change has turned him to plant-based foods, was cooking a vegan Mexican meal in Erin’s spacious kitchen. There were five for dinner for dinner, and she set a beautiful table fit for kings.  She didn’t invite any so it was for us to enjoy.

When my son is in the mood he makes everything from scratch. This was one of those times. The evening’s menu consisted of the following:

Kale and Cabbage Salad with shaved Brussels sprouts was mixed with an avocado vinaigrette

Mexican Creamed Corn cooked slowly in a pan with coconut mile, salt, pepper and             chili flakes

Layered Mexican Bowl with (1) brown basmati rice and red quinoa flavored with Mexican spice blend and tossed with fresh cilantro, (2) black beans slow cooked with salt, pepper, and cumin, (3) jack fruit (gives the look and texture of meat but is actually a fruit), finely cubed tofu, chopped onion sauteed in olive oil with chopped tomatoes, taco seasoning  and jalapenos

Toppings were  (4) a dollop of vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro and green onion

A little wine, some sparkling water and a slice of brown sugar pound cake for dessert while we watched the series premiere of “Wisdom of the Crowd”. My son works in the production department of that show, soooo — everyone be sure to watch it every week      so my son continues to be employed. It airs on Sunday after 60 Minutes on CBS. Tell your friends!!!

The other thing is a warning. My computer is giving me a bad time so I am not sure how this blog post will appear. There is bolding I can’t delete, and the font keeps changing.   Here’s hoping……………

 

 

 

Sunday Doings

My food buddy Jennifer and I headed for Pasadena on our first culinary adventure of the day. A small cooking supply store and café called Little Flower was our destination. Located on a residential section of Colorado Boulevard, this gem is cute and cozy and so neighborhood-friendly, it made you smile just walking in. You could go in for breakfast and stay for tea and cookies.

There were lots of Halloween treats on display and great ideas for Holiday gifts. I didn’t really need anything for my kitchen but was tempted anyway. I took a deep breath and ordered breakfast instead.

Jennifer and I shared since we knew were having something special for dinner at a friend’s. The Chicken and Cheddar Quiche was piled high with yummiest in a very flakey crust. We also got the Green Soup because it sounded interesting. There were lots of green vegetables of course, with the dominant flavor being asparagus……very nice. I topped my share off with a Rose Rhubarb Spritzer, and as a rhubarb lover from birth, I was thrilled. It didn’t disappoint.

After buying a hostess gift for later, we headed to Old Town Pasadena and drove around looking for trouble. We didn’t find any so we headed off for our next adventure in Sherman Oaks, to the home of our friend Erin.

My son Jeffrey, whose lifestyle change has turned him to plant-based foods, was cooking a vegan Mexican meal in Erin’s spacious kitchen. There were five for dinner for dinner, and she set a beautiful table fit for kings.  She didn’t invite any so it was for us to enjoy.

When my son is in the mood he makes everything from scratch. This was one of those times. The evening’s menu consisted of the following:

Kale and Cabbage Salad with shaved Brussels sprouts was mixed with an avocado vinaigrette

Mexican Creamed Corn cooked slowly in a pan with coconut mile, salt, pepper and             chili flakes

Layered Mexican Bowl with (1) brown basmati rice and red quinoa flavored with Mexican spice blend and tossed with fresh cilantro, (2) black beans slow cooked with salt, pepper, and cumin, (3) jack fruit (gives the look and texture of meat but is actually a fruit), finely cubed tofu, chopped onion sauteed in olive oil with chopped tomatoes, taco seasoning  and jalapenos

Toppings were  (4) a dollop of vegan sour cream and chopped cilantro and green onion

A little wine, some sparkling water and a slice of brown sugar pound cake for dessert while we watched the series premiere of “Wisdom of the Crowd”. My son works in the production department of that show, soooo — everyone be sure to watch it every week      so my son continues to be employed. It airs on Sunday after 60 Minutes on CBS. Tell your friends!!!

The other thing is a warning. My computer is giving me a bad time so I am not sure how this blog post will appear. There is bolding I can’t delete, and the font keeps changing.   Here’s hoping……………

 

 

 

TRADE

The food hall trend has landed in Irvine. Located on Michelson between MacArthur and Jamboree, this food hall is in a renovated strip mall smack in the middle of high-rise office complexes. So, to me, this area afforded a ready-made market for lunchtime customers.

TRADE is a little different from the other food halls I have frequented in the last few months. The food vendors form a circle around an outdoor seating area. There is also a Center Hub that provides a full bar for the more leisurely lunchtime (and after) crowd.

My foodie friend Sandy had trouble deciding – I went straight to Butterleaf and ordered a veggie burger. I am trying to be good. After checking all the vendors a couple of times, Sandy decided on the spicy tuna bowl at Megadon (Hawaiian and Japanese fusion). We were both well pleased with our choices. My burger smelled so good I picked it up before I remember to take a photo – hence the dent in an otherwise “perfect” picture

Whatever your culinary preferences, you will probably find something to suit you here. Portside serves fish, Two Birds offers chicken in many forms, Sweet Comforts speaks for itself, Dos Chinos – Mexican of course, gyros for something Greek, and Sandwich Society.

Maybe you would just like to come on by and hang out. There is shade if you are not a fan of sun in your face. Those inside chairs are quite comfy.

So many places, so little time. There are a couple more food halls on my list. They are popping up everywhere. I have one in Santa Ana and one in Long Beach.

Stay tuned….

 

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