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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

Paris Baguette

 

Costa Mesa has experienced a glut of new eating establishments in the last year. A new café on 17th Street in Costa Mesa is called Paris Baguette, and with a name like that you would think that particular bread would be flakey and delicious. You would be correct.

Ordering and picking up your food is not a new concept (and not one of my favorite ways to enjoy a meal), but here it takes on a new meaning. There is no actual printed food menu or menu board. You choose by looking through the glass case at all the freshly prepared options. Not having my reading glasses with me, I randomly chose the “All Day Sandwich”.  I wanted something basic, and it looked a ham and cheese on a baguette. There was a small thinly sliced slab of cheese on the top. I ordered it warm so when it was presented to me, the cheese was lightly melted over the top of the baguette. It looked quite yummy but required eating with a knife and fork. No problem!
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My drink order was a small Chai Latte made with almond milk. “Would you like that hot or iced?” asked the cashier. “Hot please,” was my response. “OK, iced it is!” I was so flabbergasted that I just went with it. While gathering my flatware, I discovered the knife section empty. By the time one of the wait staff found more knives, I could have eaten two sandwiches. AND surprise, surprise! My sandwich also contained a fried egg – hence the name “All Day..”.
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This all sounds like I had an unpleasant experience but I was in one of those moods that nothing would have bothered me unless the food was inedible. The patio was enjoyable, even with 17th Street traffic zooming by.

The Other Thing – Paris Baguette shares a newly constructed building with another restaurant – Cava. The patio is large enough for the two to share. I think I’ll try Cava next time. The name reminds me of sparkling wine!!

 

New Orleans West?

Jennifer’s birthday dinner celebration at Iva Lee’s in San Clemente. I was really looking forward to this as they are supposedly Southern to the core!! Their menu certainly seems to confirm that.

First course – a basket of cornbread and baguettes with our Springtini (vodka, Aperol and lemon) and French Martini (vodka, Chambord pineapple juice and rose water). Second course – Fried Green Tomatoes topped with goat cheese on a tomatillo puree, and Buttermilk Hushpuppies with grilled Peach and Vidallia Onion Marmalade.

Neither of us could resist the Fried Chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, haricot verts & Gravy. The potatoes could have been a little thicker and creamier, but overall, it was very good (not Willie Mae’s good, but very good). To top it off, the waiter treated us to a birthday N’awlins Bread Pudding complete with a candle and birthday song! Our waiter J.C., by the way, was very cute, very attentive, and very efficient.

The Other Thing – You do get a Southern feel here. There is even live music Wednesday through Saturday. I can imagine after a few Hurricanes and some Zydeco, the place would be  really jumpin’!!

Old Town Tustin

This cozy little neighborhood in Tustin is such a delight – narrow, tree-lined streets with lots of original old buildings.

One of these old building houses Zama Tea & Kombucha. The building is from 1885. It housed the first doctor’s office. It partially burned in 2011, but the Historical Society was able to save most of the original structure. It is still marked as an Historical Landmark. It became Zama Café in 2015.

With over 185 teas and healing herbs, and kombucha on tap, it’s hard to know where to start. Sandy and I started with lunch. Their lunch menu is mostly vegan with a little dairy and chicken thrown in. Avocado Toast for me – sourdough bread with tomato, vegan pesto, coconut bacon, hard boiled egg, olive oil, and pea sprouts. It was delicious, and that coconut bacon is quite a treat. Sandy ordered the Beet Hummus Sandwich on squaw bread with avocado, coconut bacon and hemp seeds. This was also quite delicious.. I did a kombucha tasting as well – pineapple kiwi, crimson berry hibiscus, coconut jubilee, and pearadise. The kombucha process includes fermentation with a little carbonation – really quite pleasant.

The Other Thing – Creator and Owner Leanne Herrera provides a friendly and accommodating atmosphere to experience something new or enjoy the familiar. Don’t forget to check out the cozy patio.

Long Beach Nostalgia

Late brunch at The Federal on Pine Square in downtown Long Beach. I didn’t see any signs so I don’t know if  that area on Pine Avenue between Ocean and 5th is still called Pine Square. The Federal, since 2011, is the latest restaurant to occupy this 1920’s bank building. I arrived before my dining partners so I walked around Pine Square and noticed quite a few changes. For one thing, it had been 11 years since I last frequented this area. Rock Bottom Brewery, L’Opera, Kings Fish House, and Alegria were still there, and still drawing a crowd. Alegria was the first to serve tapas back then.

I was still early, so I sat at the bar and ordered a Bellini from the bartender. He never heard of champagne served that way and didn’t have anything peach flavored in his bar. Not a good sign. I had a Mimosa.

The brunch menu looked intriguing. Then the waitress told us that the first three items were no longer available, and the first and most delicious sounding dessert was also not available. The Hummus Board was pretty good – roasted pepper, jalapeno cilantro and black been hummus served with olives, cucumbers and flat bread. Our entrees were Meatloaf Benedict (thick slice of meatloaf over hash and fresh spinach, topped with 2 poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise), Fried Brussels Salad (with spinach, fried shallots, goat cheese, toasted almonds, spiced apples in a balsamic reduction and topped with a piece of grilled salmon), and Unforgettable Hash with garlic fries, carnitas pork, manchego cheese with tomatillo salsa.

Jeffrey said the meatloaf was too over-powering for the Benedict – too heavy to finish. Brussels Salad was “ok” per Mickey (that word is the kiss of death when it refers to food). The hash was definitely forgettable!! This dish was a total waste for the taste buds. Fries were limp, the pork was tasteless, the cheese was a glob on top, and the salsa was so spicy I didn’t use it. So everything was very very dry, and the waitress forgot my egg!

If our meal had been the sole purpose of our visit, the day would have been a total loss. But we had places to walk and things to see. One street over from Pine is the Promenade (no cars), and this is an area that has really changed. The Blue Café (my favorite blues venue in  Southern California) has closed. The pedestrian walkway is lined with high-rise condominiums and lots of trees. Here is also one of only 2 Starbucks in downtown Long Beach. The other is at The Pike. How cool is that?? We walked across Ocean, past the huge convention center, and on to The Pike. The Cinemark Theaters are still there, and now The Pike Outlets. P.F. Changs, Islands, Bubba Gump and Gladstones are still there. Pier 76 Fish Grill is new.

The boys wanted to go to the Aquarium of the Pacific. I had been there many times, so I opted to walk along the marina, sit under a tree and watch the people while they visited the fishes.

The Other Thing – They say you can’t go home again. Maybe you can if you are willing to take it like it is. Everything was so new and exciting at the start of the new millennium. Pine Square was new. The Pike was new.  Some spots are showing their age now, but Long Beach is still growing, it’s still fun, and I still miss living there!!

Crivello’s

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Located at Brookhurst and Adams in Huntington Beach, Crivello’s has been in business for 19 years. Our waiter has been there for 15. They must know something about Italian to have lasted so long. They have a very faithful following – as witness my dining partner for lunch, Julie. This place is one of her favorites.

We ate in the covered patio. It was another hot day in Orange County, but there were ceiling fans. Pasta is one of my obsessions, but the swordfish special sounded tasty. The green salad was crisp and fresh and the vinaigrette one of the best I have tasted. It is the only dressing they serve. Swordfish steak was cut a bit thin so it was a little overcooked. It was still flavorful though, and the fresh spinach with basil pesto cram sauce accompaniment was delicious – as was the penne arrabiata.

Shared dessert was white chocolate gelato. It was so creamy, and with bits of white chocolate in there as little taste bud surprises.
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The Other Thing – Crivello’s is well known for their incredible wine tastings and food pairings. They are different each time. August 29th features wines from Coppolla Winery in Geyserville, CA.  Check that out!

Villa San Carlo

Villa San Carlo is in Cortemelia, a commune in the Province of Cuneo in the Italian region of Piedmont. The original center of Cortemelia is said to be of pre-Roman origin. On a Food and Wine Tour in Italy in 2013, our group was fortunate enough to stay there and experience the incredible culinary skills of the owner and chef, Carlo Zarri. Not surprising is that Carlo is a close friend of our travel agent extraordinaire, Roberto Torrini.

We stayed several nights and enjoyed a special dinner each evening. There was an opening reception for us on the garden patio with wine and cheese. This was followed by a 5-course dinner with wine pairings. (1) Fried Potato Gnocchi with Artichoke Sauce          (2) Traditional Tomato Soup with Crostino Bread (3) Hand-Made Traditional Ravioli with Black Summer Truffles (4) Little Chicken Fillets with Hazelnut Sauce and Smash Potatoes with Red Beet, and (5) Sweet Surprise with Hazelnuts served on a plate with our names written in  Chocolate. Then Carlo made cappuccinos and wished us a good night. He cooked like that for us every night.

There were 3 courses and 2 wines the next night. (1) Nettle Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Hazelnuts (2) Pork Loin with Roasted Peppers, Mixed Greens and Bundled Green Beans (3) Coffee Panacotta with Chocolate Drizzle for dessert.

Carlo took us to his kitchen the next day and taught us how to make Gnocchi which was used in our dinner that night. (1) Our Gnocchi with Tomatoes sautéed in garlic-infused Olive Oil, Caramelized Onions and Fresh Rosemary (2) Two Veal chops served with Raisins and Garlic-Infused Olive Oil and Baby Onions, and (3) Moscato Gelatin with Fresh Berries for dessert. We watched the magic happen in the kitchen with the veal.

The grand finale and our last night in Cortemelia was extra special (as if the others were not!!!) (1) Tuma Cheese Wrapped in Hazelnuts and Served with Caramelized Onions       (2) Risotto with Castelmagno & Rosemary (3) Veal Tenderloin ala Sophia Loren (Her favorite that Carlo always makes for her) with Mixed Vegetable Reduction over Val Wrapped in Filo Dough and Served with Polenta Cake with Spinach Straccialtella. This was carved tableside by Carlo, and (4) His Grandmother’s Pudding for Dessert – plate decorated with strawberries and “Arrivederci” written in Chocolate.

Noted for one of the most famous types of hazelnuts, the Tonda Gentile di Langa, every August the town celebrates it with a Hazelnut Fair. Hence the use of hazelnuts in many of Carlo’s recipes.

The Other Thing – It seems to me that Carlo Zarri could be a Top Chef in America, have his own Food Network show and be the “toast of the town”. But he is content to stay in his lovely Cortemelia and prepare his amazing dishes for his guests. I was thrilled to be one of those very privileged guests!!

Uptown Architecture

My granddaughter lives in the Uptown section of Orleans Parish in New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi between the French Quarter and the Jefferson Parish line. It is a mixed residential area, small commercial and a wealth of 19th Century architecture.

It’s that architecture that is so interesting to see as we walked through the various neighborhoods. No two buildings are alike, some in varying shades of decay, others looking like new.

 

The Other Thing — It’s called The Crescent City, The Big Easy, Nawlins, NOLA and The City That Care Forgot. Whatever you call it, this city is one of  a kind!

 

The Hive, Costa Mesa

What is new and cool in Costa Mesa – THE HIVE! Located on 3333 Susan Street, it is a creative office campus with three newly built buildings, one of which is the home of the Los Angeles Chargers. The foyer of the adjacent building looks like someone’s very nice living room.

Between the two buildings and connected by a glass enclosed hallway, is The Lost Bean Organic Coffee and Tea. This is my new go to place for caffeine and conversation. The atmosphere inside and out is exciting and relaxing at the same time. There are lots of gathering spots, lounge chairs and umbrellas. I notice that the building next door even has bicycles for rent.

Charlene is the coffee oficionado.  She says the beans are roasted just right, and the flavor is rich and full. My drink of choice is Chai Latte which they made iced for me with almond milk. It leaves a gentle tang (perhaps nutmeg) on the tongue that  suits me just fine. The baristas ae friendly and act like they really enjoy working there! This place is definitely a keeper!!

The Other Thing – Its called The Hive for a good reason. When the word gets around about The Lost Bean, this campus will be buzzin’!!

 

Food Faves

It’s my two-year blogging anniversary, and I have been thinking about all my culinary adventures. Out of my 71 blog posts I have picked 11 favorites that are worth mentioning again.

November 2015 Newberry Springs was the last stop on our Route 66 Road Trip. Buffalo Burgers at the Bagdad Café. I loved “Standing on the Corner in Winslow Arizona”. It was very cool even though it had nothing to do with eating.  November 2016  – a friend’s  birthday celebration at Fogo de Chao in Beverly Hills – Elaborate sides and salad bar with waiters serving meats on skewers the size of small swords. February 2017 The Whiskey Bread Pudding at the Side Door in Corona del mar, served with raisins and whipped cream, is scrumptious.  June 2017 – Freshly baked muffins with our coffee at The Butcher, Baker, and the Cappuccino Maker (what a great name) in West Hollywood. The patio was so lovely we could have stayed there all day.  Dinner that same day at Rustic Canyon. This gets bolded because we were served one of the best meals I have ever had the privilege to enjoy. Shared plates is a great idea here because everything on the menu sounded so good…… even the luscious lavender almonds served with our cocktails.

November 2017 – Puesto Irvine serves Equisto, a delicious grilled corn with chile, lime, queso and cremaSaint and Second in Belmont Shore in January 2018 was a very pleasant experience from food and service to atmosphere. I especially liked the Apple Pear Shrimp Salad.  My lunch on May 21st was a complete surprise. Benji’s is a coffee shop in Tustin that has been in operation for many years. The food was pretty traditional but very good. The Lemon Marscapone Cake the waitress insisted I order was one of the best desserts I have ever tasted!!

April 29 craving something Cuban called for a trip to the Porto’s in Buena Park. Their Chicken Tamales have the lightest, tastiest masa ever!. During my month long birthday celebration on June 9th at Republique on La Brea in Los Angeles, we were surprised that seating was community tables (not my favorite way to enjoy food). It was very noisy, and the service was slow. The food was good though – especially the Prime Dry Aged Ribeye Cap. Shared plates is still very popular.

I must include Willie Mae’s in New Orleans on my list because they really do serve the “best Fried Chicken in the nation!” It certainly is the best I have ever tasted by far!!!

The Other Thing – Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer-prize winning food critic for the Los Angeles Times passed away on Saturday, July 21st. His annual “101 Best Restaurants” has been my guide. I didn’t always agree with him but he always paid attention food trucks and the little mom and pop operations. He wasn’t always a fan of the “snooty” and ridiculously expensive restaurants. I have only tried 10 out of the 101 but I’m working on it. Mr. Gold will be greatly missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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