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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

Two Left Forks

Located in Irvine, this restaurant replaced Lucca where my two besties and I used to meet regularly for lunch. We had the same table and the same waiter for several years. Those days are gone I am sad to say, but Two Left Forks was worth the visit.

Our waiter was very attentive (also quite cute) and gave us plenty of time to chit chat. After Jennifer’s and my usual iced tea order, we decided to split the Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese Croquettes. See yumminess below.

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Then we both opted for the Prime Rib Ciabatta. How could we not. Jen had French fries with it and I had the Caesar salad. (It made me feel like I was eating healthy!!)

The Other Thing – The menu is varied with dishes including items to share. This seems to be the current culinary fad. It all looked good, so a return visit may be warranted.

Hi(gh) Renaissance!

Bowers Museum in Santa Ana has a series of lectures entitled “Art in Context”. They cover various subjects about the history and appreciation of art and artists over the centuries.

This 6-part series is about the Masters of Italian Art during the High Renaissance in Rome, Florence and Venice. Guest lecturer is Dr. Lisa Boutin Vitela, Professor of Art History at Cerritos College. She is an expert on the Renaissance period.

A few photos of the museum grounds

Part One was October 3rd with a introduction and a study of the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

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October 10 – Part 2
Early Michelangelo

October 17 – Part 3
Raphael in Urbino, Florence and Rome

October 24 – Part 4
Bramante and High Renaissance Architecture

October 31 – Part 5
Titian and High Renaissance Art in Venice

November 7 – Part 6
Late Michelangelo

These lectures are entertaining and highly enlightening. Whatever you think you know, it’s only a fraction of what you will learn here.

The Other Thing – The lectures are 11am until noon. Stay later and have lunch at Tangata – a little pricey but very good!

Durty Nelly’s

I have eaten here many times over the years but never really thought to blog about it until now. Located in the Stonemill Design Center on Redhill in Costa Mesa, you can always count on the food and service being good.

I usually order something Irish but opted for one of their gourmet pub burgers this time. Whether beef or turkey, it has the great old standby condiments — crisp lettuce, large slices of onion and tomato, and pickles with a slather of thousand island dressing. Served with a choice of sides, this burger is a three-napkin treat! It looked so yummy on the plate I forgot to take a photo. Nothing fancy at Durty Nelly’s – just a satisfying meal in a very casual atmosphere.

The Other Thing – As you can image, this place is especially fun and entertaining on St. Patrick’s Day. However, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers and Mash and Irish Stew are on the menu all year around.

Bishop Arts District in Dallas

Pictures worth a 1,000 words!!

The Big D

That ‘s D for Dallas and my trip to surprise my friend Shea for her birthday. Brandon and I had been planning this for a couple of months, so it was gratifying that she was very, very surprised!! It was a whirlwind trip full of food, fun and just being together after almost 4 years. Nine-month old Madeleine took to me right away, and she was such a joy. Brandon booked a lovely room for me at The Highland. Owned by the Hilton, I think it was the nicest and most comfortable hotel room I have stayed in for a long time.

Friday night dinner was at Meso Maya in the Lakewood area of Dallas. Queso Poblano for the table, Short Rib Relleno for Brandon, Mole Poblano with Chicken for me, and Ensalada Mercado with Salmon for Shea. Much yumminess all around. Some of the best Mexican food I have experienced lately.

Saturday morning, and we ate brunch Uptown at Bread Winners. This place is obviously very popular and the food is definitely the reason. My benedict was made with pulled pork. I opted out of the spicy hollandaise but their regular one was spectacular! Brandon’s BW Sandwich was not your average ham and egg on ciabatta.

This was our culture day with a trip to Meadows Museum on the Campus of SMU, located in the Highland Park district. They were playing Navy that day so football traffic made it quite a challenge for museum parking. It was worth the aggravation though because the Salvador Dali exhibition, “Poetics of the Small 1929-1936” was fascinating. I would call these works a little less surreal.

Saturday was also Shea’s birthday, and her wish was to have Brandon barbecue steaks. What a great idea!!! These filets were perfection due to the exceptional skills of the chef. A variety of roasted vegetables and a luscious bottle of red wine made it a perfect meal.

Late Sunday morning and a drive to Oak cliff and early lunch at Lockhart Smoke House in the Bishop’s Art District. This is Texas barbecue at its finest. It is consumed here in a very unusual way — no plates, food piled high on butcher paper. Brandon hit the condiment table full of spicy items that I did not try. You order at the counter and they cut the meat right there. We got a little of a lot of meat — ribs, brisket, chicken, turkey, quail, with sides of deviled eggs, mac and cheese and cole slaw – all with a southern kick.

Then we took a leisurely stroll through the Bishop’s Art District, browsed through a few shops and had cocktails while listening to some blues music at Whitehall Exchange.

Some R & R back at the Mayberry homestead before we set out for the DFW airport. They live near White Rock Lake which is a beautiful place to stroll (or jog if you are up for that), picnicking, fishing, and/or sail-boating. No swimming or motor boats allowed.

The neighborhoods, especially where Shea and Brandon live are so charming – lovely brick and stone, lots of green areas and TREES – so many beautiful trees!!

Our last meal together was some Tex-Mex at Mi Cocina. We ate pretty light. We were still full from all that barbecue earlier in the day. Chicken quesadilla, chicken and rice soup, a couple of salads suited us just fine. Note last item on the menu!

I had such a good time. The Mayberry family is very special. Baby Madeleine was an angel. She went with us everywhere and never made a fuss. What a good girl! I’m back home, and I miss them already.

The Other Thing – The little mosquitos in Dallas are mean!!!

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!!

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