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This, That, and The Other Thing

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Pescadou Tres Bon

It’s June and the start of my month-long birthday celebration (lol)! My dinner at Pescadou with my friend Debbie will be hard to beat.

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This French restaurant in Newport Beach is so authentic that just hearing our waiter’s accent made us feel like we were in a little bistro on the banks of the Seine. How about a little Puilly Fuisse and a country pate-pork terrine to start?

The Steak Frittes came very highly recommended so that certainly sounded good to me. It was Hanger steak with confit shallots in a red wine sauce. Debbie ordered Magret – duck breast atop roasted peppercorn sauce, with varicots vert.

I can’t think of any words that would accurately describe the deliciousness of these two entrees. If we weren’t afraid of being physically ejected from Pescadou, we would have licked our plates!!

The dessert of the day was a Napoleon – layers of delicate puff pastry with creme patisserie, and strawberries, topped with whipped cream. This incredible meal called for two desserts, so we also enjoyed the Nougat Glace – ice cream parfait with orange blossom honey, carmelized almond and red berries..

The Other Thing – I cannot think  of enough superlatives to explain our dining experience. Suffice it to say that the evening was a total joy in every way!

Vaca Restaurant

So convenient to Costa Mesa’s live theater district, free parking in the structure and a lovely patio with a view of SCR and the plaza, Vaca is the perfect place for a pre-theater dinner. Go early so you have time to review the lengthy and interesting menu.

 

The hard choices began with the drink menu. After lengthy pondering, I ordered a white wine sangria, and Sandy (a tequila aficionado) opted for mescal with a splash of ginger ale and lime juice.  The bowl of munchies on the table contained corn nuts and roasted almonds with truffle oil. I could have made of meal on them!

 

Vaca is well known for their paella which is what I was going to order. Then I started reading about all the Tapas. Paella will have to wait for the next visit.  We shared the following extremely tasty small plates:

Albondigas – Roasted lamb meatballs with Lemon Yogurt and Cucumbers          Croquetas de Pollo – Creamy Chicken Fritters                                                            Coliflor – Roasted cauliflower, Tahini, Raisins, and Lemon                                      Vieiras a La Plancha –  Seared Scallops in cauliflower puree, Pickled Raisins & Red Mojo

 

We were intrigued with a cocktail two gentlemen were drinking at the next table. Here are the two Matts toasting with their Aperol Spritz – with prosecco and a splash of soda). Of course, we needed one of those to enjoy with our dessert – Tarta de Queso, a goat cheesecake with an ice cream accompaniment and drizzle beyond description!! So good. My only complaint – and it is a small one – is the time it took to get our pre-dinner cocktails. They were very busy though.

 

This was a perfect dinner experience. It will take many visits to experience all the menu, and I must try one of the paellas. The red meat options are on display in a closed glass case as you walk through the restaurant. It made me drool just thinking about them.

The Other Thing – Chef/Owner Amar Santana stopped by for a photo opportunity and the perfect ending to my blog.

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DTLA Weekend

The Festival of Books lured us to downtown LA on April 13-14. We stayed at The Biltmore (courtesy of my wonderful son). Although old (1923), it’s a lovely hotel, and walking distance to everything we wanted to do and see and eat. Festival of Books was on the USC campus so to that we had to drive.

An author/artist friend was exhibiting at the Festival so his booth was our first stop. We attended a couple of crime writing panels, a cooking demonstration by the Lee Brothers, drank $6.00 lemonades, ate some food truck sandwiches, wandered through hundreds of booths, listened to the USC Marching Band, and did a lot of people watching.

This Festival of Books is quite a big deal. I have been wanting to go for years, but it took a friend’s involvement to get me off my butt for the drive to LA. Jennifer had never been as well, so she was my partner in crime for the weekend.

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We ate at Baco Mercat on Saturday night. It came highly recommended. We had no reservations so we sat at the bar. Service and food (listed as Mediterranean) were very good. We started with Ricotta Fritters with saffron honey, cacique, and pine nuts. Entrée for Jennifer was Skirt Steak with creamy cauliflower, fennel, watercress and horseradish. I enjoyed a very tasty Fried Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and garlic aioli. Jennifer’s steak was wonderfully tender and flavorful.

 

Our only tickets on Sunday at the Festival of Books was to see Walter Mosley – one of my all-time favorite crime writers. He was ill, so I missed out of what would have been the highlight of the Festival for me. So, back at the hotel we had plenty of time to go on an architectural and art tour of the LA Central Library. After reading Susan Orleans’ “The Library Book” about the library’s history and the devastating fire in 1986, I was anxious for a tour. Located across from the Biltmore, it was well worth the price of admission (free!!). The place is huge and amazing! There are murals on most of the walls, and the ceilings are a marvel of color and design. The walls of the elevators were lined with cards from the old card catalogs. A bank of  those old file cabinets is on display in the lobby. There is a bronze of Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) in the Social Science and Philosophy section. I don’t think I ever knew what he looked like.

A surprise addition to our weekend was the High Tea in the Biltmore lobby on Sunday. Our experience here was quite interesting and worth its own separate blog for a later date. We sat down for Prosecco and an amuse bouche at 4pm. Four bottles of Prosecco  and 3 refills on the tea sandwiches and scones later, we left the table and staggered to our room at 8:30pm — happy and too full for dinner!!

We actually felt great on Monday morning, so we walked the Bunker Hill steps, ate breakfast at Jose Chiquito in Grand Central Market (open since 1917), had iced tea at the Blue Bottle, took photos in the iconic Bradbury Building, rode Angels Flight ($1.00), and walked through California Plaza. We checked out of the Biltmore at 12:30 with smiles on our faces. We had a great time.

There was a lot of reminiscing for me as I spent many a time visiting my grandmother when I was young, riding the Angels Flight and walking to Pershing Square. She lived in an apartment on Irolo Street in the late 1940s . According to the internet, that street is in Koreatown. I took pictures of the Felix Chevrolet sign which has been a landmark at Jefferson and Flower for decades. The Shrine Auditorium near the USC campus is where I saw Elvis Presley in 1956! Clifton’s Cafeteria is on the old Route 66. An early family abode on 126th Street is in the area now known as Watts. Parts of 88th and 60th Streets are still residential areas, but the blocks on which lived are now part of the 110 Freeway. We also lived on Figueroa behind my daddy’s hotdog stand in 1949. I went to Manchester Avenue Elementary School (it’s still there), and I walked the 6 blocks or so home every day.

The Other Thing – Downtown LA to me is charming, eclectic, architecturally unique and full of history. So many OC residents in my acquaintance turn up their noses at the very thought of going there. Not me – every visit is an adventure!

Tupelo Junction Cafe

We had a little trouble finding this place on the Newport Peninsula. It looked like 29th Street was under construction and didn’t realize that Tupelo was so close to the marina. It is nestled in among commercial buildings that look like residences. Thankfully, there was a parking space right in front. There is also a small parking lot. I think the only negative about this restaurant is the parking – everything else was wonderful!

The menu is quite extensive. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu offers small plates and large plates for breakfast and lunch. The dinner menu is separate so I didn’t see that. With a name like Tupelo, it had to include some dishes with a Southern flair on the menu. Debbie showed great restraint and ordered  Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich. I, on the other hand, must always order like it would be my last meal. Thursday special was a Pulled Pork Sloppy Joe with Gouda and Peanut Slaw. It was to die for – but hopefully not very soon! We shared an appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes served with a Corn Salsa and Herbed Buttermilk Dressing. They were fried just right with a light crispy breading.

For dessert, we couldn’t resist the Cinnamon Apple Beignets with Crème Anglaise and Homemade Caramel. They were a little doughy but the yummy sauce made up for it.

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The Other Thing – Everything was attractively plated, which is something that, for me, makes a good dining experience even more pleasurable. This place is a keeper!

 

 

 

 

 

Belmont Shore

It was a beautiful almost-spring day, so my visit to Belmont Shore was all the more pleasant. First was my visit to Polly’s Gourmet Coffee and coffee guru Mike Sheldrake. I hadn’t seen him in a while, and it is always good to catch up. He is a man with a thousand stories. Then off to Roe Seafood and my monthly lunch with my friend Julie.

I had been wanting to try Roe for a while. I  had heard good things about it. The interior is quite nice and very welcoming – complete with a lovely tree in the dining room. The building was obviously built around it.

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We both chose the combination lunch – Julie’s with the fish sandwich, mine with tuna toast. They included a small salad and a cup of seafood bisque. The bisque was a little salty, and there was not a lot of dressing on the salads. But overall, an enjoyable lunch made better, of course, by wine.  I think I will be back!

 

If I am blogging, I must always include dessert, and I was immediately drawn to the Yuzu Meringue Tart because it contained rhubarb, one of my all-time favorite foods. It was pretty tasty but there was not much rhubarb involved in this dish.

The drive down Second Street and out of the Shore was slow due to street construction but it gave me a chance to gaze at the blue water and colorful sailboats. Lots of people enjoying the sunny day.

 

The Other Thing – It has been 19 years since I moved from Belmont Shore, and I still miss living there. Circumstances caused me to move, but we do what is necessary for family.

 

 

 

Bosscat Kitchen & Libations

 

Bosscat, on MacArthur Boulevard between Birch and Campus in Newport Beach, is my 100th blog post. So, I wish it had been a more enjoyable experience. Not to say that Bosscat was not good, it’s just far from my Top Ten. It caught my attention because it features Southern style cooking. So with that in mind, Debbie (my first Thursday of the month foodie friend) and began our dining experience with Pulled Pork Hush Puppies – cornbread battered pork, deep fried and served with Carolina barbecue mustard. Not much taste to these, so the mustard saved this dish.
img_20190307_123829Entrée for Debbie was Fish in the Rye – Chef’s selected White Fish, Rye Whiskey Butter, Shaved and Ancient Grains. Those grains looked pretty much like rice in a sweet and sour sauce of some kind. I chose the Avocado Farm Chop – romaine Lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and Lemon Verbena. The well-seasoned shrimp served on top was the best part of the salad. All the vegetables were chopped so finely, it was hard to define the flavors.

 

The dessert was the best part of the meal – Chocolate Bourbon Custard, served with whipped cream and crushed carmelized pralines.

img_20190307_133740The Other Thing – The rest of the menu looks interesting, and the prices are fairly reasonable, service was fine. However, I don’t know if there is anything really special to lure me back to Bosscat.

Urra Spaghettini

I hadn’t been to Spaghettini for many years but it was close to friends Julie and Stan who I invited to join me in celebrating my brother’s birthday. It’s been in this location in Seal Beach for a long time so they must be doing something right.

The place was busy so quite noisy, but we had a nice table for four in the main dining room. I was surprised that David wasn’t quite as surprised as I thought he would be. But no matter, we had a great time, and the conversation flowed. Our server, Cat, was very attentive, knew the menu and gave helpful suggestions.

I was introduced to a red wine that I thought quite pleasant – nice smooth taste in my humble opinion. A toast to the birthday boy, then our first course of Red Oak And Bibb Lettuce Salad with Reggiano, cabernet tomatoes and creamy parmesan dressing.

Main course for Stan was Seven Layer Lasagna with spinach pasta, bolognese, béchamel sauce, ricotta, marinara, parmigiano-reggiano. He said it had an even amount of cheese and sauce so it was a perfect blend of flavors. Julie said her Pasta Primavera with linguini, roasted fall vegetables, and shaved Reggiano was delicious. The birthday boy chose the Seafood Pasta. He was quite pleased with the amount and size of the seafood – lobster, shrimp, jumbo lump crab, parmesan cream, rustic bread crumbs. My Wild Mushroom & Chicken with penne pasta and roasted garlic sauce was loaded with flavor, which shows what a really good chef can create with so few ingredients.

The special dessert of the day was Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting and vanilla ice cream. This was the birthday cake presented to David which was obviously too good for him to share (lol). The rest of us shared the Tiramasu – espresso, ladyfingers, rum, and mascarpone.

The Other Thing – This birthday lunch was the perfect example of a pleasant atmosphere, good food, great company and accommodating waitstaff. Long live Spaghettini!

 

Mexican Rivals

There are two new Mexican restaurants in Costa Mesa, so I decided to try them both on the same day – appetizers and entrée at Descanso and dessert at Playa Mesa. Of course, one must compare the Margaritas.

Descanso claims to bring you the Street Side Taquero to discover authentic Mexican flavors from recipes presented in front of you at the taco Bar, at standard dining or on the Plancha (an open fire grill).

The menu is unique. Debbie and I started with the Costras de Hongos – Fresh Corn Tortillas, Wild Mushrooms, Tres Quesos, Salsa Fria and Epazote. Interesting combination of flavors and quite filling as an appetizer.

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The Taco menu AKA “a la plancha entradas” offered the Al Pastor for Debbie with Chile Toreado Salsa, Chamoy and Micro Cilantro. I opted for the Mahi Mahi with Chamoy, Mexislaw, Cacahuates Enchilados and Chile Morita Aioli. To understand what all those words mean, I guess you will have to experience it yourself.

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We were pretty full after all this, but we sacrificed ourselves for the chance at dessert at Playa Mesa. They have an interesting wine list and a huge tequila menu of “over 50 bottles of premium Agave spirits, including smoky mezcals”. Their flavors are from the coastal regions of Baja and the mainland Mexico.

Debbie was driving so she opted for water. I had to try Playa Mesa’s house margarita – for comparison of course. Both made with house tequila, similar taste. Playa Mesa’s was served with a fresh lime slice, an orange wedge at Descanso. After a few sips, we were served our shared dessert — Tres Leches – sponge cake, milk, cream, seasonal fruit (strawberries). It was good but a little disappointing. I have to say the Tres Leches I got from Costco was much better. After the sweet dessert taste in my mouth, the margarita didn’t taste quite the same.

Playa Mesa has a family friendly atmosphere and is a little more casual. Food menu at Descanso is much more appealing. We were at happy Hour at Playa Mesa. That menu and drink prices were very reasonable.

The Other Thing – There are so many Mexican restaurants in Costa Mesa, but they are all a little different. It depends on how traditional you like your food. I am all for tasting new flavors – raising the bar on what I think are quality ingredients cooked in a unique way, attractive plating, reasonable prices and great service.  Is that too much to ask for?

Olea, Newport Beach

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Lots of hype about this new restaurant so we had to give it a try. It’s not as large as I was expecting but the interior layout with the bar in the middle is cozy and inviting.

Jennifer and I shared the Friend Green Tomatoes with Fresh Burrata Alla Panna, crispy Serrano ham chicharrones and hazelnut romesco. The burrata was slightly melted over the tomatoes – such a delicious blend of flavors.

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Interesting and varied choice of entrees, any of which would have been delightful. Crispy Jidori Chicken Schnitzle with wild Mushrooms, sugar pumpkin spaetzle, baby rainbow carrots and maitake mushroom gravy for Jennifer. I opted for the Bourbon Braised Kurobuta Pork Short Rib, creamy fromage Blanc grits, winter vegetables, mustard BBQ jus. Lots of fancy words to describe two scrumptious dishes!

They certainly don’t serve “small plates” here. Generous portions left no room for dessert, but we had some anyway – compliments of the house. The Homemade Belgian Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Ice Cream was much too good to resist.

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The Other Thing – Young, goodlooking and attentive waitstaff always help to make the dining experience pleasant.

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