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This, That, and The Other Thing

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It’s Been 60 Years?!

 

This blog is about my class reunion in July. If you didn’t go to Culver City High School or have never been to a reunion, you might want to stop reading now. I’m writing this for my own amusement so you might be bored to death. I’m in the middle of the fourth row – you know, the gorgeous girl with the necklace!

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I and my two high school besties, Jane and Sandra (They will always be Janie and Sandy to me) got rooms at the Ramada on Sepulveda in Culver City for the weekend. This city has changed a lot since 1959. The new Downtown on Culver Boulevard is quite the happening place. The old Culver Hotel is still there. MGM Studios is now Sony, and the cool Culver Theater art deco sign is still there above what is now the Kirk Douglas Playhouse.

So this is where we headed for Friday night dinner. We opted for The Wallace because there was no wait. That seemed like a bad sign on a weekend, but boy were we wrong! The food here was delicious and we had a yummy Italian waiter. Menu was shared plates, so we had Chicken Liver Mousse with balsamic onions and give spice – Asparagus with togarashi vinaigrette, Thai herbs, red onion, cashews, lemon – Walnut Salad with arugula, frisee, sliced apples, dried currants, blue cheese, honey dijon vinaigrette – Seared Scallops with labneh, chermoula, cranberry beans, lemon – sliced Duck Breast with watermelon tequila slaw, shishito blackberry vinaigrette.

With all these dishes so tasty, we had to have dessert. The Oreo Brownie Skillet and the Berry-Cardoman Crumb Pie with 3 spoons were perfect.

Reunion Picnic on Saturday was at Carlson Park at Barman and Motor. We didn’t want to lug food around so we ate a big breakfast at Cafe Laurent across the street from the municipal plunge where I spent the warm days of summer. It used to be called Dennison’s, a hamburger joint where I tasted my first Coca-Cola. It’s French food now and pretty good. Pain Perdu for Jane, Crepes for Sandy and Robby’s Chicken Hash for moi. Too busy eating for photos, but I did get one of my dish.

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Who were all the old people at the picnic? That couldn’t be my class, but alas it was. Many I didn’t recognize, some I did. It was fun catching up on the past 60 years!

Wanted to veg Saturday night. Johnnie’s Pastrami was still there on Sepulveda and only a block from our hotel. So it was a picnic in our room with a little wine to wash it all down.

Sunday buffet brunch was at The Warehouse in Marina Del Rey. There were only about 20 of us there which allowed for more intimate and interesting conversations. It was decided that if we waited another 10 years there might not be many left to celebrate. What a dreary thought!!!

The Other Thing – We did take some time to drive through our old neighborhood. My house on Farragut Drive looks very nice.

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Filomena’s Italian Kitchen

 

 

A short walk from my house is an Italian restaurant that has recently experienced a complete makeover from the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible”. I had eaten there several times in its previous incarnations and was curious to see the new improved version. So my brother and I and our friends Bob and Johanna dined there for my Birthday Celebration #4. The interior had been completed refigured, new furnishings and fixtures, and the ugly bar was gone. The ambiance was light and airy. The family photos and memorabilia remained and were a perfect blend of old and new.

The menu choices were many and varied – if it was not on the menu, it must not be Italian!! My choice was the special Seafood Risotto – David opted for the Meat Pizza – Mushroom Linguine for Bob – and Caprese Angel Hair Pasta for Johanna. our food was delicious beyond words!

 

Everything about our dining experience was delightful. The server was friendly and accommodating, and she gave us the impression that she was actually happy to wait on us. The changes at Filomena’s present a very welcoming atmosphere. They are located in a small strip mall at Newport Boulevard and Vanguard in Costa Mesa. I know their reputation for great food is growing so I don’t know how long they will remain a neighbor. But while they are here, we will walk over often.

A nice addition is their deli. You can eat there in a more casual atmosphere, drop by to stock up on some deli items, or order to go off their menu.

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The Other Thing – My only complaint was that since we licked our plates, we had no room for dessert! Next time.

Pelican Hill

Birthday brunch at Pelican Grill. What a treat! In all the time I have lived in Orange County I have never been to Pelican Hill Country Club. It was a beautiful sunny day with a great view of the ocean.

The brunch was delicious, the service impeccable, and we were entertained by a very talented guitarist singing tunes from the eighties! After a Bloody Mary toast, we all ordered the specials of the day — breakfast for Jeffrey and Mickey of flatiron steak and eggs with side salads of mixed greens, roasted tomatoes and grilled artichokes. I opted for the luncheon version of a filet with mushroom mashed potatoes and the side salad.

The waiter surprised me with a lovely birthday dessert complete with candle. It was chocolate with layers of chocolate ganache. It was just the right size for me not to have to share!!

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The grounds are very beautiful – lots of trees and carefully manicured lawns. The “rich and famous” playing golf or cocktailing on the patio overlooking the driving range on one side and the ocean on the other.

The Other Thing  – I didn’t see the dinner menu but the brunch and lunch menu items were very reasonably priced. We all agreed that this was a place to which we would return.

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.

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