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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.

Old Town Seal Beach

The rain cooperated just enough to allow Julie and me to stroll down Main Street a bit, just for the chance of a leisurely visit to some of the stores. One of the pleasure of these few blocks is the variety of goods being offered – everything from vintage to the unique, a little something for every taste. This is a great place to shops for gifts.

We ate lunch at The Abbey – a fixture in Old Town for many years. Food is pretty basic but quite good. The soup of the day was Cream of Potato. It contained some chicken and veggies and was a real treat. My Black and Blue Salmon BLT was open face because it would be impossible to pick it up. The Salmon fillet could easily be served as a dinner entrée – it was that large. It was nicely seasoned and totally delicious. Anything that includes blue cheese is fine by me. Julie’s soup and sandwich combination included a turkey sandwich that looked like an entire pound of turkey  was between those pieces of sourdough. By the way, it was Wine Wednesday.  How could we let that go by unobserved.

On to Crema Artisan Bakery for some dessert. Just about the best brownie I ever tasted was followed by a fairly yummy Champagne Cake Ball. I haven’t tried the lemon ginger cookies yet. Julie’s blueberry muffin was “ok”. That is the kiss of death when referring to food. She bough some macaroons for her granddaughter. The jury is still out on them.

I noticed that Javatinis was still there. The gimmick is their cold coffee drinks served in martini glasses. Not much call for them in this weather but I had to try the espresso with vanilla and cream – oh boy!! That was more of a dessert that our goodies from the bakery. And they roast their own beans!

The Other Thing – One of the last of the local newspapers is still be printed on Main Street. I wonder how much longer the little guys will survive. It’s too bad!!

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Bluegold

My first blog of the new year was lunch with my foodie friend Debbie at Pacific City in Huntington Beach .There are so many places from which to choose. Bluegold is on the upper level with a great view of the ocean.

 

Debbie’s Cioppino looked good enough to eat, so she did – loving every bite. My, choice the Thursday special, was Pork Schnitzel. With two large cutlets on a bed of warm German potato salad with olive oil, it was almost perfection!  The little frisee salad on top was also quite good.

 

It doesn’t take much to talk us into dessert, so we shared the Key Lime Pie.  Jeff said, “I’m from Florida so I know about key limes. They fly these in “.

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The Other Thing – I took one cutlet in a doggie bag for later. When I looked in the bag, Jeff had written on the box, “Enjoy dinner” and added a little smiley face. How cool was that!!

 

“An Americano Supper”

My first Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School demonstration class today was presented by Joanna Chun, Culinary Studio Manager for Macy’s. Classes are held at Macy’s Home Store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.  Complimentary coffee, tea, and water were served during the class. We enjoyed generous servings of each dish – it was not just a tasting. Joanna’s Sous Chef  for this session was Susan Carter who will also be presenting cooking demonstrations in the coming weeks.

Chef Joanna Chun joins the Macy’s team with an impressive resume. Trained at the International Culinary Center in New York, she has worked in the kitchen at Jean-Georges and was pastry chef at Le Cirque. Her focus at Stonewall Kitchen is to offer unique cooking methods and fixes for cooking mistakes as well as detailed food preparation and presentation.

Today’s  4-course menu consisted of Mixed Greens with Orange Supreme, Hazelnuts and Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette – Roasted Eggplant Risotto with Capers and Basil – Honey Roasted Carrots – Coffee and Chili Rubbed Ribeye Steak – Malted Chocolate Espresso Cake.

Chef Chun showed us step by step preparation for each dish and encouraged questions. Detailed recipes were given to the attendees as well as suggestions on where certain ingredients could be purchased locally.

It was a delightful hour and a half, and I came away with a full and contented tummy!     I look forward to more of these demonstrations.

A few kinks need to be work out, but this promises to be a popular and useful attraction at Macy’s. It will surely draw new customers. The Stonewall Kitchen Café is open daily from 11am-3pm. I ate there on opening day. The food is good and the Wild Maine Blueberry Lemonade is a delight!!

The Other Thing:  Tip of the Day – “Black Dust” spice mix from Savory Spice Shop in OC Mart Mix at SoCo Collection as a pre-mixed dry rub for the steak.

 

Crescent City Christmas – Part 4

We returned to Tartine for our last breakfast. Kaitlynn had her favorite tartine with butter, brie and fig jam on a fresh baked baguette. I had the house smoked turkey  sandwich with gruyere, avocado and roasted garlic aioli on multi-grain brioche. Soup of the day was creamy sweet potato.

It is amazing what  delicious food 4 people working in that tiny kitchen can produce.

Our new very favorite restaurant which is across the street and down a block from Kaitlynn’s apartment is a wonder. Every single item on the menu at Chais Delachaise sounds incredible!!

Kaitlynn just got paid, so dinner was her treat. We began with a charcuterie tray with gouda and sharp  cheddar, then the Oysters and Brie for me with Applewood smoked bacon on a bed of sautéed spinach. For Kaitlynn, North African Meatballs Moroccan spice, saffron tomato sauce over Israeli couscous. It was all so very, very good, but the potato, leek and fennel soup was to die for.

The Other Thing –  Lemon Chicken at Maple Street Café,  yummy grits at Waffles on Maple,  beverages at Boulangerie on Magazine Street and the daily fresh baked sourdough at the Maple Street Patisserie – all making my latest visit to New Orleans another culinary delight.

 

 

 

Crescent City Christmas – Part 3

You can’t spend any time in New Orleans without eating your way through town. Blogging about food is my favorite pastime, so here is the latest dining experiences.

Emeril’s NOLA in the French Quarter has been renovated since my last visit there (just 2 months before Katrina). An inside elevator leads to 2nd and 3rd floor dining rooms. Because of the neon lights in the ceiling, my food photos do not look at all appealing. The food was quite good, so a little description will have to suffice.
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We ordered shared plates. Cheddar Cheese Popovers as an appetizer with my glass of prosecco and Kaitlynn’s  Shirley Temple made with blackberry nectar. Then turtle soup. I have never really known if there is actually turtle in it, but it was creamy and tasty. Next was fried oysters with fennel, ravigote, pecorino romano on a bed of arugula with a yummy vinaigrette based dressing. Dessert was  Sweet Potato Cake Donuts with blood orange curd and café brulee sauce and Dulce de Leche Crème Brulee in a chocolate shell, Mexican chocolate shortbread and sea salt.

Then a little walk through the French Quarter and Fulton Alley……

 

 

 

 

Crescent City Christmas – Part 2

The annual neon light display in City Park is called “Celebration in the Oaks”. It is quite exciting if you are a child, but I guess as we grow older we are much more difficult to impress. It was nice but we were expecting something more spectacular. We can at least say we had the experience.

City Park was so crowded that getting in and out by car was frustrating. When we were ready to leave it took 2 calls to get an Uber. The first driver gave up and went back to his home base. The line was so long to get in that it was much easier to walk to our driver  than to wait for the driver to get to us.

 

Crescent City Christmas – Part 1

I have been to New Orleans many times but never in the winter. How heavenly to bundle up in scarves and gloves and experience some cold weather at Christmas time. When I arrived, I put on my Rudolph glasses and walked into Starbucks where my granddaughter Kaitlynn works. I asked if they served reindeer. Everyone laughed, and my slightly embarrassed granddaughter said, “That’s my grandmother”.

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I arrived for 11 days of holiday fun with Kaitlynn before heading back home together for Christmas.

We saw the New Orleans Ballet Company’s version of The Nutcracker at the Orpheum Theater. It was a lighter and more humorous version, closer to the original story. The Orpheum was built in 1921, beautiful architecture including the narrow aisles and steep tiered seats. Getting to our seats was quite an adventure.

Roosevelt Hotel across the street with a beautifully decorated lobby. Took a few pics and then beat out of there. Never saw so many people in a hotel lobby in my entire life!

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Part 2 –  In City Park for  “Celebrations in the Oaks”.

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