This, That, and The Other Thing

The Hall Global Eatery


Located in the former Z-Tejas space in South Coast Plaza, The Hall Global Eatery comes from the imagination of Amar Santana whose restaurants, Vaca in South    Coast Metro and Broadway in Laguna Beach, are proven winners in culinary circles.

At SCP to check out the Year of the Rat Lunar New Year decor, I decided it would also be the perfect time to check out Amar’s new venture. Its on my 2020 blog list.

Nearly 8000 square feet, The Hall features food from around the world.  There is a charcuterie and raw bar offering cocktails, Mediterranean food station, café area with baked goods, sandwiches, salads, coffee bar, fresh juices, and retail section with packaged  goodies. It looked like there was something for all tastes.

There is also a very attractive patio.


I opted for a Cuban sandwich with a very tasty bottle apple juice from France.


The Other Thing – I will come back again with one of my foodie friends. The raw bar looks very inviting – maybe some oysters, charcuterie tray and a glass of wine.

Burger Boss




This is the latest entry in the mega-burger genre. The original in this category is The Counter.  It has table service which most of it successors do not.  According to the young man who took my order, Burger Lounge is probably their direct competition. At both, you order at the counter and your burger is delivered to your table.  I love Burger Lounge but I think Burger Boss has it beat with the quality of their beef. Now days it is all about grass-fed and hormone and antibiotic free. All good – but at Burger Boss the meat was a little more flavorful. To judge all the burgers on a level playing field, I order the same condiments each time — mayo, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and blue cheese.


Cooked just right, this burger was delicious. But the kicker here is the French fries. They were well beyond the norm. Fried in sunflower oil and with some skin left on them, they were very crispy and the best I have tasted in quite some time.

There are tons of options on your beef, turkey, chicken, black bean burger served on you choice of bun, choice of  7 cheeses. and every condiment you can imagine. The place is clean and neat and the counter help efficient and enthusiastic.

The Other Thing – There is a pet friendly patio, but if you eat outside you have to contend with traffic noise. Located at Orange and PCH in Newport Beach, this is a little disconcerting — the only thing that keeps Burger Boss from a plus plus rating from me.

Mangia Bene!


I haven’t checked out South Orange County for a while, so scheduling lunch with a friend who now works in Laguna Niguel, was a perfect opportunity. Mangia Bene! Cucina is located in Plaza de La Paz. I lived in this area from 1987-1991. I hardly recognize it now.

This Italian restaurant has a very comprehensive menu with every dish described in detail. The entrees are numbered, so it makes ordering easy. #56 for me, which translates to “Risotto Toscana” – Arborio rice with shrimp, chopped clams, scallops, mushrooms, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Tammy’s #11 is “Cesare”- tossed greens with Caesar dressing, croutons and parmesan cheese, with a little grilled chicken added. No skimping on ingredients, large portions, served on brightly designed plates. Of course, everything was delicious. This included a plate of toasted cheese points served with our beverages.

The Other Thing – For the first time in the history of my blogging (I think), there was no dessert after our lunch. I would like to think that avoiding sweets is my New Year’s resolution. That would be no fun for you readers. I am only thinking of you!

Playa Amor


I made a list of 12 restaurants I want to blog about in 2020. It is a diverse and challenging list, to which I say, more power to me!! I will try them in random order depending on who will be my dining partner. Since Julie lives in Long Beach, yesterday we ate lunch at Playa Amor. Located in the Long Beach Marketplace which has experienced frequent turnover, speaks well for this upscale Mexican restaurant which has been in operation there for four years.

Margaritas are the first test. Made with well tequila, their special mix blend makes them special. They were very tasty. A young lady at the entry is frying fresh tortillas that are served whole with salsa – very crispy and crunchy!


Happy Hour begins at 11:30 so we had the taco extravaganza — Pastor Chicken Taco, Carnitas Taco, and Short Rib Taco. The surprisingly flavorable Potato Taquito  was made with avocado salsa, queso, spinach, mushroom, cilantro and radish. The tacos with the ordinary fillings were made especially tasty with the fillings. A simple Mexican Restaurant with an upscale menu is very return-trip worthy.

We were too full for dessert but that was beside the point. My blogs must include dessert. The churros with a salted caramel dipping sauce was a lovely finish for our lunch.


The Other Thing –  Good service, friendly wait staff. A large patio looks very  inviting  for when the  weather is warmer.

Burro Genius

I am a reader, and I usually have a couple of books at a time on my bedside table. I love crime/mystery/horror fan – and yes, I have read every one of Stephen King’s novels. I also read best sellers, books recommended by friends and whatever else sparks my interest. I just finished reading Victor Villasenor’s memoir, “Burro Genius”. I was so touched that I am compelled to blog about it.


This book was gut-wrenching. Written with unabridged honesty and emotional intensity, it is the personal life story a little Mexican kid raised on a ranch in Carlsbad, California in the 40s and 50s. His unique message is relayed through his childhood experiences — the schools, the barrio, spiritual teachings of his grandmother, the beliefs and work ethic of his parents.

Victor was a gifted and imaginative child who coped with a learning disability that went undiagnosed until he was 44 years old. He survived beatings by his teachers, punished for speaking Spanish in class, ostracized by his classmates, and called a “dirty, lying Mexican”. In his memoir, he passes on the knowledge for “creating a brave new self with honor and respect”.

Victor had always wanted to be a writer. He had tons of manuscripts that were never published. Burro Genius took him 22 years to write. His book dedication explains his message better than I ever could.

“This book is dedicated to Ramon and the guys from Posole Town, Oceanside, and to all boys and girls of the whole world who went to school with laughter in their eyes, warmth in their hearts, kindness in this souls, and then were systematically “broken” of their spirit – their genius, but here and there, some were able to refind that spirit because of an angel-teacher who helped give them back their wings. To these brave souls, both students and teachers, I dedicate this book.”

An interesting title “Burro Genius”. Read the book to find out what it means to the author. Read the book to find out what perseverance really means, how frustration turns to determination, overcoming seemingly impossible odds leads to victory and pride.

In October 2019, Victor Villasenor spoke at my local library and signed copies of “Burro Genius”. I was away on vacation, so I missed his presentation. I so wished I had been there, but I thank my dear friend Charlene for giving me this autographed copy for Christmas. This is a story I will not soon forget.

Villansenor has now published 7 books and a screenplay. He was recently selected as the founding chair of the John Steinbeck Foundation. He is considered one of the premier writers of our time. He still resides in Oceanside.

Discovering Valencia

Spent the day of January 3rd at my son’s new townhouse, then exploring his neighborhood, checking out the local restaurants and shopping centers. The weather was warm and sunny. He talked about al the improvements he plans to make and all the new fur;nature he wants to buy. Welcome to home ownership my son!! Here is the photo collage of our day —-


Oh Those French Pastries

Since I returned from France in October, I have been thinking about those French pastries – but especially those buttery, flakey croissants.

Moulin had opened their shop in the SoCol Collection about a week before I discovered it. This place so surprised me that the only picture I took was the eclair I had when I took my granddaughter there. She is currently in pastry school and was very impressed. A place like this is where she would like to intern. There is a large window in Moulin that shows the kitchen where these luscious creations are assembled.


The little round red candy contains the Moulin windmill logo. It kind of reminds me of the Moulin Rouge in the Montmartre area of Paris. The croissants, in my mind, are their specialty. Eating one of these, with my eyes closed, takes me right back to those little bistros near the Seine. Moulin’s hot chocolate is very good – but no one has come close to Angelina’s.

La Petite Sourie at MacArthur and Fairview in a small shopping center.img_20200102_125819

Had lunch here. The sandwiches were good. It seems to be a popular place. Their pastry cases were full of yummy looking treats. There were lots of macarons.             The croissants were not appealing.

I am compiling a list of French Bakeries in Orange  County. According to the internet there are quite a few – but are they the real thing? I’m no expert, but I have my own rating method. Stay tuned……..

Pacific Patisserie                                                                                                                             Moulin (4 shops, the one In Newport Beach has a restaurant)                                             Au Coeur De Paris                                                                                                                       La Petite Sourie (There is a certain strawberry tart that I will try next time)                  Little France Coffee & Bakery                                                                                                Pescadou Bistro                                                                                                                               C’est La Vie                                                                                                                                       La Paris Creperie                                                                                                                             Champagne French Bakery Cafe

This will take a while!!

Café Gazelle



An uassuming store front on a residential street in Belmont Shore, Café Gazelle is a treasure. It’s a tiny place with a kitchen so small you can’t imagine anything of consequence being prepared there. You would be so very wrong! Their menu is filled with Italian delights. I think if I had closed my eyes and pointed, it would have been delicious.

Our lunch began with the traditional Caesar Salad, but it was not so traditional to me. It had the yummiest Caesar dressing I have ever tasted. I could have drunk it, it was so good!!


Julie and I hadn’t seen each other in a while so we had some catching up to do. That always calls for some wine. That was the easy choice – choosing an entre not so easy. Julie ordered Eggplant Parmesan. It was Linguine with Artichoke for me. There was lots of garlic, but that was OK with me. It was a just right blend of flavors and the artichoke heart was very tender. Julie’s Eggplant was cooked perfectly and not overpowered by the sauce.

Our shared dessert was Limoncello Cake which we thought should be accompanied by a glass of Limoncello. That was not to be – only beer and wine served here. We did learn to our delight that there is another Café Gazelle in Huntington Beach – and they have a full bar!


River Cruise – Day 7

MONDAY, OCTOBER 21 – DAY 7           LYON

This is the final day of our cruise. It has been a whirlwind of activity – tours, tastings, food and more food. After a bus tour of Beaujolais wine country, we stopped for a tasting at Chateau Ravatys. The tasting itself was nothing outstanding but the tour of the facility was the big draw. We were led down into a stone cavern with narrow passageways – kind of the way wineries used to be before all the modernizing.

After lunch was the optional tour for the Taste of Lyon. I had high hopes for this one as Lyon is purportd to be the food capita of France. Kathy and I were both disappoint as it was nothing special. It was a walking tour through town with stop at 4 shops. The first stop was Café Comptoir where we sampled 3 types of salami accompanied by a local red wine. Second stop was for cheese at Bistro Martine that had an interesting history. It seems that French philosopher, author and journalist Albert Camus enjoyed his wedding feast there on December 3, 1960. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at 44 in 1957 – the second youngest in history to do so. Third stop was at Les Delices de Charlie where we had a taste of a fruited bread similar to Panettone. The chocolate shop was Voisin, a chocolatier since 1897. We sampled chocolate truffles covered in a blue gum. I bought a pound of French style coffee (with a hint of chocolate) for a friend’s birthday.

I expected to sample some actual French cuisine. I guess for that to happen, the cost for this tour would have been a lot more money. I looked up these places to discover that they serve amazing food. We did not get any of that!

Captain’s Cocktail Party tonight with champagne and appetizers. We sat for our final dinner with our favorite couples we had met on this cruise (Dominic and Marcie from St. Louis and Dick and Jane from Ontario, Canada).

Salade Lyonaise – frisee salad, bacon, croutons, poached egg, walnut vinaigrette               Roasted Chicken – herb mashed potatoes                                       Poire a la Beaujolaise – pear in red wine sauce, vanilla ice cream

There was a port talk and final farewell – instructions were given for luggage handling and bus assignments for trip back to Marseilles airport.

Photos, hugs and farewell promises for Facebook friending, etc. Our room steward Petar deserved an extra tip for his special service this past week. Victoria, the head of housekeeping so thoughtfully made copies for me of the week’s menu for my blog. Extra tip to her for sure!






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