Wednesday, June 30, 2010

No. 167: Eats & Drinks During LA/OC Urban Hike

Chickens and ducks
Chickens and ducks outside Knott's Berry Farms Soak City park

If third time's the charm, the fourth go-around should be full of good luck, right? That's certainly what I was hoping for on my Beach Blvd. Urban Hike, my longest one to date and one that actually includes both LA & OC. While the hike itself is a bit lackluster, there were definitely some interesting eats and drinks to be had along the way (thanks to a little homework and recommendations from fellow bloggers & friends.)

Omelette & Toast
To start, I stopped by SoCal mini-chain Millie's in La Mirada for a pretty healthy breakfast - eggbeater scramble with mushrooms, spinach and fat-free cheddar, served with salsa, unbuttered wheat toast and some fruit slices. Yes, this was an item off their health-conscious menu, and it works for me since I didn't want to start off heavy and sluggish from a hearty breakfast when I got another 20 miles to go.

In hindsight, I probably should've asked them to give me the real full-fat cheddar instead of the fat-free version that reminded me of Kraft "American" cheese -- but overall the breakfast was not bad and certainly not guilt-inducing. I did have mixed emotions about not ordering a slice of their much-touted deep dish strawberry pie, but I reasoned with myself that I can always get a Donut Man strawberry donut if I still have such glazed berry & sugary carb craving at the end of the hike.

Som Tam
I had my sights set on Park Ave. for a heartier mid-hike bite, but found out they're dinner-only for weekends, so I hauled myself to the other notable Stanton eatery, Thai Nakorn. I was initially excited to check out this much raved place, but got dismayed when I saw how little vegetarian options there are . . . I finally settled upon Som Tam (a.k.a. spicy green papaya salad) which really hit the spot for a summer lunch, cool and refreshing yet with a pleasant chili kick that's well rounded with a citrusy tang, plus some salty-sweetness from the sauce.

There was also a slight fermented taste to it and I can't tell it was from the fish sauce (which of course, would render the dish non-veggie) but the server assured me the dish was vegetarian so I decided to turn a blind eye rather than be annoyingly scrupulous. But definitely a place I look forward to returning to when and if I go back to eating meat (and in another hindsight moment, I wish I checked out the more veggie-friendly and friend-recommended Mad Greek Restaurant instead.)

Franziskaner Hefe Weisse & World Cup Chart
Moving onwards, time for to quench my thirst -- with a good hearty glass of beer! When mapping my route, I remembered there's a German-themed Old World Village next to the Bella Terra complex in Huntington Beach so that's where I decided to pitstop while waiting for Caroline on Crack (my urbanhiking - and drinking - partner in crime last month) to join up with me for the remainder of the route. To start, I got the light, quaffable, lightly spicy and fruity Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. A summer perfect brew while we played a little shuffleboard.
When Caroline joined me, we studied the drinks menu and almost immediately became intrigued with their German Schnapps . . . so we both decided to order a shot. I ordered the bramble one, expecting it to taste like raspberries or blackberries (i.e. fruits of the bramble plants) but it tasted more like wintergreen-peppermint, or "Christmasy" as Caroline puts it. I thought they'd given me the peppermint schnapps by mistake but was reassured by the bartender that's how bramble supposed to taste like. Oh well, I thought, as I finished the rest of it (and thinking how this cooling-yet-fiery drink may have actually gone well with that papaya salad.) Caroline got an apple schnapps which tasted like uber-sweet, liquored up apple juice. Wrapping things up, I got a light, fragrant white wine and played a little shuffleboard with Caroline before taking leave . . .
Pecan and Strudel
. . . only to be stopped by a bakery that was selling apple strudels and freshly made candied pecans! Not knowing any better, Caroline and I said "We'll take one strudel!" only to have the lady present us with a pastry the size of two baguettes! So we opted instead a strudel SLICE (still substantial size for two to share) and it was divine and unlike any apple strudels I've had before... impeccably light because of the phyllo pastry and an wonderfully complex apple filling that's crisp, aromatic and not-too-sweet, which the baker explained were from six varieties of apple and just a touch of sugar and spices. The still-warm candied pecans were great too, and towards the end we tossed the two together to make a sort-of-baklava. Yum!
Veggie Quesadilla
As we neared the beach, we stopped for one final snack break at Mother's Market & Kitchen, another mini-chain market whose in-store cafés have deemed one of the best vegetarian places by the OC Register. Caroline got a freshly-made pineapple/coconut & mango smoothie, and I opted for their grilled vegetables whole-wheat quesadilla, hot and gooey with globs of REAL cheddar cheese binding the grilled eggplants, chiles, bell peppers and zucchinis - served with generous sides of fresh guacamole, sour cream, salsa, scallions and black olives. Both Caroline and I groaned with glee as we noshed down this "healthy, but not really" treat at a bus stop.
Main Entrance
After we hit the coastline and did a victory jump at the beach, we quickly hauled butts to our most anticipated location - Don the Beachcomber's, a revival of the famous Tiki bar & restaurant that's been forever feuding with Trader Vic's on inventing the Mai Tai.
3 Dots and a Dash
Regardless of who made it first, I think of the two I liked Trader Vic's (which I happened to have drank the day before) more, which was smoother with a pleasant balance of fruit and orgeat. I got the Three Dots and a Dash, a little more sophisticated and herbacious, but again -- it made me wish for the better made version at Cana Rum Bar. And Caroline and I both wished the menu had a little bit of description of what each of the tiki drinks contained so we don't have to bug our waitress or do a quick search on our phones.
"The Noodles"
As for the food, I didn't expect anything spectacular and sure enough, it wasn't. I got the simply named "The Noodles" which turned out to be vegetable chow mein with udon ~ it tasted pretty standard (greasy and soy saucey) and was good enough for soaking up alchy and filling my stomach, but nothing that I'd order again. Caroline had better luck with the Kalua Pork dinner plate, at least until her teeth encountered some unappealing gristle.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Comparatively better was their Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Rhum-Caramel Sauce and cone of garlic fries, but better versions of those can be had (and for cheaper) elsewhere too. It was still pleasant checking out the space (and I had a $50 Groupon to use anyways) and I might return for some of their other famous tiki drinks (Zombie or Rum Barrel, anyone?) if I'm in the area.

As always, the best part of the hike is discovering all the eateries that I probably would've missed if I was driving by, and just when I thought my to-try list couldn't get any longer . . . on goes the like of ParkAve, Mad Greek, Tampopo Ramen and all the Korean joints that dotted the Buena Park stretch of Huntington Park. Now let's see if I can shave off that to-eats list before or during my urban hike next month (July 25, this time along length of Colorado St./Blvd. from Glendale to Arcadia!)

More photos on flickr set here

Millie's Restaurant & Bakery
14840 Beach Boulevard
La Mirada, CA
(714) 994-4430

Thai Nakorn
11951 Beach Boulevard
Stanton, CA‎
(714) 799-2031‎

Old World Village
7561 Center Avenue,
Huntington Beach, CA

Mother's Market & Kitchen
19770 Beach Boulevard
Huntington Beach, CA 92648-5927
(714) 963-6667

Don the Beachcomber
16278 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA
(562) 592-1321

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No. 166: Vegan Ramen at The Shojin (Little Tokyo)

Since entering my vegetarian phase, I thought for sure ramen was one of those things I'm just gonna have to give up -- between the slices of chashu and, more importantly, the meat-infused broth, there's no way I can get away trying to order a meatfree version at any noodle shop in town (at least not without the chef cursing me out in Japanese and hurling some hot and sharp kitchen apparatus in my direction.)

So you can only imagine my glee when I found out that Little Tokyo's Japanese macrobiotic oasis Shojin offers a vegan ramen! Even though I was mildly disappointed that they rotated out their tomato-avocado soba (one of my other faves there,) the prospect of being reunited with a hearty, slurpable bowl of ramen definitely got my salivary glands working overtime.

Vegan Ramen @ Shojin
They offered several varieties, and I opted for the curious-sounding spicy sesame ramen, with a broth made with soy milk, miso and tahini and topped with red chili oil, braised seitan (in lieu of chashu), assorted vegetables (bamboo, mushrooms and scallions) and nori. And of course, egg-free noodles.

How did it taste? Pretty darn good! Most importantly, the vegan broth captured the comforting essences of its meat-based brethren and was rich and flavorful, thanks to the combo of the soy milk for the full body, the tahini for the oily nuttiness and the miso for the undeniably craveworthy umami. And it passed my test for a good ramen soup base (i.e. me slurping away long after all the noodles and toppings are long gone!)
Vegan Ramen @ Shojin
The toppings were likewise top-notch, fresh scallions that I can never get enough of, meaty mushrooms and tender bamboo shoots, and well-prepared slices of seitan (I personally like seitan, though I know some are frightened by how much they resembled meat, and others don't care for their almost-but-not-quite meat texture -- at Shojin the closest approximation I can provide is a milder-flavored, thicker-sliced Oscar Mayer bologna.) As for the spice factor, the chili oil made it the equivalent of an Orochon #2 or 3 (which is about my Scoville tolerance anyways) -- though Shojin does also offer a Hot & Spicy Ramen that promises to be "very spicy" . . .

Now, would it fool me for a meaty ramen? Definitely not, but it was enjoyable on its own terms . . . and it's a great middle-ground dish for a mixed herbivore-omnivore crowd, with the former checking out a great animal-free spin of a classic Japanese dish, and the latter being able enjoy a very satisfying entreé that'll disarm their notion of vegetarianism/veganism as just eating rabbit food.

The Shojin
333 South Alameda Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013-1735
(213) 617-0305

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

No. 165: Petrossian (West Hollywood)

Having been on my to-try for a while, I finally bit the bullet and headed to Petrossian after seeing many, many consistently positive reviews of the place (and because of the 30 percent off BlackboardEats coupon.) Even though the limelight's on their assorted caviar dishes, I heard they do an equally stellar job with their other Cali-French offerings too -- so I was definitely excited to check it out!

Joining me on this excursion was ConBon of Hey Hey Scenesters and self-proclaimed Jewtina Carina Ost (formerly of Uncouth Gourmands, but now with her own Mission:Fruition blog and moving to San Francisco!) Due to parking difficulties, my two dining compadres arrived 30 minutes late for our 11 a.m. brunch (we originally had a fourth too, but he bowed out entirely by text @ 11:15) but the server was most accomodating during my half-hour wait, even offering to refrigerate the slice of Sweet Lady Jane cake I got for Carina's going away.

After a quick scan through the menu (though I had plenty of time to peruse it,) we made our order. ConBon opted for the $69 caviar brunch, while Carina and I a la carted. Unfortunately, one of Carina's orders -- the caviar surprise -- fell through because Chef Benjamin Bailly isn't in yet, so she wound up swapping it for the steak frites upon the manager's recommendation.
Wild Mushroom Cappuccino
To start, I got their Wild Mushroom Cappuccino ($10), which was quite a textural surprise with a frothy lightness I wouldn't expect from a soup, even a pureéd one. Equally unexpected was the flavor, which was pretty rich and deep with mushroom's woodsy-meatiness despite the airy feel.
Caviar-Egg Salad Sandwich
Meanwhile, ConBon was having trouble with her 1925 caviar-egg salad sandwich, which was quickly becoming a "too much of a good thing" dish (especially so for a first course.) The four triple-decked half-sandwiches was brimming with egg salad, creme fraiche and caviar. She thought it was delicious at first, but it soon became overkill -- and she gave Carina a half-sandwich.
Belgian Endive Salad
For part of my main, I got a Belgian Endive Salad w Fuji apples, cheddar cheese, candied pecans and a mignonette dressing ($14). Flavorwise this was spot-on, the slight bitterness of the endives were delectably balanced with the pecan's sweetness, the salty cheese and the tart dressing! My only grievance would be the size of the leaves... since I have a pet peeve against salads I have to use a knife on (thus you'll NEVER see me ordering a wedge salad,) and the endives were just slightly too big -- resulting in me trying to rapidly chomp them down to size while it's still partially sticking out of my mouth. As beautiful as whole Belgian endive leaves are, in a salad I wouldn't mind if they got a quick chopping to make them bite-sized for humans.
Black Truffle Mac 'n Cheese
The salad wound up to be more than filling for me, so when my order of black truffle "mac 'n cheese" - sans the bacon - ($18) arrived, I was more than eager to share with ConBon and Carina. The bouncy, firm texture of the orrechiette was interesting initially and I definitely love the subtly noticeable aroma of the truffle pieces, but as the dish cooled it became significantly less appetizing, with the sauce congealing into a cheesy mealiness and the pasta becoming borderline gummy. Combined with our pretty full tummies, we left half the mac on the table and decided to spend our calories on other things. Though for the future, I make note that this "first course" is filling as an entree, and that I only have minutes to eat this while it's good and piping hot!
Conbon is full
Meanwhile, ConBon barely finished half her caviar & smoked salmon bagel (and that's after giving half a bagel's worth to Carina) and couldn't even doggy bag the leftovers since we have a full day out and about town. Sadness for her indeed . . . (likewise, Carina didn't finish her steak frites -- again, what's with the crazy portions?)
Panna Cotta
Thankfully, the brunch ended on a pleasant final note with ConBon's exotic panna cotta w passion fruit and pop rocks, which she was more than happy to share. Having experienced this dessert with Caroline on Crack, it was just as fun the second time around. The sweet, creamy custard against the bright and tangy fruit and the fizzy and exploding candy pieces, like a champagne of desserts!
Interior Shot 2
Despite the over-the-top portions and the occasional minor misses, brunch here was a delightful experience -- very conducive to relaxing and drawn-out conversations thanks to the attentive but not rushy service and the minimalistic black-and-white atmosphere with lots of softened sunlighting pouring through the windows and translucent curtains. It's definitely place worth re-visiting, though I'll definitely be more mindful about how much food to order (and that some dishes, such as the caviar sandwich and mac 'n cheese, are definitely meant for sharing only.) And hopefully Chef Bailly will be around next time too, since I heard he makes some pretty amazing impromptu tasting menus . . . and oh yeah, when I resume omnivorism.

Full flickr set here

Petrossian West Hollywood Boutique
321 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048-2415
(310) 271-6300
Twitter for Petrossian
Twitter for Ben Bailly
Petrossian Boutique and Cafe in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

No. 164: Sips, Snacks and Shots at Hatfield's (Mid-City)

Having a little time to kill in Mid-City around 5 p.m. but not wanting to spoil my dinner appetite, I decided to check out Hatfield's for a drink and a light bite . . . remembering that Mattatouille had recently tweeted that its bar is a surprisingly pleasant space to sit, sip and snack (of course, he also finds it a great place for a full-meal too!)

Arriving right when it opened at 5:30 p.m., I was easily at least a decade younger than the other early bird diners that came in at the time, not to mention the only one sitting at the bar instead of the dining area. The bartenders were still busy doing prep work, but was pretty friendly in making cocktail and food recommendations.

Ginger Grant cocktail
After soaking up their three menus (one for drinks, one for bar food and one for their regular dinner service,) I opted to start off with a Ginger Grant ($11), a seasonal specialty with Alma reposado tequila, lime & grapefruit juices, housemade fresh ginger syrup and a float of Bundaberg ginger beer in a salted rim glass. It was a pretty light and mellow drink, being only mildly fizzy, spicy, sweet and tart (reminds me of a margarita with a spritz of ginger ale to lighten and spice things up) -- not a bad beverage to sip on for a warm-weather late afternoon/early evening.
Popcorn + Ginger Grant
I'm more impressed by their complimentary bar snack -- fresh popcorn tossed with garlic-shallot oil and rosemary sprigs. So decadently aromatic with the herbs and just buttery enough on the palate -- despite what I said about not wanting to ruin my appetite, I easily chowed down on a whole bowl's worth (and had to muster some willpower to avoid finishing a 2nd bowl when the bartender refilled it!)
Fennel Soup SHots
Off their bar snacks menu, I was intrigued by their Soup (of the day) Shots for $5, which turned out to be Fennel - which was a nicely portion serving (the two shots combined was equivalent of a cup of soup at most restaurants.) The flavor was pretty straightforward and clean, the occasionally anise-y spiciness balanced by a root vegetably body & texture. It's squarely solid soup, though personally I would have preferred a little more pizazz (even if it's purely for show -- an herb sprig or a dollop of cream would've given it a nice visual appeal.)
Manhattan + Soup Shot
Alas, my brief bar time ended on a bummer note when I ordered their Manhattan ($15 made w Michter's Rye). First, my specification of Michter's Rye got misinterpreted as "Maker's [and] Dry [vermouth]" so I corrected the bartender midway through making the drink after I saw him pouring from that bottle of bourbon. Then I got distracted, so didn't notice that the Manhattan was shaken until it's been presented to me with its telltale microbubbles and ice shards. Ah well, while it was passable -- and I didn't feel like sending it back for a 2nd correction -- I kept thinking how much better it could've been, like the one at Bazaar's Bar Centro (which uses Michter's as their standard rye but is wonderfully stirred -- that magical spherified liquid cherry is just, well, the cherry on top.) However, I do give props for the trio of delightful Maraska cherries to nibble on, worlds above those bright-neon-red, overly sugary "Maraschinos."

Despite the less-than-stellar final impression, I'm intrigued enough by the rest of their menu to make a return trip, try a few more things and form a more definitive opinion. At the very least, there's always some delicious gussied up popcorn waiting for me . . . I just gotta keep a better eye on how the drinks are made.

6703 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, California 90038
(323) 935-2977

Hatfield's Restaurant in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Sunday, June 06, 2010

No. 163: The Restaurant at the Getty Center (Brentwood)

Getty Entry
It's been years since I've been to the Getty Center; shameful for a near-LA native, I know. But since my original Sunday plan of playing Accomplice got rescheduled, my friends and I decided to make the better of this sunny day and took a brisk, breezy roadtrip to the Westside to take in some culture and brunch in their artsy restaurant.
Like hotels and airports, I'm usually skeptical of museum restaurants... being the only game in town, there's really no incentive to prepare food beyond passable, right? And I'd say even more so with the Getty, where it takes at least a 15 minute tram ride, 10 minute parking lot navigation and another 10 minute drive down the 405 (in "good" traffic) to get to the next eatery. But after reading S. Irene's fairly positive review (along with others,) I decided to give their only restaurant a go for brunch... at the very least, I get to soak in some nice scenery -- and reinforce my notion to avoid airport/hotel/museum sitdown fare.
Pimm's Cup
Our original foursome for the trip shrank to a trio, so instead of splitting a bottle of sparkly as planned we each wound up getting our own cocktail. I got a Pimm's Cup ($11), a classic with Pimm's No. 1, muddled citrus and cucumber plus ginger ale. A well-balanced mix of fruity, vegetal, herbal and spicy notes, it's the perfect refresher for a hot day!
Ginger Citrus Cooler
Keeping with the cool and refreshing theme, my two friends W. and H. ordered the Citrus-Ginger Cooler ($10) made with vodka, citrus juices (including grapefuit, as one can tell from color,) ginger syrup and some fizz. It was more robust than the Pimm's Cup in flavor, size and alcohol content, but a bit more one-dimensional overall--blasting the palate with spicy ginger and sweet citrus, rather than the more complex, nuanced hints and notes of my cocktail. Still, a decent brunch-time quaffer (and that zippy ginger syrup at the bottom, which I tasted before it got stirred in, was amazing!).
After placing our orders, the chef sent out an amuse of kumamoto oyster-gazpacho shooters ~ which W. and H. loved while I contemplated falling off the vegetarian wagon. Alas, with some hesitation I passed mine to W. to finish.
Wild Mushroom Soup
We started our brunch by splitting an order of their wild mushroom soup with chive cream, puff pastry and microgreens ($9). We asked for 3 spoons when we placed the order, but it was sent it out in 3 coffee cups--how lovely of the kitchen to do that! And the soup itself was pretty good too, having a light body and a pronounced woodsy-earth mushroom flavor, with the chive cream adding just extra notch of richness. For me, the puff pastry was nice but extraneous, though I'm usually not one to break crackers or dip bread into my soup to begin with (grilled cheese and tomato soup being the key exception!)
For our brunch entrees, I got their risotto with English peas, wild mushrooms, cauliflower and Parmigiano Reggiano* ($16) topped with pea tendrils that turned out heavenly, a divine melange of toothsome rice, creamy-cheesy sauce, woodsy shrooms and sweet vegetables. And I was definitely deceived by its seemingly small size, as this primi portion was more than enough to fill me up.
Crabcake Benedict
W. got the server's recommendation: crab cake benedict with bacon, wilted spinach and Maltaise sauce on a toasted croissant w greens on the side ($20.) I only got a few forkfuls of her salad (fresh, crisp and nicely dressed with a sweet vinaigrette) but W. and H. splitted this hearty sandwich and loved the combination of flavors, from the above-average crab cake with hearty lumps of meat, to the thick-sliced bacon, flaky croissant and the tender spinach binded with the runny poached egg and the buttery sauce. And despite their collective complaints of the many pounds this will slap onto the scale, there wasn't a bite left at the end of the meal!
Panettone French Toast
H. got the apricot Panettone French toast with mixed berry compote, vanilla cream and Vermont maple syrup ($14): again, more filling than it looked--especially the three of us essentially split this as our brunch dessert. In contrast to the benedict, this French toast was surprisingly mild in a good way. It wasn't too heavy or greasy from the pan-frying, and the sauces had just a dab of sweetness; in fact, the sugar is almost a hindsight here, with the fragrant vanilla and juicy berry notes being pleasantly prominent. Again, there were more calorie-related groans, but hardly a crumb remained...
Getty in Afternoon
And as tempting as their dessert and post-meal drinks menu looked, we were beyond stuffed so we opted for more water and coffee. And after a satisfied sigh, we made our way onward to check out the rest of the Getty Center, from their vibrant, lush gardens and gorgeous permanent collection artwork to their special exhibits including Leonardo da Vinci's sculptural works and influences and an educational gallery of how a sculpture is cast in the foundry back in the days. Of course, we stopped by their food-related Tasteful Pictures exhibit, though the still life in that gallery paled in comparison to what we had just consumed.
Sculpture Casting
And I can't wait for the next set of installations to come on display here, if only give myself a reason to swing back to the Restaurant to try their next round of seasonally-rotating dishes!

The Restaurant At The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 440-6810
The Restaurant at the Getty Center in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Restaurant at Getty Center on Urbanspoon

Full flickr set of our meal and Getty trip here.

*P.S.: Yes, Parmigiano-Reggiano is technically not a vegetarian-friendly cheese (being made with animal rennet) but I'm not that strict a vegetarian and gave myself carte blanche with dairy products, though I try to avoid animal rennet cheeses where possible (and it looks like I'm not the only vegetarian to cut myself some slack in this department)

Friday, June 04, 2010

No. 162: Old Vine Cafe (Costa Mesa)

Wine Bottle Chandelier
After running a half-marathon in Laguna Hills, it's no big surprise that my stomach growled and roared like a king of the jungle. Since I haven't had many O.C. dining opportunities recently, it's good a time as any to check out what delectable goodies they've got on the vegetarian front.
At first, I planned to check out one of O.C. Register's favorite vegetarian eateries, but as usual, I had a quick change of heart and steered myself towards Old Vine Cafe, a comfy-casual, breezy indoor-outdoor restaurant in Costa Mesa's The Camp Site plaza. Having garnered mostly good reviews recently from numerous folks, it's been on my to-try list for some time. And being a Cal-Euro-Fusion bistro, I'm sure they'll have something tasty for (still) non-meat-eating me.
Pinot Noir
With an "Old Vine" in the name, it's hard to resist getting a glass of vino -- so I did. But instead of Zinfandel (the varietal most commonly associated with old vines) I opted for the Pinot Noir, which is easier to pair with lighter and veggie-based dishes. The one they have by glass is 2006 Frogmore Creek 42 Degree South ($12) from Tasmania. I was skeptical at first, since Australia is more well known for heavier reds of Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and, of course, Shiraz/Syrah -- but since Tasmania is an island to the South, the presumably cooler climate would make for a decent (and finicky) pinot noir--and it did. The wine was very straightforward, bursting with berry notes and a smidgen of black peppers and nutmeg, a light body, comparatively low acidity and a silky texture. Delightfully easy-to-drink and a great red for a lighter lunch.
Veggie & Quinoa "Jambalaya"
Foodwise, I was intrigued by their veggie & quinoa jambalaya ($10), since jambalaya tends to entail a lot of meats. Upon its arrival, I was a bit taken aback, since I was expecting a saucy-stewy dish instead of a composed tower of spiced grains. Nonetheless, I love the flavor profile... with the sufficiently-fiery Cajun spices melding nicely with the quinoa's nuttiness and the assorted vegetables' earthy and leafy flavors. It made for an interesting pairing with the pinot noir, with the spices of each building upon each other while accentuating a puckery-cherry zing in the wine.
Mixed Berry + Ricotta Crepe
The "jambalaya" left me feeling satisfied, but not quite full, so I seized the opportunity to getting a sweet dish as well. After a few minutes of mental deliberation (caramel apple brioche french toast? Spanish crema catalana with cinnamon and citrus?) I opted for their mixed berry crepes with sweet artisanal ricotta cheese mousse ($11), which turned out to be a great meal finish. The soft, pillow blankets of crepe are filled with a light as a cloud mousse that's ever-so-daintly sweetened, serving as a wonderful backdrop to the ripe, flavorful whole berries and pureéd sauce. And I absolutely love that there were oodles of berries instead of a few token, chopped up pieces here and there.

Overall, the lunch left me happily full, surprisingly guilt-free and wonderfully relaxed (esp. by the serene setting of the plaza, whose shops and eateries caters to more eco-conscious, outdoors-adventurous shoppers,) I'm once again glad for my spontaneous dining nature and already looking forward to another trip (planned or impulsive) back here... that quattro formaggio panini (four cheeses, mushrooms, arugula and a pomodoro dip) has been calling my name like a siren of the sea!

Old Vine Cafe
2937 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626-7993
(714) 545-1411

Old Vine Cafe in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


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