Saturday, December 13, 2008

A different kind of happy hour

As we stroll down "dessert row" (a.k.a. Irvine Spectrum's lineup of Kelly's Coffee & Fudge, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Funnel Factory, Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt, and the new Sweet Spot Baker's Workshop), he decides on some deep fried happiness. We enter the unsolicited space and scan the carny selections. He requests a fundae, which includes ice cream, hot fudge, and whip cream.

Do you recall those commercials involving a frying pan, an egg, and the memorable, "This is your brain on drugs"? That flashback crosses my mind as we watch the lone employee create his made-to-order funnel cake. I quickly scan the room for other distractions, and my eyes land on a make shift advertisement.

Happy Hour
Monday thru Thursday

  • Mini funnel cake - regularly $1.89, now $1.25
  • Turkey hot dog - regularly $1.99, now $1.25
  • Nachos - regularly $2.99, now $2
  • Mozzarella sticks - regularly $2.99, now $2

Oh. My. Cholesterol Count.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Tis the season for soda

Among other treats, I have a fond weakness for carbonation.

If there's Coca Cola, I'll sneak some lemonade or a wedge (except when I'm having Chinese).

Barq's? Best with a combo pizza slice!

Ginger ale? Beverage of choice on airplanes.

Thanks to R (he's the striped shirt in my Halloween photo), I was tipped off on something de-lish. Sierra Mist with a splash of cranberry.

A bit reminiscent of a Shirley Temple perhaps. Its fruity hint of flavor is just right for the most wonderful time of the year.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Halloween pumpkin

Yes, I had a good time with this one. My responsibility was to gut the pumpkin and glue gun the seeds onto the "bun". We got 2nd place. We were robbed!
Props to my teammates Sean, Sujita, and Ron. Adding the chips and sliders was my idea (to sway the judges, of course). Don't our pumpkin fries look real?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The best $5 you ever spent in Laguna Beach

The day: Saturday
The place: Gourmet Cheese Shop & Wine Cellar, at Laguna Culinary Arts
The reason: Eight (8!) wine tastings from around the world

While I don't expect anyone to believe (I didn't believe A. when she invited me), it is the real deal. Easy to drive past off Laguna Canyon, you would be missing something rare in these parts; An opportunity to spend a leisurely afternoon surrounded by cheese and wine for less than you could possibly imagine.

If you know where Pageant of the Masters, Art-A-Fair or Sawdust Festival are located, then you're almost there. It is literally tucked away amid a plaza of local decorating boutiques. I spotted the cocktail party atmosphere spilling out the doorway and knew this was the right place.

The staff hustles to ensure everyone is content. We grab a table along the window of this small space so there's enough elbow room to order off the menu. I completely forgot about breakfast that day, and knew sustenance would prevent me from embarrassing myself in front of my co-worker. This was my wedding gift, "because a Target gift certificate just wasn't right for you". Better words could not have been spoken. (Note: I still would've used the Target g/c, but wouldn't have had nearly as much enjoyment).

A simple menu featuring fresh quality ingredients offered sandwiches and salads. I made my own sammy with proscuitto, dijon, and sun dried tomato on baguette. We also requested a three cheese sampler. Years spent sharing the same boring deli combo sandwich for much of my high school years prevented me from appreciating this staple in my adult dining. However, I had an epiphany while taking my first bite. This can be an enjoyable experience, and not just a convenience meal.

Our cheeses included a Spanish sheep milk variety named Roncal. I must come back for this. A honey drizzle, nuts, dried fruit and a massive basket of just baked sliced bread would keep us company for the next two and-a-half hours. The wines featured were all very "economic stimulus" themed and no more than $15 a bottle.

  1. Domaine de la Solitude Rose 2007 ($15) - Rose normally gets a bad rap, but not here. From the Southern Rhone Valley in France. It's a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.
  2. Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco 2007 ($14.75) - From Alto Adige, Italy. Had a nice bite to it.
  3. Indaba Chardonnay 2007 ($8.50) - South Africa
  4. Urban Uco Torrontes 2007 ($8) - Sweetness created in Cafayate-Salta, Argentina
  5. Cabrini Tempranillo 2005 ($10) - My favorite of the bunch. Brought to you from Mendoza, Argentina
  6. Leese-Fitch Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($15) - 100% Californian
  7. Almira Los Dos Barrica 2006 ($10) - A blend of old vine Grenache & Syrah from Campo de Borja, Spain.
  8. Step Rd. Blackwing Shiraz 2006 ($13.50) - Full-bodied red from South Australia.

I'm already plotting the next time I can make the drive down.

Gourmet Cheese Shop & Wine Cellar

845 Laguna Canyon Road

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love

The first book I checked out of the Katie Wheeler Library in Irvine is by Lara Vapnyar. Ironically, I wasn't looking for a food-related find.

Vapnyar's collection of short stories is excellent chick lit - with a side of borscht. Published this year, it has an easygoing reading style. There are relationships, emotions, and the recurring theme of what I love most. I read one story a night before bedtime.

Even though the author wrote about characters with Russian backgrounds, I felt as though you could interchange their nationalities and keep the continuity. It's like when I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Just insert Asian or Italian or whatever fits best into the title.

The final chapter is dedicated to sharing recipes based on each story. I'm excited to try out the turkey meatball recipe next week. Here's the excerpt:

"Surprisingly, this recipe came not from a seasoned grandma but from a single father who didn't know how to cook and who learned to cook meatballs so he could feed his daughter. This is his recipe: (you'll have to check out the book for the actual recipe!)
I tried it and it worked. The meatballs came out crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside".

I forgot how much fun it is to read something besides a periodical.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Saturday (or "The day that revolved around food")

Started out with a morning of spin class. Called my acquaintance Jackie on the way home to see if she'd be interested in checking out the Irvine Global Village Festival. We planned on convening at the shiny new H-Mart in Diamond Jamboree about 1pm.

So at about 12:30 my cell rings. It is Kate Murphy with the New York Times. Chowhound emailed me about an article she is doing about chewing gum, and provided her contact info if I was interested in an interview. My only posting about Orbit Mint Mojito must have been enough for them. I shot an email to Ms. Murphy on Friday, but didn't think anything of it. Fifteen minutes and lots of gum talk later, we end on a pleasant note. Once I inform her of my current residence, she remarks, "Oh, there's a great farmer's market in Corona del Mar" to which I respond, "I've only visited the UCI one. Thanks for the tip." I'll be looking for that byline.

Finally get to DJ at 1:30 and apologize to Jackie, who has now completed some grocery shopping. We hoof past Guppy House (can't get why you name a Taiwanese eatery this, but they weren't hurting for business) and I notice the unusual water containers - which I know for a fact are food storage bins from IKEA. We decide on BBQ Chicken, where the notion of eating fried food is cancelled out by the fact it's being cooked in olive oil. What?

We order the half and half special, which is five pieces of their infamous chicken, and 12 servings of these 'mutant' chicken balls coated in our choice of sauce. So they forget to provide the complimentary slaw and daikon, and we deal with it. The menu isn't close enough to their website, so I am generally perplexed by our meal. At least we are satiated as we head back to my rock star parking spot.

Arriving at the festival, I quickly realize parking is one hell of an issue. I think we end up a quarter mile away or more at San Mateo apartments in their cul de sac. The better to walk off lunch. For a free event, it was nice. I've never been to Bill Barber park, and I must say it exceeded my expectations. Overall food selection was slim, except for the two vendors who were obviously afterthoughts in the refreshment layout. Once was Smooth Operator, offering smoothies, funnel cake, and other delights. The other was a BBQ joint (no relation to lunch) cooking up hot dogs and similar fare. Many food providers are a no-show, like Formosa Cafe. I pick a trio of marshmallows made from scratch plus a small bag of cookies from Blackmarket Bakery, located by John Wayne Airport. Jackie ends up with some sweets, iced tea from It's A Grind, and a few veggie samosas from Masala Bowl. A productive afternoon indeed.

I am home and 180 out the door for the second time 30 minutes later. After a few errands at South Coast Plaza (Note: Next Vintage Wine Bar at Charlie Palmer's has two steals. Take a peek at their display outside if you don't believe me.) we cruise up the 405 to Garden Grove.

He wanted Boiling Crab, but I wanted something a bit better in selection. We ended up at Claws, only a couple of miles down the road (if that). Spacious parking and no wait for a table. Very solid service from both girls working. Refills before we could flag anyone down. Napkins, handiwipes, and limes without even asking. Liked how I could get my choice of rice, bread, or potatoes with our seafood. Crab cakes and clam chowder were good. Mild spice is still pretty hot, but it didn't matter after a while. It totaled $40 before a well-deserved tip. We moved on.

We make a spontaneous play to drive up to Anaheim and indulge in dessert at Morton's. Validated parking, cozy seats in the bar, and a fully executed Grand Marnier chocolate souffle later, I'm ready to head back South. While the steakhouse satisfied one of us, I was meant for simpler sweets. He pulls up to Koo's Catering Truck in the Freshia Market lot in Tustin, and I offer $3 to pay for the best inexpensive treats in the county. Doughy goodness is piping hot and ready for consumption. We finally arrive home to collapse from all the dining.

This marathon of dining is just another Saturday eating our way though OC. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lazy Dog Cafe - Jack of all trades

Do you know Mimi's Cafe? It's a modest chain with a Southern country theme. Now a handful of years ago, a relative of the founding family (I think it's the son) joined his dad in launching a new concept. The original location is in Westminster (Huntington Beach depending on who you ask). Every time I've dined at Lazy Dog I say the same thing. It's a great place for everyone.

These days I find myself at the Orange spot. Accessible off the 57, and adjacent to Century Theatres, it's an unbeatable combination. Boasting a sizeable waiting area outside and a roomy patio, you've got ample dining space inside as well. I've gone here with another family, with a group of co-workers, even celebrated my birthday with a dozen of my good friends. Everyone is pleased with their experience. This must be the only family place where the dining room is comfortable with the bar scene.

Their menu is a cut above what you'd expect. For starters, how about some Ahi Poke or Hummus Trio? Lamb shank and stroganoff are great alternatives to chicken and beef. There's also Maggie's Snake River salad, filled with Laurel Chenel goat cheese, cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. They'll even top the house chili with goat cheese if you so desire. Gouda in your grilled cheese? Side of whole wheat pasta salad? They've got the options.

Oh, and yes, I even go beyond my Arnold Palmers and make it a Tiger Woods (i.e. add cranberry juice). When you're done dining, the interior is a fantastic conversation piece. Photos of employee doggies and a rustic design add to the local charm of this place. Let's not forget the flashback music as well. Everything from metal to r&b to pop, it's practically karaoke night.

I am very comfortable recommending Lazy Dog to all my friends wanting something different.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Vosges Haut Chocolat & Hershey's Cocoa Kisses

You will rarely read me post about chocolate. I simply do not eat it. Sure, I'll occasionally partake in some sweet treat at work. For the most part, however, it's not a taste I crave. Maybe I've matured my palette? It might be because I find it too sweet. Either way, I sit here this Memorial morning staring at a box.

A thin, pink vessel previously housed one of the most exotic flavors I've experienced for dessert. Granted, I'm a bread pudding fan. Most sweets will be a step outside of the box. It is an exotic candy bar. A goji bar, to be exact. With an ingredient list that rivals Breyer's All Natural ice cream. Check this out:

  1. Dark and milk chocolate
  2. Goji berries
  3. Salt

That's it. Four Vosges shops around the country. The closest to me being the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. I would go to Vegas for 41% cacao and pink Himalayan salt. I cannot believe how much I enjoyed this candy bar. I was raving to co-workers and offering bits to sample. The mingling of sweet and savory was intoxicating. I must find more. (Thanks to Moses at Mustard Cafe for bringing chocolate sexy back).

Closeted obsession #2 can no longer be found in retail stores. I have a twenty-five cent clearance bag stashed in my emergency cabinet at work. Ron (a fellow snacker) found it at his local grocery store and remembered my quest for such treasure.

Hershey has been an OG in confection history for as long as candy's been sold to the masses. It's a brand like Microsoft, McDonalds, Vincent Chase (sorry, too much Entourage). With a formula that stands the test of time, they understand the need to appeal to a changing market. The only time I ever ate Hershey was in a s'more. I discovered these gems by coincidence.

Due to the cocoa flavoring, the usual solid texture of a Kiss has been altered to a smooth, melt-in-your-mouth consistency. Dare I say, creamy. With just the right amount of sweet, it settles like a mug of hot chocolate. They were instantly used in my birthday favors (along with Elvis inspired Reese's banana flavored peanut butter cups, but I digress). Anytime I need a 'hit' of sugar, I reach for this sweet. I cross my fingers with hopes that they'll be back next holiday season.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Irvine is (not) a culinary wasteland....

While taste is a matter of opinion, I get a little offended when this statement is uttered. While we certainly aren't a major dining capital, Irvine can smack down most of their Southern OC neighbors anytime. I'm also very amused by the little known fact that so many bloggers also reside in this city, myself included. This is my continuing journal to disprove those naysayers.

I must preface this by stating my opinion of Irvine factors in a number of attributes. First, I think it says something when any chain will put its first OC/Southern California/West Coast operation in Irvine. Next, anyone in a regional chain wanting to be here is a compliment. Last, memorable dining isn't about being in a particular city for a specific cuisine. It's getting a satisfying meal that's accessible. This is my Irvine.

Reason #1 - I finally tried Pho Bac Ky last night, per my manager's raving. While it is the sister restaurant to Pho Bac off Barranca, I found it to be even better. Perhaps it's because of the spacious parking, prompt service, and chill atmosphere. While folks complain about the few extra dollars it might cost, uh, hello? Irvine charges more rent than Westminster people. I'm not about to hit my Pho 86 anytime soon if I can drive less than 10 miles for some salty lime soda and #41. Residents don't blink at the extra $, or else why is it so crowded at 6pm on a Saturday?

Reason #2 - I read about Strickland's right when they were opening in '05. An Akron, Ohio based chain, UCI is the only West Coast operation at the time of this blog. With two new flavors each day, and a husband & wife team taking care of business on a Saturday night, this place is a destination for all: students, families, anyone tired of Cold Stone. They even give props to some of my acquaintances, Professor Salt and Elmomonster with framed copies of their blogs hanging next to their local awards. Note: banana flavor is very tasty.

Reason #3 - Yes, I am going to say Melting Pot. Who was the first city in CA to land one? Irvine. What has a bar scene that's never empty? Yes, you can cringe at the $50/person you're going to spend on cooking your own food, but they are not hurting for business. Actually, Irvine was the top money making location in the company for 2007. Hey, I did some research.

Reason #4 - Bistango. A major player for business lunches and dinners, their live music and artwork fits right in among the white collar crowd. While the parent company, Dining As Art, has branched out in other directions (Kimera, Tonic), this is their prized possession. My co-worker still dreams about the beef stroganoff.

Reason #5 - Taco Rosa. For a rockin' Sunday brunch that includes both a Mariachi band and a tall glass of sangria, look no further than the local Market Place. Their seasonal specials are excellent lunch fare, and you cannot beat the accessible location.

Reason #6 - Pei Wei. Laugh all you want, but when the P.F. (of Chang's) wanted a quick casual option, he knew the ideal neighborhood to start the chain was in the IRV. In a county full of Asian options, this is a smooth operation. Shortly after, others followed suit in their concept of "make your own meal" by selecting a protein and cooking method.

Reason #7 - Mochilato for shaved ice. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find this? Check the boards and learn this is few and far between. Their deluxe version can feed a family of four or more. Lovely alternative for dessert.

Reason #8 - Three words: Three Trader Joe's! (Culver/Irvine, UCI, Sand Canyon/Irvine Blvd).


Reason #9 - Family owned and operated, New York's Upper Crust Pizza is a six location chain dedicated to bringing Brooklyn style pizza to the masses. You ain't finding this joint in Anaheim or Westminster. They are RSM residents who know where garlic knots and sauceless White Pizza would be appreciated.

Reason #10 - Irvine cares about their vegetarians. When you steal the co-founder of Native Foods and hire the architect who designed Bluefin, you know something special is brewing. In the land of UCI it is called The Veggie Grill. Where the city falls in love with sweetheart fries and tempeh is the new chicken.

Reason #11 - To show that we are not just health conscisous, down the street is the mother of Brazilian carnivore havens, Agora Churrascaria. With a business lunch vibe and endless meats to savor, being near SNA has never been so good.

Reason #12 - What do you do when you have a successful restaurant in Laguna Beach? Open another in Irvine, of course. Javier's Cantina and Grill keeps the vibe cool and the food hot in the Spectrum. My preferred spots are in the covered patio. Update: The original LB site has up and moved to Crystal Cove for more spacious and swankier digs.

(August - July was a very long month of sickness and otherwise)

Reason #13 - First opened in Irvine, the surge of frozen yogurt frenzy began at the corner of Jeffrey and Walnut. Yogurtland and its IKEA furnishings was an immediate hit. With lines out the door, the Arbor's parking spots would be primer real estate then when it's time to get some dim sum. Averaging no less than a dozen flavor options, their tagline of "Thirty cents an ounce" is enough to get anyone in their car. Most sing the praises of their mochi topping. I now frequent another one even closer to home.

Reason #14 - Across from John Wayne Airport, diners either love or loathe Gulliver's. For over 35 years they've been cranking out creamed corn, English trifle, and prime rib. Their claim to fame is being host to frequent diner John Wayne himself. They'll even seat you at The Duke's table if you ask. When you are ready for Old World experience and some serious red meat, make the drive down.

Reason #15 - "Italian food in Irvine" and one is inclined to ask 'Olive Garden', 'Buca di Beppo', or 'Macaroni Grille'? I say none of the above, thanks to Adriano Paganini, owner and chef of Pasta Pomodoro. While I will probably be told to find some real Italian, I dream about their ravioli di zucca. I dare you to find a more savory starter so close to home. Roasted butternut squash with parmesan and brown butter. Sage and crumbled amaretti atop.

Reason #16 - Stuck in the Market Place. Not craving a combo meal. How does one find an award-winning chef in suburbia? Marc A. Cohen is your answer. He helms the palette pleasing (albeit noisy) menu at Opah. Known for a social patio, the Pacific inspired cuisine is dateworthy. Named after a symbol of good luck, as an entree it is a unique find.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mesa - A hidden gem

On a busy corner
in an unmarked building
lies the essence of LA Orange County.

The first visit left us stunned. The next was like a private party. After that, even better. So after three, I think a review is long overdue.

Adjacent to a filling station and quietly occupying a former pool hall, you can't say for sure if you're at the right location. Read about it briefly while scouring for a new place to dine last year. Our most recent foray found us being carded! I feel so old, but admittedly look youthful for my thirtyish years. I owe it all to mom. We request a table in our favorite server's section. She welcomes us with hugs.

The menu has gone thru a number of changes since opening. The previous chef was considered avant garde for the area. He was not only forced to simplify his menu, he started compromising his vision and decided to leave. The focus now shifted to small plates, thanks to the former chef de cuisine of Suzanne Goin's revered A.O.C. Coincidentally, it was the last place I recall ordering any.

L is excited to go over the most recent additions with us. We nod, smile, and think to ourselves, "OMFG. This is going to be one tasty meal" Let's get started.

As much as I crave charcuterie, I allow myself to expand my palette to their other specialties. Note to self: must order the artisinal salami and four cheeses with marcona plus jam NEXT time. Fried baby artichokes are bursts of flavor. I discovered my new adoration of fennel. Do you have any idea how tasty fried chickpeas are? Better than edamame.

D and K help themselves to an order of halibut in black rice polenta, ramps, and spring onions. I go ahead and savor my farrotto grains cooked risotto style with mushrooms and pecorino. The table is silent except for the clink of utensils.

Scallops pay a visit with blood oranges, pea tendrils and almonds. These are not your run-of-the-mill mollusks. They are big for a small plate. It left them wanting more. English peas imparted their sweetness onto ricotta gnocchi and hint of curry.

The signature Mesa burger is accessorized with gruyere, carmelized onions and house frittes seasoned with rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme. While it may sound like they went heavy handed on the herbs, this pair did not overpower our taste buds. It was actually a bit mild to us.

I must pause to comment on the room. One wall is literally covered in ivy and streamlined seats. Seen only at Bastide, I think the 'texture' is genius. A single communal table holds one sizable dinner party. Booths occupy half of the space. The rest is undeniably cool, particularly if you are needing some air. Thanks to a retractable roof and efficient HVAC, cigarettes are welcome. They've even added the option of literally dining beneath the stars. Top that off with a nifty wine dispensing system that is also proudly displayed at Marche Moderne. This is a stellar combination.

We're back to discuss the talk of our table: duck sausage crepinette. L describes in a hushed tone that it resembles "a big meatball", but should not be using such analogies. For as long as I've been dining on duck, I have not been so impressed until this evening. Savory. Juicy. It is a pinnacle moment. I forgot to mention the duck fat fries that accompany. You heard me.

Before I can even look at dessert it is time to take a breather. A brisk stretch across the room and I encounter the Twilight Zone. Overhead, a film is projected onto the wall. On either side is a line of nondescript doors. Their only distinguishing feature, a red or green glow above their entry. A bit intimidating at first glance, I make my decision and reach for a handle. West Elm sleek meets private jet lavatory in this modest compartment. A bath all to yourself, and not having to share a mirror? Open waiting space, a warming fire, and not feeling envious of men's room availability. Priceless.

We order five desserts, and are comped for three. Our initial round of Persecco and additional white are also removed. We are surrounded by sweets, two of which aren't even offered yet. I would feel guilty to discuss such richness, but I am not shy about the brown sugar cupcake or dulce de leche bread pudding. Buttermilk ice cream is unorthodox in my book, but I make an effort to give it a go. Their grown up sundae is an updated classic featuring cashew brittle, Jameson toffee and toasted cashews. A foursome of tea presses and two and a half hours later, we are ready to call it a night.

Thank you, Mr. Swift for saving us the trouble of going the extra hundred plus miles for a dining journey. We won't be back soon enough.

725 Baker Street
Costa Mesa
* Come on, I'm not divulging everything.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fairy Tea Cottage - Seal Beach

So, like Seal Beach is right at the border of LA/OC. I didn't know if this would be at home in

OC Food Blogs ~

my myspace account ~

or maybe even yelp? ~

Couldn't decide, so this is my happy medium.

A surprise baby shower for one of my very best friends was this past Sunday. I've only been to a few tea houses, and was curious about this one. Information was few and far between, for when I would Google "tea house" and "Seal Beach" I would only find Vintage Tea Leaf (coincidentally, where her last shower was held). I called directly and requested a faxed menu, and was surprised to discover they had a website. I think the lady's exact words were, "it's new to us too".

The six of us were seated in the middle of their main tea room. I didn't even realize there was a private tea party room in the back until it became the topic of conversation. Our cups, saucers, and teapots were quite ornate and classic. The lace doilies were dainty, and the featured soup was black bean. What? It wasn't suitable for a tea house, but since we live in the land of fish tacos I wasn't about to comment.

For a party our size, there are two options. Queen of the Fairies tea ($25) includes the following:
  • Traditional Afternoon Pot of Tea
  • Homemade Scone with Devonshire Cream and Jam
  • Soup of the Day or Garden Salad
  • Assorted Sandwiches with Fruit
  • Dessert from the Tray

Silverwings Fairy Tea ($20) omits the dessert and soup/salad course. After my most recent dining adventures, this was the way to go. Mind you, they didn't skimp on portion size at the end of the meal. I think everyone received their money's worth. Everything is a little fancier with French music wafting in the background, wouldn't you agree?

A lengthy list of regular and decaffeinated options are at your disposal. Only one was unavailable. I felt like some black currant today. Everyone tried something different with the hopes that we would make the teapots communal. We ended up being far too polite to request a taste from someone else's selection. It arrives piping hot, and I require a good ten minutes for it to cool off before taking a sip. Tasty, but even more-so once a lump of sugar is mixed.

(By the way, parking on a Sunday can be challenging. Located just off Main Street, almost every possible spot is taken. I opt for the neighborhood a couple of blocks up for solace.)

My favorite part of the meal was their scones. A perfect, flaky bakery item is the pinnacle of British tea. Add to that some finger sandwiches and we are ready for a nap! Their selections carried egg salad, chicken salad, and salmon mousse. A couple of dessert-style bites were a bit unusual, yet we tried them all.

As mentioned earlier, do not refuse dessert. Sweets galore await those who choose wisely.

Fairy Tea Cottage

810 Electric Avenue ("...and then we'll take it higher" ~ Eddy Grant)


Monday, March 24, 2008

Diligently Selected Cheese from Napa Rose

Please read ahead for the best damn cheese plate I've ever received.

Going clockwise on my plate, here is every last creamy detail....please note these are the descriptions of their cheese expert and not myself - except for the first one.

Pave d'Affinois - France
~This was one of the first cheeses to be made comercially using ultrafiltration, a method that results in a higher yield of solids. This cows milk cheese is allowed to ripen in a warm, humid cellar for two or three weeks. Similarities are to Brie. (Also my favorite of the seven)

Sofia - Indiana - USA
~ This is a beautiful and very unique Goats milk cheese made on Capriole Farms, located in Greenville Indiana, right over the Kentucky border. Sofia has a layer of wrinkled mold on the outside that comes from the particular starter culture that Capriole Farms uses. The curds are hand ladled into molds along with vegetable ash. The ash coats the outside and is marbled throughout the cheese which contributes to its tangy and salty quality.

Queso de Mano - Colorado - USA
~This raw Goat's milk cheese from Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, it was given this name because it is made entirely by hand at the creamery. Its white interior has a robust, nutty flavor with herbal hints. The texture of it is reminiscent of the Spanish Garrotxa from the Catalonia region, but it has its own distinctive taste. It is aged for a minimum of four months.

Winchester Gouda - Winchester - California
~Jules Wesselink is the cheese maker for Winchester Cheese Company which makes this mild Gouda that is aged for 60 days. This cheese is made with raw milk, from Holstein cows. The style "Boere Kaas" which means "Homemade on the farm" is the same way their families have been making Goudas in Holland for generations.

Bandage Cheddar 18 month - California - USA
~This is a cow's milk cheese from Fiscalini Family Creamery in Modesto, California. The flavor of the cheese is nutty with many floral notes as well as a natural sweetness and refreshing clean tasting attributes. The Fiscalini family is rich in California dairy tradition that dates back four generations, that's over 100 years here in California.

Pennsylvania Noble Amish White Cheddar - Pennsylvania - USA
~This happens to be the most interesting cheeses that I have found in a long time. The Cheddar, is beautifully crafted with a light, bloomy rind and Cave aged for 1 years. It has all of the sharpness that a mature cheddar should have plus some wonderful sweet notes characteristic of great Pennsylvania Organic Grass Fed Raw Cow's Milk Cheese.

Mine Shaft Blue - California - USA
~Aged in goldmines up around Placerville, this cow's milk blue is fruity and has just the right amount of salt. This blue is strong but not overly aggressive in flavor and has somewhat a creamy texture. It is injected with the same mold strain as Gorgonzola.

Rogue Creamery "Reserve" Blue - Oregon - USA
~This creamery started in Oregon 1957. This particular blue is made from raw cow's milk wrapped with grape leaves and allowed to age for a year. It has a semi soft, creamy texture with a subtle, sweet flavor. This cheese is very hard to find, we had to order it one year in advance.