Sunday, October 31, 2010

A savory take on a sweet holiday

What's black and orange and awesome all over? (Besides the Giants) The holiday that reminds us we are less than one month from Thanksgiving and two from Christmas.

We don't get any trick-or-treaters in this neighborhood, but there is no shortage of candy floating through our household. My sweet tooth isn't what it used to be, but recently I found two delightful items that do tap into my salt craving.

Clodhoppers were courtesy of my best friend's mom. She likes making sure people are fed, like all moms do. Manufactured in Canada, these bonbons are simply fudge covered graham wafer clusters. Packaging cautions us that they are "highly addictive", and they are indeed!
At first they resembled yogurt covered granola pieces. Kind of a Nestle Crunch/100 Grand savory texture coated with a neutralizing vanilla outer layer. Just enough of this dual flavor to keep me reaching for more.

Pretzel m&m's came from my local pharmacy as a thank you for using their services. Who gives candy to a sick person? If you're seeking a perfect customer satisfaction score, they apparently do. Clocking in at a moderate 150 calories for the pack, these are the more accessible of the two. The familiar monogrammed shell merged with a nutritional morsel. They are the American cousin to my Clodhoppers. A surprising change from my usual peanut flavor. If you're a purist, you may be conflicted after tasting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My favorite Laguna Beach

We've dined out enough to know that some areas have a higher concentration of deliciousness than others. When friends seek our advice, I tend to draw a blank when put on the spot. So this is my first installment in what I hope to be a series of quick references to Orange County dining.

The main drag of Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach is an idyllic example of Southern California living. You've got surf, sand, and relaxed dining as far as the eye can see. There really is something for everyone, but I've got my favorites.

One of a handful of restaurants in the county where I go below street level to dine, Brussels Bistro is a gem. Beer drinkers will appreciate the selections of brew bottled and on tap. I am fond of the regional cuisine. How many can resist the aroma of Belgian frites with homemade sauces? Others will crave a pot of mussels with their choice of flavor. There's also live music during the week and a DJ on the weekends. 222 Forest Avenue.

Nostalgic treats of all sorts can be found across the street at Candy Baron. Some may say it's overpriced, but when it's not easy to locate elsewhere it is worth every penny. I enjoy inching my way through the aisles to debate between classics (Razzles, Glee Gum) and old fashioned (Bit-O-Honey, Zagnuts). The perfect alternative when craving dessert to-go. Smuggle some into Pageant of the Masters. 231 Forest Avenue.

Down the street and around the corner is the third concept by local chef Marc Cohen, the playfully named Watermarc. He is praised by Zagat, LA Times, and OC Register for his distinctive flavor palate. With a sophisticated selection of grazing plates, it is only rivaled by the equally vast list of wines by the glass. One of the few spots where I order the same item over and over again: The burger. Not your typical patty, we're talking 1/2 pound of blended Angus chuck, sirloin and short rib. If that's not enough of a flavor profile, try my favorite add-on - duck confit, red onion marmalade, brie and aioli. 448 South Coast Highway.

For that seafood craving on a beach bum budget, hike upstairs to House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer. No question about what's offered here! Raw, chilled, grilled, or fried, diners have a conundrum....What to get? With prices starting at $5 for their hobo fish plate (DELICIOUS, by the way), your group will be asking why you've been keeping this a secret. Carnivores can indulge in steak and chicken options without feeling left out. Bread & water are upon request, so be sure to ask when seated. Oh, and you must save room for the dessert featuring bananas foster + bread pudding. 540 South Coast Highway, #200.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Getting your Gelato Paradiso groove on!

Despite the autumn chill I was craving gelato. Specifically, the kind found in CDM off MacArthur & Pacific Coast Highway. There was, of course, a wait. I grabbed the nearest reading material to pass the time. It was promoting Friday Disco Night. So on the 1st & 3rd Fridays of the month the lights go down (cue Barry White), the disco ball is lowered, and you get 15% off if you can do the hustle.

Kidding. Actually the discount comes when you are decked out in your 70s finest. I'm talking bell bottoms, peace symbols and platforms. In fact, you could be in your cowboy boots, Hammer pants, or poodle skirt and STILL get the 15%. How sweet is that? Gianduia sweet!

If that's not enough to shake shake shake to Gelato Paradiso, there's more.

This weekend starting at 6pm on October 30th until closing time on Halloween, trick or treat down to your local GP for a free yellow cup of whatever flavor you want. Gelato or sorbetto. Free. You're welcome.

You know what else is going on there? Seasonal flavors PUMPKIN & GREEN APPLE. While the apple is on its way out, pumpkin is going strong through Thanksgiving. Before you know it, it's December and the return of both EGGNOG & PEPPERMINT!

Is that enough for you yet? No? Okay....

Students get 15% off Monday thru Friday at the Corona del Mar location. Did you know that topping your gelato with a shot of espresso is called an Affogato? Knowledge is power, kids. Save some money, use a fancy word, and feel empowered.

What are you still doing on the computer? Go get us some dessert!