Friday, April 27, 2012

One week

I like recommendations. When it's from a trusted friend, you don't have to worry. When it's from a server, they've got the burden of anticipating your needs -- because let's face it, their gratuity is kind of riding on the experience as a whole. "One Week" is a song from Barenaked Ladies, a band my friend turned me on to over a decade ago. Typically I'm out and about, but it's not so crazed that it reminds me of BNL's music.

A year ago, I was trying to find my voice. Trying to write to the level of my "co-workers" (I use quotes because when I generally don't meet with any of them, I feel odd using the term). It took most of 2011 to realize that I need to stick with what I know, and not stress so much about pleasing everyone else. I want to report events, do posts that have (usually free) deals associated with them, and jump on topics that I find amusing. The team I'm on is exceptionally talented in their areas of expertise. I contribute what I can, when I can, and that's all I can do.

I thought it would be interesting to recount last week's events. Mind you, I never used to attend networking socials. I resist creating Pintrest and Instagram accounts, and have yet to have any personality on Twitter besides restaurant check-ins. But my association with the Weekly does allow occasional access to places your typical diner might not have (yet). In high school, joining student leadership was my thing; I worked on projects, and loved knowing about what's coming up before the rest of the school. So it's natural for me to gravitate towards things like previews. I still don't understand how everything ended up all in the same week. 

Monday: Slapfish VIP Tasting, (Huntington Beach)

Many friends I've made in the food blogger community were present, and then some. We were celebrating the launch of Slapfish, one of my top 5 picks for 2011 - a sustainable seafood gourmet food truck gone brick & mortar. Andrew and Jethro are as hospitable and charming as a pair of savvy businessmen could get. Chefs from other establishments were even there to show their support. The food scene in Huntington Beach became even more appealing that night. And the fan favorite: Chowder fries. Luscious New England-style creaminess poured by our Coolinary Trends Chef Bev over a pile o' potatoes. We then helped ourselves to generous amounts of chives, tomatoes and bacon for extra yummy measure. Between hugs and Allen Taylor group photos, it was the ideal atmosphere for social networking.

Tuesday: Chef interview at Palm Terrace, The Island Hotel (Newport Beach)

When the establishment is modest enough, I only have to work with the chef for an interview. Lately, however, I find myself cooperating with public relations/marketing/general managers/etc to secure a meeting. This instance, I met with the PR contact in preparation for an upcoming chef feature. Eventually, Chef Man (yes, that's his last name) sat down with us. I'm used to only spending minutes with most contacts, so to relax and share casual conversation is always welcome. The new lunch menu exceeded my expectations, from the pear and blue cheese flatbread to the chicken "almost slider" sandwich. The serene setting didn't hurt, either. You'll see more of chef in next week's On the Line.

Wednesday: TASTE Magazine Spring issue launch and The Iron Press preview (both Costa Mesa)


Orange Coast Magazine. Riviera. South Coast Plaza management. Me. It was the flip side of Monday. Instead of food bloggers, I was surrounded by the county's lifestyle magazines. It was an honor to represent the publication. If my editor wasn't on his book tour, he would've attended. Charlie Palmer even flew in from Chi-town to host the luncheon. Chef Sea Kyeong Kim's sweet parfait was featured on the cover of TASTE, and our gathering lunched on three other courses leading up to dessert. There was even a blind tasting of West Coast white Rhones. My favorite course (and Kat Nguyen's -- love her!) was the starter: an asparagus salad featuring a one-hour, 62 degree poached egg, black truffles, white anchovy and mache.

That evening, I met up with Bobby (aka 100 eats, 100 days) who invited me to check out a new eatery at South Coast Collection. The Iron Press, or as I refer to it, Bruxie with brews, was packed with curious diners. Now that I have a day job, being out late (yeah, I'm feeling old) was unusual, but I rolled with it and had a great time. When I go back, I'm definitely trying either the grilled cheese or tilapia sandwich.

Thursday: Ilegal Mezcal dinner pairing at Matador Cantina (Fullerton)


If there was an event that would kick my ass, this would be it. I interviewed Chef Dennis last year, but never had a chance to thank him for his time. Five courses, and Mixologist David Valiante's matching libations later, a brisk stroll through downtown Fullerton was in order. The most memorable course was the third: a short rib empanada. Simple in presentation, yet complex in flavor, its smoky heat permeated and cleared my senses....or maybe that was the senior peppar ilegal cocktail assaulting me?

Friday: Chef interview at Yogurtland headquarters (Anaheim), and finding sustenance (Santa Ana)

Wing Lam of Wahoo's offered to get me in touch with his friend at Yogurtland. I held off a good six months before taking him up on the offer, just because I got a lot of flack from conducting an interview with a restaurant chain. Seriously? Wahoo's gives back to the community and sponsors athletes. How many establishments can say that? And he even teaches at Chapman and Concordia. But I digress.

It was more difficult to see him than probably anybody else. Phillip was just plain busy. However, I did get a lot of information -- like their 2 new flavors, their returning collaboration with Sanrio and the news that they're moving to Irvine. Turns out I met with him at just the right time. On my way home, I tried checking out a new Italian deli, but time wasn't on my side. Instead, I went across the parking lot to The Habit Burger and feasted on a double avocado burger on sourdough. Minus the pickles, it ranked up there with Joseph Mahon's Burger Parlor (open your brick and mortar, already!).

Sunday: TAPS Fish House & Brewery blogger event, plus Merely Sweets and Green Bliss (Brea, Brea again, and Fullerton)

Every person who has ever tried Sunday brunch at TAPS swore by it, so my expectations were rather high. Turns out they were right. With over 100 items to choose between, Dave (my former co-worker and +1)  and I drank and ate our fill. I regret not finding the clam chowder until after my dessert course. Their beer selection was educational, and proved to be more appealing than any Bloody Mary or mimosa. House-made hummus and tasty jambalaya were unexpected treats. This was indeed one of the better ways I've spent a Sunday. Oh, and while it's not on their brunch menu, management started us off with their new sliced charcuterie. If you know me at all, this is a weakness.

Being in the northernmost part of the county, I made my mandatory pilgrimage to Merely Sweets. Diane is so sweet (pun never really intended) and her pastries are well-crafted. Typically, I don't order the same thing each time I revisit an establishment. Merely was one of the exceptions. Except this time, I found something even more swoon-worthy than my usual: banana pudding. It was so damn amazing I wrote about it.  Which reminds me, if you think of any great summer desserts, she's looking for inspiration.

Final stop, a new cafe in downtown Fullerton. I recently interviewed the women of Green Bliss, and Alexandra LittleJohn (Director of Coffee) got me hooked on their organic chai. Plus, the space is gorgeous! Our foursome found solace in the courtyard and chatted until the lazy afternoon decided it was time for us to go home.

And that was a rare week.