Southern California Feasting - Part 1

It's another snowy day in New England and I find myself wishing I was back in Southern California as I was a few weeks ago. In spite of our friends' apologies for the "bad" weather, those of us from the East Coast were loving the warm 60-degree temperatures and not having to wear winter coats and snow boots.

Regardless of where I am the perfect ingredients for a vacation are family, friends, and food interspersed with lots of love and laughter - and we had lots of everything in the short time we were there. It didn't hurt that some of us were postponed an extra day there because of yet another storm traveling up the East Coast.

Let me share some of our food adventures...

Gorgeous fresh rambutan

In-N-Out

The adventure began almost as soon as we landed. With different points of departure, some of us had a two-hour window to wait at LAX. So after one cab ride with a grumpy driver, a computer system that lost our order, and a worker who could not understand what we wanted, we had one of the best layover meals from In-N-Out. The restaurant on Sepulveda is less than a mile from the airport and is now the first stop we make anytime we head out to LA. No onions, no animal-style, no special menu requests other than fries well-done and I'm a happy camper.

Keeping it simple - cheeseburger, no onions

Brodard Restaurant

The next day, to celebrate the Lunar New Year, we headed to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the OC - Brodard Restaurant. To be fair I haven't been to other Vietnamese restaurants in the area but there's no need. This is the best. And there are two reasons I go there - for the rolls and the macarons. Everything else is just a bonus. These are the only two things I need. If you find yourself in the Garden Grove area and you love Vietnamese food you have to go there. The trick will be finding it as the entrance is at the back of a strip mall. The first time my friend took me to this restaurant, we were staying up in Los Angeles and drove through awful LA rush-hour traffic to get there (I took a nap) and it was totally worth it.

Chąo Tôm Cuon - Grilled Shrimp Spring Rolls
Nem Nuong Cuon - Grilled Pork Spring Rolls
Macarons!!

But since we were celebrating the new year we got a few other things:

Bánh Kho Chay – Crispy rice cakes with mung beans and shrimp
Com Gà Da Giòn – Vietnamese Chicken Rice
Goi Bo – Spicy Beef Salad

The Loft at the Montage Laguna Beach

We wanted to have one extra special dinner with our friends so we chose the Loft at the Montage Hotel in Laguna Beach. Truth be told the one thing that hooked us was the "interactive cheese gallery." The woman who heads up the cheese gallery must have one of the coolest jobs, a sommelier but for cheese. I wonder what her title is - frommagelier perhaps? Whatever her title is, she comes to your table, discusses likes and dislikes, and then brings a selection based on your requests. Our table was challenging as we had some who loved stinky, runny, aged cheeses, and others who couldn't stand them and liked mild cheeses.

Our frommagelier (I've decided that's what I'll call her) brought our tastes together in a lovely cheese plate. Rather than waiting for the traditional point in the meal for the cheese course we started with a cheese plate which included a Coach Triple Cream Goat cheese from New York (yes, from the Coach handbag family), Brillat Savarin from France (one of my favorites), Idizalbal from Spain, Roqufort Papillon Black Label (another favorite) with star thistle honey, and La Retorta washed rind raw ewe's milk cheese from Spain.

Cheeses served with fruit, marcona almonds, raw honeycomb, and fruit compotes

Some of the signature dishes that we tried included:

Hamachi crudo with meyer lemon dressing
Coffee-crusted New York Strip with bourbon caramel
and Fourme D'ambert blue cheese

And to finish off our day and our evening, we shared two lovely desserts. As much as I love chocolate I have to say my favorite dessert was the pistachio pavlova.

Molten chocolate can never go wrong
Beautiful and delicious pistachio pavlova

And believe it or not, that was just the first 24 hours of our visit. We went to bed early with full stomachs and happy hearts, looking forward to future food adventures. More to come...


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Comments

K1K said…
I feel like I need to be your personal assistant to help you taste, travel, and get a full realm of opinions on all of these foods. When do I start?
Julie said…
Oh that would be heaven! If I can even make that happen you are definitely hired!!