American

It had been quite hot these days. Spring is here, and it is making us forget all about the cold winter. Hot days means nice walks on the beach and sunsets. Corona del Mar is by far one of my favorite beaches in Orange County. You have nice homes to look at on one side, and a beautiful seaside sunset on the other. Stumbling across Side Door, the concept of it was what drew me to this place. Just adjacent to the uber expensive restaurant, Five Crowns, Side Door is literally a side entrance to the restaurant. They both share the same space. Side Door, being more relaxed, less expensive and less stuffy, it looked like a good fit. The English-style gastropub specializes in cheeses and charcuterie — just my kind of place.

We started off with the shishito peppers. Blistered, then topped with manchego, the peppers were a good start. It had a nice mild flavor, and the blanket of cheese just finished it off nicely. The peppers were kind of bitter and earthy. Thank goodness for the manchego.

Of course, we went for the charcuterie and cheese. For the meats, I had to go for the prosciutto. The flavor was delicate and buttery. One of the cheeses, La Tur from Italy, was a nice “funky” cheese. It was strong, creamy, and quite delicious. A little went a long way. Eating it all with the prosciutto and fruit preserves was a delight. I also had a sample of some cheese from Vermont, and that was quite good as well. I am a sucker for cheese and cured meats. The selection at Side Door was quite impressive.

When I saw avocado mash, I immediately thought guacamole. This was very much a guacamole, but very much not. Not tainted with any lime, cilantro, or other over bearing ingredients, this one allowed the avocado to shine. To me, this was nothing special. The baked pita chips were a good match with the avocado, but nothing was screaming deliciousness. A tasty and healthy snack — I’ll give it that.

This must have been my favorite item of the night. Ironic that it’s a salad. The combination of some of the best tomatoes ever and balsamic reduction wasn’t enough, they had a nice micro green salad to go with it. To top it all off, they put it besides some of creamiest and smoothest fresh mozzarella slices ever. Everything together, yes, I mean with the tomato, balsamic reduction, cheese, and even some of that prosciutto, each bite was fresh and fantastic.

Have you had really good prime rib? I mean the stuff from Lawry’s or Summit House. Now, slice that up, and put a heaping pile inside a French roll. That is what we have here at Side Door. The prime rib was cooked so perfectly medium rare, and each bite was easy to tear off. The meat was fatty, juicy, and delicious. Dipping it in the au jus and the horseradish made it even tastier. I wasn’t expecting much from this sandwich, but the simplicity of the ingredients and the legit prime rib was all it needed. This is a must order.

I dig the concept of this place. The back door from a more expensive restaurant is all I really need. Less expensive, more casual, and probably better tasting, the Side Door restaurant has it all — a nice beer selection for those coming for drinks, a nice selection of cheap eats for those who come for food. This little corner in the upscale part of Corona del Mar is indeed a gem.

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La Grande Orange Cafe – Bacon Optional

by Franklin on August 1, 2013

It was a Monday night. I wasn’t in the mood for anything loud or crazy. I wanted something mellow and quiet. My old age has brought me to La Grande Orange Cafe in Pasadena — a somewhat under the radar, though not a hole in the wall restaurant, that is a bit on the boring side. The inside was interesting though. It had different rooms with different themes. Adjacent to the restaurant is the Metro Gold Line, Del Mar Station and some luxury apartments. The area certainly isn’t Old Town Pasadena. It’s quiet, a bit boring, and kind of nice.

The shredded kale and quinoa salad was refreshing and packed with nutrients. The crunch from the sunflower seeds was appreciated. Sweetness from the flame grapes and citrus from lemon was a nice combo. With a fresh shaving of parmesan, the salad was rich and flavorful, with a nice summer zest. Kale is slowing becoming my new favorite green.

Last year, brussel sprouts have been getting popular. Never having it in a salad, the Brussels sprouts salad was new and exciting to me. Manchego being one of my favorite cheese, the shaved aged manchego was the best thing for me. The sweet dried berries and smoked almonds were a great balance for this dish. The honey mustard vinaigrette was good, considering I am not a fan of sweet dressing; fortunately, it wasn’t swimming in dressing. Bacon on the salad was optional — I just laughed at that statement.

La Grande Orange Cafe is known for the deviled eggs. In hind sight, I should have just ordered it from the DineLA menu. These little bites were perfect. It had a great velvety texture with the right amount of spice and zing. A little drizzle of oil or something could have made them less dry though. Again, bacon was optional, and again, I chuckled.

It was a Monday, and my fiancé wanted a drink. Yes, we are making “its a Monday” as an excuse to drink. She ordered the white sangria, and it was refreshing — better than I expected. Though a girly drink, it was strong enough to enjoy and well, fruity enough to enjoy. The fresh peach was refreshing and cool.

I ordered the wood fire rotisserie chicken. Though kind of boring, the heirloom cannellini beans were a nice touch. The half chicken was a lot of protein to take in, especially the dry breast — dark meat was juicy and well seasoned. The fresh green beans had a nice crunch. A very “safe” dish, but still delicious.

I saw Prime Rib on the menu and had to take advantage. The prime rib was cooked nicely medium rare, though a bit on the rare side. Any less time in the oven, it would have been near raw beef. The mashed potatoes were a bit bland and boring, but the horse radish made everything lively. The green beans brought everything together.

I liked the olive oil cake. It had a very light, yet dense texture, in between a cake and a bread. The mild flavor mixed with the strawberry and vanilla sorbet was a good mix.

The red velvet cake was awesome. The multilayer of cake was nice to look at and fun to eat. Breaking off layer by layer, each cake and frosting mixture was pleasant. The vanilla ice cream was a nice touch. I mean, who doesn’t like cake and ice cream?

La Grande Orange Cafe was an interesting experience. Culinarily, it isn’t as exciting as most restaurants are. In fact, the restaurant is a bit boring. From the food, to the decor, and the wait service, nothing got me excited for anything. It was a Monday night, DineLA was going on, and we just wanted a quiet night together in Pasadena. The food was plenty and everything tasted as it should. The classic styling and menu will never go out of style.

La Grande Orange Café on Urbanspoon

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M.B. Post – David LeFevre and his Social House

by Franklin on February 26, 2013

Manhattan Beach might possibly be the best beach in all of Los Angeles. Yeah, Malibu is where it’s at if you are rich and famous, but besides nice cars and huge houses, you aren’t left witch much. I guess Manhattan Beach is unique in that it is a great beach town. With much to see from shopping and unique eateries, the beach has grown to be one of my favorite destinations. Just to make this beach even more sweet, they have M.B. Post. More of a hang out spot than a sit down restaurant, M.B. Post is hip and relaxed.

Chef and ownder David LeFevre started off cooking as a child helping his mom. After working in various restaurants, LeFevre enrolled at the notable Culinary Institute of America. From then, he worked at renowned restaurants in Las Vegas and Chicago. He then traveled to France and hone his classical skills in some of the world’s most distinguished kitchens. He traveled to different countries like Singapore, Bangkok, Stockholm, and Tokyo to diversify his spectrum. LeFevre was recruited as Executive Chef of the Water Grill in downtown Los Angeles. It was under his time there that the Water Grill received their Michelin Star. Now at Manhattan Beach Post (M.B. Post), chef David LeFevre stated his own restaurant offering a rustic menu with artisanal dishes designed to be shared — a gastropub on the beach. A Manhattan Beach resident, he brings the neighborhood a Social House where guests come for dinner but stay for the spirited and engaging atmosphere. M.B. Post was recognized as James Beard Awards finalist as the “Best New Restaurant.” — A great accomplishment nonetheless.

The wooden benches and tables with the wooden walls all are modern yet rustic. Not having designated tables, but more of a “everyone sits together” on a bench was relaxed and fun. The atmosphere was dark, and the kitchen was in full view from patrons. I had the pleasure of sitting right in front of the kitchen and was watching the chefs at work. The bar is usually packed and rowdy with drinks in everyone’s hands. What I love about this place is that the menu changes daily. I don’t know if I was seeing it right, but the menu seemed like it was written by hand. I know that seems a little crazy, but it is. M.B. Post had a gastropub like feel to it, and the small plates are meant to be shared.

We started things off with the bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits with maple butter. These biscuits were probably the most delicate biscuits I ever had. It was crisp and flakey on the outside, and the inside was warm and fluffy. Filled with salty bacon and cheddar, this savory biscuit was complimented perfectly with the subtly sweet maple butter. I am not really a fan or sweet butter, but this overly savory biscuit (not that I’m complaining) was a perfect vessel for something sweet.

The white oak grilled sword squid was perfect. A secret fan of squid, I love it all, from fried calamari, to grilled dishes like this one. The cooking process with use of white oak gave it a nice subtle smoky flavor. It wasn’t on the chewy side at all. It had a nice clean flavor that was complimented with the acidic lemon curd. Acidic flavors from lemon and lime are always welcome in seafood dishes. It kept the flavors very vibrant and light. Interestingly, the marinated gigante beans gave it more substance and meatiness. Not a true fan of beans, the combination of squid and beans was genius. The beans were just as important to the dish as the squid.

As our red meat protein, we ordered the BBQ Moroccan lamb belly. At first bite, I instantly remembered this dish. Did I have it before? Why was it so familiar? Then, it hit me! I first tasted this dish from David himself at the 2012 Los Angeles Food and Wine Grand Tasting. the funny thing is, at the grand tasting, I remembered the lamb was really salty. This time around at M.B. Post, the lamb was near perfect. It was salted just right, and the harissa, caramelized onions, and Japanese eggplant flavored the meat quite nicely. The complex flavors and the tender, near fork tender meat was a bite that was unforgettable.

M.B. Post, fits so perfectly in this beach town, Manhattan Beach. The vibe and ambiance of the restaurant all fit in perfectly. Driving down Manhattan Beach Blvd, and looking at all there is to shop and eat, M.B. Post is probably the coolest place to hang out. They have an interesting relationship with each other. M.B. Post isn’t what it is without the beach, and Manhattan Beach won’t be the same without M.B. Post. The food is amazingly delicious, and the “Social House” aspect of it all makes a destination to meet up with friends. Chef David LeFevre and his team is doing a great job. It was awesome to see him again at the restaurant walking around. After our meal, I said hi, and he seemed to remember me from LAFW. Chef David plans to open another restaurant in Manhattan Beach this spring. Called Fishing With Dynamite, the 30 seat restaurant will feature classic east coast seafood with the relaxed feel of the west coast. I can’t wait to try that when it opens.

M.B. Post on Urbanspoon

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The first Portillo’s hot dog stand known as “The Dog House” opened in 1963. The small trailer with dedication from the ownder to serving “the best food” and “the best service” available grew to such an institution today. Having a Portillo’s in the relatively close city of Buena Park, it is always a treat, Probably the coolest place in Buena Park, Portillo’s is always a spot for a fun environment and classic American fare. Everyone loves a good joint where health gets thrown out the window. Being the new year and all, I had a combination of healthy and “real” food. Overall, it was an awesome experience.

The hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches at Portillo’s don’t scream healthy healthy, so I opted to start off with a salad. I know. Something is changing insdie of me. Maybe it’s the new year that is making me make these “right” decisions. Their chopped salad was quite surprisingly good. The iceberg and romaine lettuce was chopped finely. It was tossed with cubed chicken, gorgonzola cheese, red cabbage, pasta, tomatoes, bacon, green onions and house dressing. The mixture made for a delicious salad that was somewhat healthy. The gorgonzola popped with flavor and the pasta inside gave it some substanance. The finely chopped greens made this salad easy to eat. Delicious!

At Portillo’s, they have an Italian Beef with Italaian sausage sandwich. This had both thinly sliced, succulent beef with Italian sausage on top. I got the salad just so I can eat this bad boy. Stuffed with either hot or sweet peppers (I opted for the sweet peppers), the sandwich had a lot of pronounced flavor. The Giardiniera on top finshed this sandwich off nicely. The beef with the zesty Giadiniera made this sandwich a top pick. Yeah, I didn’t get the hot dog at Portillo’s. Personally, their hot dogs aren’t that great. It is all about the Italian beef and sausage. Because of the Italian sausage, I ate this more like a hot dog than anything else. A little mustard on top to cut the fat, and I was all smiles.

I really wanted to get the cheese fries. The cheese fries was just french fries with a side of cheese sauce. What is better than french fries that a side of cheese sauce? Gravy, maybe? I settled for some onion rings. I haven’t had it in a while and I thought it would go nicely with my beef and sausage sandwich. I was right! The onions rings really hit the spot. It was crunchy and full of flavor. The cheese fries can wait for next time.

Portillo’s is a really chill spot. The food is greasy and delicious, and the price is reasonable. Inside and out, the design of it all is unique and fun. On the day that I went, there was a small group of old school cars parked outside. Car club? Just to go to this awesome eatery with a cool vibe made my experience special. Food and all, this is one of my favorite Orange County picks for good eats.

Portillo's Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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What is cooler? Cake or Pie? I mean, you got the all time favorite birthday cake, and pretty much every “pastry” (scone, donut, brownie, etc.) is all part of the cake family. Pie on the other gets no love. The only place showing them love is Mairie, and all the great diners. When I say great diners, I mean in the east coast. What do we have? What does Lost Angeles have? I guess we have House of Pies. A unique and one and only, the the restaurant is a casual style diner that has been around for nearly 40 years. I always had their pies on certain occasions and they are quite good. I never ate there personally, so I had to give it a try. The food is down to earth and is comforting on all fronts. Even the waitresses are sweet ladies. I would say though, their pies are superior to their food items, but it’s still a nice casual spot to have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with friends and family.

When I saw chicken wings and waffles on the menu, I was elated. It was exactly what I wanted and I heard their fried chicken is something to consider. The chicken was superb as it was juicy and crispy. I hate it when I bite into fried chicken and the meat is either dry or drenched in grease. Theirs was clean tasting and the crispy batter was surprisingly delicious. The waffle on the other hand just got by. It wasn’t anything special and the batter could use a little work. It wasn’t crispy or tasty — it was more for show. Hand’s down, the waffles at Roscoe’s are superior. The chicken though, they can hold their own.

I had a bite of their burger — the bacon avocado burger named the Frisco Burger. This was just a standard burger. the patty wasn’t anything special, but the bacon was nice with the creamy avocado. The sourdough was a nice switch from the boring hamburger bun. This burger wasn’t special for me though. It wasn’t overly juicy or flavorful.

I know it’s a shocker. I didn’t get pie this time! Honestly though, the food isn’t something to consider. It is your basic diner food — boring in every sense. The pies are quite decent, but then again, I am all about cakes. Birthday cakes, wedding cakes, cake donuts, I love them all. I am not a fan of most pies, meat pies, fruit pies — I’m just not a fan. I guess I am biased in a way. I mean, if this place was called House of Cakes, I would be all over it. I guess if you like diner food and love pies, this would be heaven. For me, just give me my fried chicken wings and I will be on my way.

House of Pies on Urbanspoon

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