Southern California

In Praise of Waffles and Chapman College

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by Laraine Newman

bruxielaraine newman cameoLast Friday I took my daughter Hannah to tour Chapman College located only an hour south of Los Angeles, making it very convenient for her to bring me her laundry should she get in.  Chapman is located in the charming area of Old Town Orange and we were given a personal tour of the campus  by none other than the Dean of Admissions himself, Michael Pelley. Look in the dictionary for the opposite of ‘stuffy’ and you'll find Michael Pelly. Hannah had never interviewed at a college before and she was uncharacteristically mute when meeting with the Dean of The Film School.  But not with Pelly. He was the ultimate host giving us a comprehensive tour that created the appropriate sense of longing.   

At the end we walked to the corner of campus to Bruxie Gourmet Waffle Sandwiches. I love their tag line: The Bold Fold. Was this part of the tour? It should be.

With a list of savory and sweet waffle sandwiches clearly the proprietors have a vision. Michael recommended the grilled portabella mushroom, goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and arugula with a drizzle of balsamic reduction.  Hannah had the ‘smores. They also have fresh lemonade along with locally crafted artisan colas made specifically for Bruxie’s.

DaoFu - San Diego

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by Kitty Kaufman

daofu 11You'll never find this place on your own; you have to know someone. The Thin Man and I are just that lucky. Michele lives close by and does a fast focus so we can shoot and eat while everything's still hot. DaoFu is in Normal Heights and the fusion menu shares Thai, China, India, Vietnam and Japan. Michele says, "There's nothing normal about Normal." I don't see anything weird other than a guy on the street with his dog, who's still in the same spot when we emerge later. The dog is clearly unhappy.

To check it out, you have to be a detective. That's because in December they were told to stop using the name Tao and so they became DaoFu. Back story: Vegas dudes took issue with the name, according to our server. Why is Tao Asian nightclub in the Venetian Hotel agonizing over a place 326 miles away? Vegas Tao seats 3,000; Tweets to 75,000; lists 139,000 Facebook friends, hosts an annoying website and features scantily clad women. DaoFu, nee Tao, has no website, no Twitter presence, it closes at 9, and seats 50 fully dressed crunchies in a storefront. Same thing.

DaoFu is a place you want in your neighborhood, but not if you live in Nevada. It's chic with flowers, dessert, beer, wine and smart servers. It's also funky and the funk part is writing on the walls. Every inch is covered in graffiti. The owner says to himself, what else? "Okay, hungry people, go draw on the walls." The dominant theme is animal motifs. Of course.

The Boathouse at Hendry's Beach

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by Eduardo Santiago

hnedrys_boathouse_logo.jpgI've always had a strange relationship with The Wedge. I see it on the menu, I want it, I plan to order it and then I change my mind. I'm always afraid that I'm going to get stuck with a chunk of iceberg lettuce (no nutritional value) smothered with cheap, prefab blue cheese dressing (that's neither blue nor cheese). Then suddenly, this summer, after a day at the dog-friendly Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara – there it was – not just on the menu but at the next table – what looked like the most delicious wedge salad in the world.

I'll admit, I was hungry, beach hungry. But I'm the type who polls other diners if I like what they're eating. And diners are always willing to give me their opinion. The nearly-naked couple I talked to at the casually elegant Boathouse restaurant on this fateful summer day gave me the thumbs up (their mouths were full). But more than their thumbs up, what encouraged me most was the sparkle in their eyes. They were in wedge heaven.

Michael's Pizzeria

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by Matt Armendariz

michaelslogo.jpg You might remember we were on a slight squash kick recently. It coincided with a visit to one of my favorite restaurants here in Long Beach, Michael’s Pizzeria. I’ve said a million times that I don’t really “do” restaurant coverage because a) it’s overdone and b) it’s not my thing. I think the irony is that I get to eat in some of the most amazing places all over the damn globe and could probably have a blog over just restaurants alone, but again, it’s best left for others. Having said that, when I do write about a restaurant it’s because I find it pretty special and/or I’ve graciously stolen a recipe to inspire me at home. This is one of those cases on both accounts.

A few things you will not engage me on unless we are best friends and in the comfort of my own home: religion, women’s reproductive rights, politics, and who makes the best pizza. I’m no dummy. Each topic is loaded with sensitivity, opinion, and weighs a million tons. I’m better off just smiling and talking about pretty plates and napkins and puppies.

When it comes to pizza, I will not argue with you about what you like or who makes the better pie. Why waste my time? I will, however, tell you that I prefer a thinner crust, only a few high quality toppings, and fired quickly at a high temperature. See? How evasive was that? Truth be told, meet my few easy requirements and chances are I’ll enjoy it. Which is why I prefer pizza napoletana. Keep your deep dish, pal.

The Long Road to a Perfect Cup of Coffee

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by Anna Harari

coachella1.jpg"Can I get real milk?"

"Honey, you're not in LA, it's creamers or black coffee for you."

He must have been expecting a brat face back because my smile caught him off guard. He had no idea that he had said the magic words and black diner coffee was exactly what I was after.

Thom and I had both woken up at 4am to work on set on different commercials, he is a stylist and I was working as a wardrobe assistant. After our respective jobs wrapped we met up at the Bootleg Theater to see Buffy Sainte Marie, who gave everyone in the audience an out of body experience. By 12:30am we were on the road to Palm Desert, picking up our friend Merrick on the way. We got to the desert by 3am, went straight to sleep, and woke up the next day to enter Coachella.

Nightmare upon nightmare it took us three hours to get into the festival (those con artists woudn't sell single day tickets this year and it's the only year the festival has sold out) so we waited in traffic and line upon line to enter a post apocalyptic like field filled with hipsters and, well, L.A.

Seafood Satisfaction at Pier 46

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by Lisa Dinsmore

pier46logo200.jpgThough I'm not a betting person, I would have put my small stash of savings on the line if anyone had told me a year ago that I would become a seafood lover. While still not on the sushi bandwagon, I have to say that 2009 changed my mind about how good fish can be. Of course, that is, when prepared by professionals using the freshest fish available. Chef Ludo Lefebvre prepared the best seafood dish I have ever had at LudoBites 3.0, one that I instantly wanted more of, much to my husband's disbelief. When we go out to dinner, one bite of his fish is usually enough for me. However, I know I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't discovered Pier 46 Seafood first.

They are located in Templeton, CA, a small town just south of our favorite wine region – Paso Robles. We go to Paso a lot, but I had never heard of Pier 46 until I joined Twitter last March. Their name came up time and again between my winery tweeps when discussions about lunch were bandied about. Everyone claimed they had the BEST fish tacos in the region.

Cambria's Best: The Black Cat Bistro

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by Maylynn Morales

blackcatlogo.jpgWith my weekend plans suddenly cancelled, I got to drive up my beloved Central Coast  for a second visit to Cambria in a month.  Both times, I had one place in mind at which to dine: Black Cat Bistro.  Since I first enjoyed dinner there last year, I have made it a point to return each time I have the opportunity.  While I enjoy exploring new restaurants, Cambria is a small enough place, so I have almost gone to all the fine dining restaurants in town. Black Cat Bistro is my first choice, and I have pretty much made it my mission to try the whole menu this year.  Even with my point overages on my Weight Watchers plan, this oh-so-delicious task will be worth it!

Despite the small size of Cambria, there are a good amount of locals that frequent the restaurant, as well as us out-of-town regulars. On a Friday night you should be able to snag a table in the main dining room or a seat at the bar. However, on a Saturday night I would highly recommend reservations. Since I travel alone (by choice, really!), I prefer to sit at the bar so that I can get a sneak peak at the various dishes coming out of the kitchen as they are taken to each table.  Not to mention, chef Deborah Scarborough peeks out from the kitchen from time to time.

Our Pit Stop at Harris Ranch

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by Lisa Dinsmore

harrisranch.jpgI'm an obsessive travel planner. I leave nothing to chance when venturing far away from my home. I need a lay of the new land to feel safe and happy. I don't always do everything or go to every place I research, but the last thing I want is to be bored when I'm away from home sitting in a generic hotel room. Since I've also been, at least until the last year, a fairly picky-eater I like to know my dining options. I will only eat fast-food in an emergency, i.e. when there is absolutely no other choice. As a result, my pre-trip planning involves many sessions on the Internet, trying to find the best and cheapest restaurants that also have a decent wine list and cuisine that isn't too ethnic (the Man won't eat Indian, Thai or Chinese that doesn't come from a container). This is not an easy task.

Our most recent road trip to Sonoma county meant an endlessly boring drive up the I-5 from L.A. We could have flown, but we wanted to spend our money on wine and since we needed a car anyway, we bit the bullet and hit the highway. Once you cross the Grapevine, Central California is mostly flat desert with nothing to see except the occasional gigantic farm or mass-producing vineyard. I hate this stretch of road more than the road to Las Vegas and believe me that's saying something because I hate Las Vegas. (Only the I-10 to Phoenix is worse.)

Game on at the Deer Lodge in Ojai

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by Bruce Cormicle

deer_lodge2.jpg You ordered Grilled Ostrich last night? Venison medallions in cherry sauce? Roast duck breast that tasted like the best gelato you ever had? Killer game splattered everywhere - into all soups and on top of all salads? 

Well you were probably sitting as my dinner guest at a rustic table next to a wooden carved motorcycle sculpture that is parked in doors in front of a fireplace that sits beneath deer antlers festooned with xmas lights at the Deer Lodge in Ojai, California. 

 

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