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Afternoon Tea in Newport Beach area

Thanks for the pointers. A rehearsal lunch has suddenly been scheduled so looks like afternoon tea would be overindulgent! The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel looks stunning! I'll have to find a reason to visit there one day!

Oct 01, 2013
gijoeanne in Los Angeles Area

Afternoon Tea in Newport Beach area

May anyone recommend a nice spot for a bridal party to have afternoon tea on a Friday? My [seemingly exhaustive] Googling has led me to conclude that most of the information out there is outdated. I'm looking to combine afternoon tea with some spa time. Price is of no object, but we would prefer not to shuttle everyone around from tea to spa to drinks/dinner, etc so an all-in-one spot (like a resort) is preferable. My searches thus far have only returned the Resort at Pelican Hill. We're staying at the Fairmont Newport Beach, but the rehearsal will be at Tustin Ranch in the morning, so are there other options in the area? I also have to add that I have very limited knowledge of OC geography, so if your suggestions can include reasonable travel time (including traffic!), it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Sep 12, 2013
gijoeanne in Los Angeles Area

PCH drive from SF to Ventura

Thanks everyone for your input! We couldn’t have asked for better weather on our drive down the highway. We ended up having brunch at Village Corner in Carmel. Nothing particularly remarkable, but it is hard for Dungeness crab and avocado eggs benedict to be offensive anyway (my husband really enjoyed the buttery Hollandaise sauce though). Unfortunately, there are no Chowhounding stops in Big Sur to report because my husband wanted to ensure we finished our hike on the Salmon Creek trail before sunset.

Paso Robles was very enjoyable though. Thomas Hill Organics was absolutely fantastic. If all salad greens were so crisp and succulent, my husband would stop quoting The Simpsons “You don’t make friends with salad.” The pork tacos were delectably seasoned. The smoked duck was overly smoked imo, and my husband thought the marmalade was heavy handed and overpowered the other flavours on the plate. Pizza was delicious, the Ahi tuna salad was a great value and I loved the coriander dressing on the salad. My veal osso bucco was to-die-for – rich, fall off the bone, absolutely succulent down to the marrow in the bone. Our brunch the next day at Panolivo on the other hand, was absolutely mediocre, so not much to elaborate on here.

We started driving along Adelaida for our winery touring, and the region is absolutely gorgeous! Some blossoms were STARTING to peak through, but the canopy of trees along parts of the road felt very romantic. We managed to fit in Adelaida, Tablas Creek and Dover Canyon. Unfortunately, the owners were not pouring on a Sunday but we had good conversations with the staff at Adelaida and Tablas Creek. The Rhone varietals do indeed seem fitting for the region, but I still find the Zinfandel grape to be particularly expressive. I was surprised to learn that some hills in the western region can create a mighty fine Pinot (at Adelaida)! And my husband the designated driver came out of the tour completely sober (couldn't really say the same for myself - $10 for 6+ tastings at each winery!)

No other chowhounding stops to report afterwards, because again with his mind on the watch, my husband wanted to ensure I got to my conference in Ventura on time. Consequently, we hit Santa Maria way before dinner and so settled on satisfying his In-N-Out Burger craving.

The rest of the week was all conference food, but we did manage to sneak out to Santa Barbara for lunch one day. Since the recommended Arigato was only available for dinner, and Sakura’s online menu didn’t seem to include uni, we stepped into Hungry Cat. The whole fresh local uni was a bit pricey ($18) but it was well worth the experience of eating the roe straight out of the spiny shell. The fish tacos were slightly too acidic, but the marinated mussels were good. We then stopped by at Renaud for some after-lunch sweets. Our server at Hungry Cat highly recommended the almond croissant there, but while the almond topping was a great balance of sweet and crunchiness, I thought the actual croissant texture was too bread-y. It lacked flakiness and the buttery goodness…perhaps because it was at the tail end of their day, who knows.

Overall, we had a great time driving down the Central Coast and totally wouldn’t mind doing it again in the future!

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The Hungry Cat
1134 Chapala St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Thomas Hill Organics
1305 Park St, Paso Robles, CA

Panolivo
1344 Park St, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Arigato
31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy Ste J, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

Feb 25, 2011
gijoeanne in California

PCH drive from SF to Ventura

Haha, don't worry! My husband absolutely cannot handle alcohol (a typical Asian) so he's always the designated driver. Thanks for the warning though!

Are you saying Santa Paula Valley will be filled with orange blossoms???? Oh my, that will definitely warrant a detour! Or at least a biking trip out there during my midday "free time" at the conference...

Jan 13, 2011
gijoeanne in California

PCH drive from SF to Ventura

Hey! CHers were incredibly useful during my last trip to California and I’m hoping to pick your brains again :). In mid-February, my husband and I are going to drive down PCH from SF/SJ (not yet finalized), take a short hike in Big Sur on whichever trail hasn’t been closed from the 2008 fires (possibly the Salmon Creek trail?), and spend the night in Paso Robles. Next morning, we’ll try to fit in a bit of winery touring (it’s the weekend, so I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to drink before noon!) before we make our way down to Ventura, where I’ll have to spend the week eating buffet-style hotel food at a conference. I have a draft itinerary, but any suggested improvements are warmly welcomed!

- Have breakfast/brunch in Carmel (hubby says he knows a good place, so I’ll leave that to him)
- Grab food for the hike from Big Sur Bakery as we’ve done before.
- Any suggestions for San Simeon/Cambria area for a snack in case we get too hungry after the hike and before dinner?
- For dinner in Paso Robles, I’m considering Thomas Hill Organics. Farm-to-table is great, but unfortunately it’s not a viable concept for 2/3 of the year up here in Canada. As I’m not sure when we’ll get into town, would we have a good chance of being seated without a reservation on a Saturday?
- For breakfast the next morning in Paso Robles, I’m thinking of Panolivo .
- As for the wineries, I don’t want to pack in too many for the sake of time, plus I tend to get a little chatty. I like to visit smaller, more personal wineries and taste wines that would otherwise be impossible to find at a liquor store. The “Rhone Rangers” are very intriguing as I’m sure I’ve been drinking viognier before it started appearing by the glass on all the restaurant wine menus (at least up here in Canada). So far I’m thinking Adelaida, Dover Canyon and Tablas Creek. I would also like to hit up the Turley tasting room, because the bartender at Harry Caray’s in Chicago raved it’s the best wine she’s ever tasted, and I want to see what all this fuss is about!
- Still need a lunch suggestion between Paso Robles and Santa Barbara.
- We’ll try to have dinner in Santa Barbara. We’re both big uni freaks, so is there a good [moderately priced] spot for the famous Santa Barbara sea urchin? If it serves dinner early (at like 5pm), that’s even better!
- We are still obsessively searching for a North American source of those amazing strawberries we had in France. We’re looking for a consumer-accessible source of Mara des bois (or any of their crosses) without having to go to a ranch in the San Diego area. Can these strawberries be found in any farm/farmer’s market/gourmet grocery story along the Central Coast?

My hometown is Vancouver, transplanted to Toronto, and will be moving to New York soon, so we’re interested in things that we can’t get out East or during regular home visits. We eat all types of cuisine, have no dietary restrictions, and don’t have any allergies. Thank you in advance for your input!

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Big Sur Bakery
47540 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Thomas Hill Organics
1305 Park St, Paso Robles, CA

Panolivo
1344 Park St, Paso Robles, CA 93446

Jan 13, 2011
gijoeanne in California

A quick review of Biff's

I was also at Biff's last week, and was happy with what I got for the price. We were mainly tempted by the $1 oysters after 5pm (as many as you want! I don't know how they can afford to keep it up!). My husband started with the fricasse of escargots, then had the boudin noir. Our friend had the beet salad then the lamb's tongue. I myself started with the bone marrow pudding, followed by the sweetbread. Not the best fried sweetbread I ever had, but the celeriac underneath was very enjoyable - if not a bit too runny. For desserts we had the profiteroles and my friend got the chocolate pot de creme which she absolutely loved. We brought our own bottle of wine, and wasn't met with any cold attitudes about it. In fact the sommelier (I assumed he was, because opening the bottle was the only time he served us) was really warm and started chatting to us about the winery because it's one of his favourites. It was a fantastic way to spend a Tuesday evening (and the restaurant was actually pretty busy for a Tuesday night). Actually, given the prices aren't too out of line with for example, Le Select or Coquine, and the welcoming service, I think I have found a new go-to spot when I'm craving French bistro food...

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Le Select
432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

Coquine
2075 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4S2A4, CA

Looking For a Restaurant/Bar Serving Belgian Delirium in Toronto

I believe Sin and Redemption on McCaul carries it.

J-Town Ramen

Okokok, checked the Ippudo website since it's been a while since I've been there. Looking at the prices again I'm reminded of what NOT to line up for when I go there for a few days again. Yes, Ippudo is expensive. Although their ramen for $14 does come with the menma and the kikurage. Enough to justify an additional $5 or so of cost? Probably not. However, I still think what I got for over $12 at Niwa-tei certainly was not the best value ramen I've come across in North America. And the next time I'm uptown for lunch, I think I'll seek out dim sum instead...

J-Town Ramen

The tonkotsu ramen cost $8.80. To add 2 extra slices of chasu ($2.50) (and for that I got a grand total of 3 pieces of chasu in my ramen), another half a boiled egg ($0.50), and corn ($0.50) would bring the total up to 12.30CAD. To my recollection, 14USD was the priciest bowl at Ippudo, and I remember 11USD bowls on their menu as well. Multiply by 1.04 where necessary if we care to distinguish between the currencies anymore. Perhaps at a slightly lower price, we would get slightly more toppings at Niwatei, so I may have used "approach" loosely. Nevertheless, this is still the most expensive bowl of ramen I've had in the GTA, only rivalled by Liberty Noodle (ugh).

J-Town Ramen

I read about this place here and had to make it my next spot to check out on my rare uptown dine outs (yes, the SO and I enjoy ramen that much but have been sorely disappointed in Toronto so far). Agreed that this is the best that Toronto has to offer. We got the tonkotsu with all the extra toppings. The noodles were indeed commercial but cooked just enough (not overcooked like at Ajisen!) to be toothsome. The tonkotsu was creamy and IMO salty enough to be enjoyed with the noodles. My egg was perfectly cooked! The chasu is too lean as well, and cold! That wasn't a welcome surprise. Unlike others, I found the service to be slow and a bit distracted...perhaps I went a time when they were training new staff...

However, I have to comment on the price point. I may be especially cheap, but did no one else find this bowl of ramen a bit...expensive? Despite ordering extra chasu and adding corn and egg, I felt like the toppings were still minimal and it cost like $12! At Benkei in Vancouver, the most expensive bowl with all the extra fixings costs the same, but at least the toppings were so generous (and in such great variety!) that you can't see the noodles underneath. Or go around the corner to Kintaro and I can enjoy a bowl of handmade noodles (with that wonderful fatty broth) for under $8. The prices at Niwatei approach those of Ippudo in NYC, but the concoctions at Ippudo were far more flavourful, and it included handmade noodles too.

Oh well, as said, this is still the best ramen that can be found in the GTA. May we start a CH movement to get someone to open a handmade ramen shop in Toronto please????

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Niwa-Tei
3160 Steeles Avenue East, Unit #2, Markham, ON L3R 4G9, CA

Chinese restaurant for wedding banquet in downtown Toronto?

Crown Princess (the sister restaurant to 'Crown Prince' on Victoria) is opening on Bay St in the old 5th Elementt space. I expect it to be fancy enough for a wedding banquet. I had the $1000 menu at Crown Prince before and the presentation was very impressive! The crispy-skinned suckling pig would make a great start to your wedding reception...

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5th Elementt
1033 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A5, CA

Master Steak Restaurant in Mississauga - anyone been?

It's pretty much a trucker's stop. The steaks are dirt cheap and there is a MASSIVE cut (the Delmonico) that's not typically found at your typical steak joint. Dining atmosphere is a no-frills cafeteria-style complete with trays. Can't really complain much about the steaks given the price point (if I remember correctly only the Delmonico was above $20), and the nice thing is they will actually cook your steak to order (still fuming about a recent dinner at a surf and turf restaurant in Orlando where everyone's steaks, despite costing over two times as much, came out 'medium'). Been too sketched out to attempt the shrimp but I haven't known anyone to get sick from them.

Needed: Private Venue for Company Dinner in DT TO core for Accountants

I attended a private dinner of similar size (I think 70 people?) at C5 in the ROM before. It included cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the lounge area before the group moved into the dining room for dinner. The food was great and the added bonus was that guests got to peruse one of the exhibits on the lower floor.

Best macarons in Toronto?

Personally, it's a toss up between Laduree and PH in terms of texture, but PH's real achievement lies in the intensity of the macaron flavours. That's what makes him the king of macarons, IMHO. That being said, even if on a good day, the Toronto macaron makers can get a decent texture, their flavour level just can't compare to the Parisian macarons but it could just be the ingredients available here...

I've purchased hundreds of dollars of macarons from PH before, froze them, and as a treat would occasionally defrost a couple uncovered. Texture was still great, so I don't know how these GTA bakeries are doing it...

I've had some really enjoyable ones at Ruelo as well! I think they're among the most consistent I've had in the city. I really enjoy the flavours at La Bamboche. I've tried convincing Stephen Nason to make them more dainty like the Parisian ones but he says he finds the oversized, cakey macarons with extra filling to be more agreeable to the Canadian palate. Oh well... I think the worst single macaron I've had must have come from Bobette and Belle purchased from McEwan. Completely hollow on the inside, a thick tough outer shell and flavours tasted artificial...ugh. The second one was better so I guess consistency is probably the most difficult thing to achieve...

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La Bamboche
4 Manor Rd E, Toronto, ON M4S, CA

Ruelo
550 Hwy 7 E, Richmond Hill, ON L4B, CA

McEwan
75 The Donway W, Toronto, ON M3C, CA

Where to go for large takeout order of dim sum and whole roasted pig downtown?

Hey everyone thanks for all your suggestions! I ended up doing one-stop shopping at T&T and FoodieGirl29 was right - those platters are absolutely massive! The good thing was that they also provided the dim sum at a very competitive price and had a 40-lb roast pig for $240 (head, leg, bones, everything included and they would chop it up for you). The roasted pig was unfortunately unusually salty but the crispy skin was a hit with the crowd. Those platters were unexpectedly big, and I'm gonna be having leftovers for a week...

Delighful Fluffy buttery croissants

The croissants at Ma Maison typically never fail to satisfy me. I have to say though, Hanks has impressed me with the quality of their croissants. Crispy, buttery, the inner layers have that pull... The almond croissant is really good too - not the custard or marzipan-type filling (although I gotta admit that I enjoy those types of filling too!)

ISO: Charlotte/Mara des Bois strawberries

Cheap strawberries abound now at the supermarkets! However, I still cannot shake the taste of the strawberries I got from a market in Paris...completely unlike anything I've ever eated in North America - they actually have TASTE! My French skills were non-existent, but I swear I was told they were "Charlotte." Obsessive Googling later revealed that it is a cross of "Mara des Bois," another exceptionally tasty variety. It seems the government has approved cultivation of Charlotte (http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/p...), so does anyone know if they can be found in the Toronto area? Or anywhere in Ontario? Montreal?

Where to go for large takeout order of dim sum and whole roasted pig downtown?

Hey! I'm planning a party of 60ish for in a downtown condo party room - enough people to not infringe on any fire safety regulations but also too many for everyone to sit down and use a knife and fork. I thought I'd eschew the typical cheese platter/chicken skewer/sausage roll/mini quiche hors d'oeuvre cocktail party and serve dim sum and a whole roasted pig (because who doesn't love a whole roasted pig?) Any recommendations for restaurants/Chinese bakeries that can accommodate a large order of various TASTY dim sum for takeout? Also, any recommendations for a mid-sized (or possibly larger) whole roasted pig (with crispy skin). A suckling pig, as wonderful as it is, would be too small for the crowd. The dim sum and pig doesn't have to come from the same place, although logistically it would make things easier. Downtown recommendations only please, as I'd like the food to be AT LEAST slightly warmer than tepid by the time it's served. Thanks :).

good macarons, seriously.

Hmm, from this board, I'm getting the impression that chewiness is desirable in a macaron??? Based on my cumulative reading and the Parisian Laduree and Pierre Herme macarons that I've tried, the texture one should expect is crispiness from the glossy smooth shell, and the rest is lighty and spongy - a pillowy vehicle for incredibly intense flavours. And by pillowy I don't mean it should have air pockets. Neither the Laduree or PH macarons showed signs of chew until they were a week old. Chewiness derives from browning, attributable to improper baking times/temperature. I had a chewy macaron from Bouchon in Yountville and found it rather off-putting. The macarons at Payard in New York weren't chewy...

La Bamboche has issues with consistency (I've had chewy, crunchy, and absolutely divine in the past), and according to the girl behind the counter, they've gone through some recipe changes to guarantee a good texture now. On the contrary, I found the Petit Thuet macarons to be sweeter than La Bamboche's (and more..petite!), though the texture is great (perhaps a touch too soft). With regards to texture, the best I've had in Toronto were at Rahier. Too bad they have limited flavour selection and don't regularly make them (apparently they're available only when a really large order is placed and the excess are sold in their retail bakery).

Nadege Patisserie is Bad

When I went, they had prices displayed, and they were pricey! Cakes were $6 each, which is even more expensive than places like Rahier. The "croissants" (quotation marks because I think that is what they were intended to be) were over $3 each.

Nadege Patisserie is Bad

Pinstripeprincess: the macarons had to be cold, otherwise it would have fallen apart. I know a macaron is supposed to be delicate, but at least construct them to withstand a bit of travel! I picked several up from Nadege and got into the car towards Liberty Village. By the time I grabbed a cup of coffee, the filling was melting, or should I say practically liquefying, and taking some of the almond meringe one with it. I actually managed to clumsily consume a single wasabi graperuit but I literally had to SLURP the other three from the plastic bag (they were $2 each! I couldn't let it go to waste!). For the record, both Laduree and Pierre Herme macarons survived a plane ride, walking to/from work, being removed and then subsequently placed back into the fridge, and a car ride from College to Queens Quay.

However, here were my general impressions of the macaron prior to its metamorphosis into goop:
- the cookie was too thin (thinner than Laduree or PH's)
- the shell was smooth but as pinstripeprincess indicated, not crisp enough
- underdeveloped feet
- minimal air pockets though! And definitely not chewy...but...if it was chewy it wouldn't have fallen apart...
- for the wasabi grapefruit: grapefruit flavour was successfully imparted, but wasabi was barely perceivable
- for the cosmopolitan: I have concluded that vodka is a flavour that does not belong in a macaron.

As for the viennoiserie, overall I thought they were a slightly soggy and oily and were not flaky enough. I did not try the cakes, but at least they LOOK spectacular.

cheap and good lobster in chinatown?

I was at Wah Sing a couple of weeks ago. It's $28.95 most nights, but on Tuesday they have it on special for $22.

King Cake

Ma Maison (on Dundas West) is selling them now. Comes with a crown for the winner too.

Vegemite

White House Meats on Bayview has a whole bunch of them. Bought four jars just before Christmas. The guy there told me the location on Bloor West stocks it too.

Tim Tam Biscuits

That would be the dark chocolate ones! Got a box myself :).

a nice wine

I could be wrong, but I believe it's Bordeaux.

Rain, George, or Perigee?

I remember having a wonderful meal at Perigee as well, but that was over a year and a half ago, and I've heard that things just aren't that great since Pat Riley left...

A Splendid-o Sunday Suggestion for Superb Service (lengthy review + pics)

From the sounds of it, there might be some inconsistencies from night to night. For example, Bokchoi noted that IF the duck confit was crispy, it would have been a great foil to the agnolotti. In fact, my duck had a nicely crisped top which I found to be a delight with the consomme. Or perhaps it wasn't enough crisp for BokChoi's liking...?

The thread has become about comparing Splendido to other restaurants on the world stage. Has anyone else seen the "Opinionated about Dining" survey results? Splendido's score was actually pretty high up there, with the likes of other legendary North American establishments...

A Splendid-o Sunday Suggestion for Superb Service (lengthy review + pics)

The upstairs dining room wasn't completely full when I went on a Wednesday, but apparently E had trouble getting a reservation any later than 6. It turns out that there was a CIBC party downstairs (I thought they were the Canadian bank that got hit the hardest with these ABCP thingers???), so yes, a feat indeed!

I forgot to mention that my amuse bouche was something different. It was octopus from a very specific region served atop spinach puree. The octopus was unlike any other I've ever tried - almost meaty! And foaming of flavours was a technique reiterated throughout the meal - it wasn't there when I first visited Splendido. I encountered it in multiple dishes while dining at Manresa in Los Gatos. Wonder how long this trend will stick around...

Hopefully the mini menu will catch on and become a staple in the Toronto dining scene...

A Splendid-o Sunday Suggestion for Superb Service (lengthy review + pics)

I was at Splendido this past Wednesday actually. The room was actually filled with more tables than I remember from 2.5 years ago (I felt like we were the sole diners in the middle of the room...actually, I think we were...) If memory serves me correct, there were more chandeliers so the room wasn't as dim this time around.

I agree for the most part on your impressions of the dishes, although the scallop, gnocchi and wild mushroom dish was my personal favourite. Based on Carlo's suggestion (we asked for a sweet wine of Alsatian-ish origin), we ordered a bottle of the 2006 Riesling from Weingut Geheimer Rat (Pfalz). Last bottle! He said it would pair well with the tuna tartare, lobster, and scallop but I thought it was the most wonderful with that gorgeous foie gras.

I too was underwhelmed by the apple crumble dessert (not to say it wasn't tasty though). I remember being more impressed with the taste combination and execution last time.

The service however was great, if not even better than I remember. My SO and I went for our anniversary and our desserts arrived with dark chocolate plaques saying "Happy Anniversary." We even got a card signed by our server, the chef and the manager! What I really liked about Splendido this time around though was that they included a mini menu detailing our dishes so we can follow along during our meal. Why don't other restaurants do that!

And BokChoi, your family knows Pino Posteraro! Wish my family in Vancouver knew such cool people, hehe. What stood out for me at Cioppino's was the ossa bucco. Have yet to try a version from David Lee, so I'll hold off judgement until then...