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Moka's Profile

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Rick's Secret Spot - San Clemente closed :o(

Have you tried the new Smokey's House of BBQ in Monarch Bay Plaza, Dana Point? I'm not a big fan of BBQ, but my guy appreciates sweet smoked meat, so we wanted to try out the new place in the neighborhood. Based on just one meal there, if you haven't been, I'd have to say you haven't missed much.

Ok, the artisanal Hefeweisen and the sweet potato fries were tasty. Baby back ribs were pretty good, but not special. Onion rings--undercooked. Cole slaw and salad, very average and the "Memphis chili" was little more than tiny shreds of beef in a starchy base (?) Two plates were tasted, sent back and not refunded. An upright cone of hot wings and assorted fried things brought to the next table looked good, though -- might be worth a try. I think Bad to the Bone is better than this.

Good news: Gelato Paradiso is about to open another shop next door to Smokey's. Should be open any day now.

Mar 13, 2008
Moka in Los Angeles Area

Breakfast in Pismo

I agree about the Gardens of Avila restaurant--the old stone patio feels historic, and it is, but don't be confused, the menu isn't really spa cuisine. For brunch, they serve good and hearty smoky bacon, eggs benedict, cheesy omelettes, etc. There's mostly hearty choices for lunch and dinner, too. They do offer a vegetarian meal and a "light" meal for those who want that. The meditation gardens next to the mineral springs are a delight to explore after your meal.

I also agree with the Lido rec. I haven't had their brunch, but did have an excellent seafood dinner there with friends who live in Shell Beach. They said they and their friends consider it to be the best restaurant in the area. The chef at the Lido used to be the chef at Gardens of Avila, and I notice GOA still serves a few of his dishes there.

Feb 05, 2008
Moka in California

Frozen chocolate croissants @ TJ's?

Agreed. The crisp, buttery pastry shattered well without the egg wash, but the chocolate was a little too sweet for me. They used a regular semi-sweet and I would have liked a darker, more bittersweet chocolate, but I'll definitely buy these again--great value.

Williams-Sonoma's pain de chocolat works out to about $3.25 each for delivery w/in California. They're a French chef's recipe, made in SF and I would guess they might have the less-sweet chocolate I'm looking for, so I'll try those too.

Oct 15, 2007
Moka in Chains

Bottled Lemon Juice

Good to know, but I still would never buy it.

Oct 14, 2007
Moka in General Topics

Bottled Lemon Juice

Bottled lemon juice is also filled with preservatives that increase its shelf life and give it more of a chemical taste -- and any real vitamin C would be destroyed by the processing. Good cooks know that there is no substitute for fresh lemon juice.

Oct 14, 2007
Moka in General Topics

What's the difference between types of duck? [moved from Home Cooking board]

Many Chinese cooks prefer that high fat, crisp skin and mild flavor that a Pekin duck can produce, especially when roasted whole. Another specially-bred strain of the Pekin duck that is used a lot in high-end restaurants is the Liberty duck from the SF bay area. It has large breasts and is rich and flavorful, almost like a wild duck.
Here's a link to some SF chef's favorite ducks and methods of cooking. If you have duck legs, you might want to try the recipe from Manka's Inn called Shut-Up Duck. Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles raved about it when they ate at the restaurant.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

Oct 12, 2007
Moka in General Topics

tons of flax seed -- what to make?

Keep in mind that whole flaxseed's very hard protective coating keeps it from being digested, so other than fiber, you're not getting nutrients from it whole -- it needs to be ground.

Flaxseed stored in a large plastic resealable bag in the refrigerator will keep well for months. You can use it every day. I like to grind up a small amount of flaxseed and use about 2 tablespoons of flaxmeal in a smoothie or a glass of milk or water. The ground flax will expand in the liquid in a few minutes, so drink it before it gets too thick. If you sprinkle it on food, be sure to drink a glass of liquid with it to help move it though your digestive tract. Flax has vitamins, minerals, amino acids, Omega-3's and lignans, which are all beneficial and the fiber helps fill you up. I sort of like it's nutty taste.

Oct 08, 2007
Moka in Home Cooking

Our Dinner at Los Olivos Cafe

I've always liked lunch there too, mainly because I prefer their outdoor patio to the dining room, but it's nice to hear that service is also good at dinner. Of their rustic spreads, the tapanade and the muffaletta are my favorites, especially with that good bread, which is baked for them in Solvang. I've heard a few people rave about the syrah-braised lamb shank at dinner, which I'd like to try sometime. Glad you liked your wine, but I wonder why your server would choose a Monterey County chard for you when you're right in the middle of one of Santa Barbara wine country's better wine shops, but then, I'm just not a great fan of Mer de Soleil. Love Bruno d'Alphonso's Di Bruno wines that they pour there and so many other local's wines, including the wine made by the owner of the cafe.

Your descriptions of the wineries on a Saturday remind me of why I always go to Los Olivos on a week-day--it's so much quieter then. We had a picnic on Rusack's deck and were the only ones there, besides a few people on horseback in the parking lot. Thanks for the report.

Oct 08, 2007
Moka in California

Top Chef Finale! (spoilers)

In the following interview Top Chef Farewell: Final Thoughts from Hung, when he was asked why Marcel seemed so excited to see him win, Hung commented that Marcel felt it was "me winning for him -- it was revenge time."

Hung says he'll be back at Guy Savoy, Caesar's for a while, but has plans to move on. The $100,000 will go towards enhancing his culinary education. He'll travel and work for a while in Chicago, Spain and Asia. And, he says that part of the money will be donated to Buddhist temples -- what a guy. Best of luck to you, Hung!

http://la.eater.com/archives/2007/10/...

Oct 08, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale! (spoilers)

I think you're right, the dinner at Social in LA? Great commentary and very photogenic.

Oct 04, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale! (spoilers)

Bad make-up jobs on Casey and Hung...

Oct 04, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale! (spoilers)

Michelle Bernstein's an interesting woman. I'd love to see her replace one of the other judges or at least be a occasional judge.

Oct 04, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale! (spoilers)

Agreed, Hung's chocolate cake would have been more interesting with an added twist of something, but I respect him for making a dessert, which is something the others were afraid to do at all. The judges appreciated that someone made dessert. And, that stupid last-minute 4th course gimmick was a smack in the face for the chefs. Hung had to immediately choose something simple that Sarah could make, which would not mess up his menu. Given the time constraints, on top of the incredible stress they were already under, I don't blame him.

Dale did pretty well, but produced a dish so bad the judges couldn't eat it. Ted Allen sure seemed to push for Dale in the end, in spite of that, which I thought was weird. There was no question in the judges and in my mind of who produced the best meal. Congratulations to Top Chef Hung, who was already a Top Chef before he entered this competition.

Oct 04, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

What are good "detox" foods?

A glass of good water with a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice in it. I drink this first thing in the AM and whenever I feel like it during the day or evening. It's refreshing and tastes good, but beyond that, lemon juice is a traditional liver cleanser and it stimulates the flow of digestive juices and helps in the elimination of toxins. Lemon juice has antiseptic properties that help to gently cleanse your system.

Oct 02, 2007
Moka in General Topics

Saveur: downhill?

I'll think very good thoughts as I flip the pan ;-) though tarte tatin can be a bit temperamental anyway...we'll see. I expect a food magazine's recipes to work. Otherwise, the articles and photography would have to be seriously good to offset that.

A friend who subscribes to the French magazine, Cote Sud, shared the summer issue with me. I was blown away by the gorgeous photography throughout, but especially the food section with it's creative food pairings and presentations. Even those who don't read French well can take away some great ideas, though the mag is pricey.

Sep 29, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Break of Dawn - Gourmet Vietnamese inspired food - South OC. REALLY GOOD.

We liked our breakfast there and enjoyed talking with the chef. Let's see:

Iced Vietnamese coffees (strong and sweet).
Salmon and Eggs with lemon sauce and a hefty oatmeal galette.
Pork casserole with eggs
Creme Brulee French Toast (Kahlua custard was firm on the plate)

We want to go back and try more things. It's in the little shopping center directly south of Laguna Hills Mall, close to Trader Joe's.

We'll be back to try more things.

Sep 28, 2007
Moka in Los Angeles Area

Saveur: downhill?

I don't subscribe, but was paging through the current Chicago issue (that pizza cover got me!) The single most interesting thing I saw inside was an Apple-Lavender Tart Tatin, which spoke to me. I bought the issue solely for that recipe and hope to try it soon. I also liked the page about San Francisco food shops. I don't know if I'd subscribe, but Saveur's photography is still much better than Gourmet's very unappetizing photos -- now there's a downhill story.

Sep 28, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale Part 1 (spoilers)

The speeches at the end are a desperate plea from each contestant to convince the judges not to eliminate them. They're expected to pull out all the stops -- and they were all a bit over the top. Dale's was the most heartfelt. Hung defended that he's totally passionate, his entire family and whole life revolve around cooking. Yes, they all poured it on pretty thick, which is what the show wants them to do and I have no problem with that.

The scene that impressed me about Hung was when he was making his bed, telling about how his father escaped from Vietnam with no money and started his own restaurant here, which allowed the rest of the family to come over. He really appreciated his family's help and wanted to give somethng back to them. As sous chef for Guy Savoy, I think he's come a long way.

The scene that

Sep 27, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale Part 1 (spoilers)

When Ripert commented that Hung's dishes were the best technically, but "lacked soul", Colicchio might have then felt comfortable spinning off a slightly different, but sort-of related criticism about Hung's lack of "native" cooking, which was weird. The regular judges were definitely in awe of Ripert. I had to laugh when Gail said she didn't like someone's dish, but when Ripert disagreed, she quickly corrected herself and said it was good. ;-)

Sep 27, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Top Chef Finale Part 1 (spoilers)

Hung's got the most talent. I think he should be Top Chef. From the very beginning, he stood out among all other contestants -- smart, quick, motivated, knowledgeable about the the people/places involved in each challenge, a whiz in the kitchen...and yes, a bit macho right out of the gate, but so what?...this is a competition, and he's there to win.

I was sorry to see him having a few culinary setbacks in the earlier challenges, but it mellowed him, humbled him and forced him to compete in different ways than he had before, which worked for him in the long run, and made him more likeable. I was very impressed with his attitude last night. He's worked hard to become as successful as he is. As a parent myself, I think it's very refreshing to hear Hung show appreciation to his folks for all they have done for him and to try to make them proud. There's not enough of that kind of attitude in this country's kids.

I felt so bad for him in the trout challenge, when he finished cooking early, then realized, after cooling his heels for 5 minutes, that he had forgotten to add the lemon juice -- gawd! When Eric Ripert told him that if he had added the lemon juice, he might have won, I thought Hung handled the defeat quite gracefully. I like his passion, can-do attitude and self-confidence.

I couldn't get enough of Eric Ripert (!), but I've been a huge fan of the man since day 1. Glad Dale got a win and his self-confidence back, finally. A nice person, but not the Top Chef. Same for Casey. Hung's got the skills to put it all together in the final challenge -- I hope he does!

Sep 27, 2007
Moka in Food Media & News

Carmel restaurants

Speaking of the Cheese Shop and Carmel Plaza, the next two Friday nights (5-7 pm) are the last in the summer series, Jazz at the Plaza. Each week there's been a different local jazz band playing and a different Monterey county winery pouring. The Cheese Shop contributes lots of (what else?) cheese and apps. This Friday's winery is Lockwood. Cost is $15.

While at the Cheese Shop (really, don't miss it), check to see if theres a bottle of the Santa Lucia Highlands pinot noir made by one of the shop's partners. It's a great value and a very nice wine.

Sep 12, 2007
Moka in California

Carmel restaurants

Your appetizer platter at Cantinetta Luca sounds great. I wonder if they'd do that for a smaller party of 2 or 3, because tables are small and the many small-plate dishes and glasses can overwhelm the table quickly. I agree, the salumi is tasty. For us, the rich, wine-braised lamb shank infused with olives was the stand-out, served with a little pot of one of the richest risottos I've ever tasted. The Sangiovese/Syrah blend red was delicious with the lamb. Entree portions are large and meant to be shared, which we did.

Was your experience with Bouchee within the last few months with the new chef or previous to that with the former?

Sep 11, 2007
Moka in California

Picnic Supplies in Solvang?

Diana, Los Olivos Cafe's muffaletta spread (chopped green olives, chopped red peppers, etc. marinated in olive oil) is the same or similar to what's used on a muffaletta sandwich. It's delicious spread on bread slices and they also sell it in jars at the cafe--it's one of their specialties.

OP, I forgot to mention, if you're looking for salami, cheeses, etc. the cafe also has a torta rustica, which combines salami, cheeses, peppers, olives and such in a pastry crust, which would be perfect picnic food.

Aug 25, 2007
Moka in California

Picnic Supplies in Solvang?

The weather should be beautiful in October for an outdoor picnic in Santa Ynez Valley. I like to order picnic food to go from the Los Olivos Cafe. Their trio of rustic spreads: tapanade, hummus and muffaletta are very good and they include lots of their tasty bread -- these go well with wine and would travel easily. I also like their curried chicken salad, but they make sandwiches and much more. Check the website menu and ask if they still put together picnic lunches to go.

I haven't been out to Brander yet, but I agree, their SB's are top shelf. I 2nd the rec for the shady Rusack picnic area under old oak trees (you can see a little bit of it on their website). It's a beautiful drive there through Ballard Canyon, where you'll see some exotic animals grazing--quite interesting and not far from Los Olivos.

Aug 25, 2007
Moka in California

Chef Shake

Aug 25, 2007
Moka in California

That Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Good to hear they're open for lunch now -- will have to give that a try sometime.

Aug 23, 2007
Moka in California

That Restaurant in Pacific Grove

We stopped in again for dinner at Melange a couple of months ago and enjoyed it very much. The three of us started off with: Sashimi with avocado sorbet, a silken lobster bisque and the lobster hand roll with cognac-cream sauce, again -- (don't miss that). All VERY good. This time we tried some of the 2 oz. tasting pours that they sell for about $2.50 each -- it was fun to experiment with a few new wines so inexpensively. Our server was a big help in that area.

Mains were: Sturgeon stuffed with duxelles (perfectly cooked), the Roast Duck (I forget the sides) and a Squab with a "ragout" of vegetables and Sicilian sausage, all very well-executed dishes, although squab is probably not my favorite bird. We had a tasty bottle of Syrah (Beckman?, Stolpman?) that was a special promotion and less than $20/bottle--a nice wine and a very good value. I understand the menu changes often.

Melange has a relaxed elegance and a staff that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. They are very knowledgeable, yet completely unpretentious.
We'll be there again next month for one of our anniversary dinners and hope to try the chef's tasting menu with wine pairings, probably the easiest way to put it all together. Hope this helps, and if you go, I'd love to read your report!

Aug 20, 2007
Moka in California

That Restaurant in Pacific Grove

Could it be Melange you're thinking of?

Here's my first report of it:
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/329079

Aug 19, 2007
Moka in California

Best Restaurants in Monterey

The address above for Cantinetta Luca is incorrect:

Cantinetta Luca is on Dolores between Ocean & 7th in Carmel

Aug 18, 2007
Moka in California

Good food in Laguna/Newport with a trendy atmosphere?

Is Sejour open again? I heard they had to close "temporarily" last month.

Aug 18, 2007
Moka in Los Angeles Area