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Best Wine Shops in the US

Sorry . . . not "winery", rather, "wine shop". My bad.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 28, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Wine

Ramos House - San Juan Capistrano

We've never had a bad meal at Ramos in the several years we've been going. Granted, we don't go all the time because it's a little further South than I'd prefer, but I'd say we've been well over a dozen times since 2000'ish. The atmosphere may be one of the very best in all of Orange County. It's such a gem.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 27, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Best Wine Shops in the US

Actually, Hi-Time in Costa Mesa (Southern California), a previously mentioned winery in this thread.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 27, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Wine

Best Wine Shops in the US

"I can find a selection of wines from Priorat, which is my new standard for defining an excellent store"

Luckily Hi-Time just expanded their Italian and Spanish sections and dedicated an entire wall to Priorat! ;-)

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 26, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Wine

Upscale Mexican Laguna/ Newport Beach

Man, I'm usually up on all the openings and closings in the area. I'll keep my eyes open when I'm back down there to see if anything else is slated to go in.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 26, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Upscale Mexican Laguna/ Newport Beach

Does anybody have a report on Kantina on the Newport Peninsula? It occupies the old "Hooters" location on the East side of Lido Ave. I seem to remember reading something about Ribeye Fajitas and what not and the pics I've seen of the view from the upper patio look amazing.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 26, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Mesa Grill & Barbecue; Costa Mesa 17th Street

I think the owners would have done better to stick with what they've been doing while overseeing their Baja Fresh franchise. I think they'd be better serving their customers with Mexican food. The barbecue we had was just okay and the menu seemed to lack focus. Pizzas. Wraps. Barbecue. It just doesn't seem like a recipe for long-term success. They don't even have smoking pits, do they?

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 25, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Sgt Pepperoni's in Newport Beach/Costa Mesa

Sgt. Pepperoni's is a disaster! Avoid at all costs! Just thinking about it makes me depressed.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 24, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Episode 2, Ilimination Challenge, What would you have cooked?

I agree that farmer's market-sourced meats from small producers can represent the essence of good and local cooking. I just felt, overall, that the plates presented by the cheftestants didn't look like market-inspired plates. It's easy to please somebody with a nice piece of properly-cooked meat. Any of the competitors on Top Chef can cook a medium-rare steak. Presumably most of us on this board can as well. To me that doesn't seem very exciting . . .or bold.

And as for Ubuntu only being good in the opinion of one reviewer, well, I guess you can make it two reviewers as I'll throw my hat into that ring. When I was there in November 2007 it was one of the most exciting and memorable meals I've had. Definitely the best of 2007. Not that Ubuntu is really relevant here, I just used it in context of my original post and others felt the need to discuss that point as well.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 21, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Food Media & News

Last Restaurant Standing or Kitchen Nightmares?

I love the concept of Last Restaurant Standing and I've been watching every episode, but it doesn't have that raw charm or immediate likeability like Gordon Ramsay's show. I'm not sure why exactly. Perhaps Last Restaurant Standing has a more brooding feel and moves more deliberately and slowly? Or is it because of the demeanor of the host and his team? Or is it because I don't really feel very invested in the contestants?

For what it's worth I think the twin sisters will end up as the last restaurant. Who knows though?

As to the question at hand, I prefer Kitchen Nightmares, especially when the owners are willing to really give it a go, take Ramsay's advice, and turn their luck around.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 21, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Food Media & News

Episode 2, Ilimination Challenge, What would you have cooked?

I was surprised at how much meat appeared on the plates in the Quickfire Challenge. If I'm limited to five or fewer items and I'm at a gorgeous farmer's market, I'm thinking vegetables vegetable vegetables. A simple salad presentation using the season's best ingredients speaks a lot louder, in some instances, than beef. Ubuntu was just named by the New York Times to be the second best restaurant in the United States . . . not located in New York. Ubuntu celebrates the vegetable in all her glories and for me I would have been looking for that type of inspiration from the market.

Not that I'm a hardcore vegetarian. On the contrary, I have a deep love affair with the glorious hog. It's just that with five ingredients the challenge is to really make a plate sing. For me that means simplicity. Let the product do the talking.

I'm guessing this episode was filmed a couple of months ago? Give or take? I would expect to see things like apples, winter squash, root vegetables, maybe some early Spring veg like Asparagus or artichoke?

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 21, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Food Media & News

Squash Blossom and Goat Cheese Soup [split from Los Angeles board]

About half of our Summer bounty of squash comes from my father-in-law's crop. He tends to grow zucchinis larger and seedier than I'd prefer, but when we get in early and pilfer the babies, we always try to cook them whole. In fact, to drive home the essence of the product, we tend to stuff the still-attached blossoms with a mixture cooked squash, parmesan, olive oil and panko bread crumbs then roast a full tray or gratin dish of them lined up like soldiers, swimming in good olive oil. It's a mid-afternoon porch snack of sorts that keeps us going in the heated months of July through September. With a Savennieres, Albarino, or Italian white? Forget about it.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 20, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Home Cooking

Old Towne Orange- lunch tomorrow- where?

OCEllen has the beat!

It's been years and years, but for a bit we went on a rampage at Papa Hassan's, near Chapman University on Glassell, just off the circle. They had lovely kebabs and hummus. Is it there still or am I way outdated?

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 20, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Squash Blossom and Goat Cheese Soup [split from Los Angeles board]

Lest anybody be confused as to why this is here (I was surprised it hit this section as well actually), this stems from a conversation we were having about seasonality and farmer's markets. I mentioned something about a stand at the Irvine, CA farmer's market and the squash blossoms that show up at a particular stand then this recipe popped up on request after I mentioned the soup. You won't find the core ingredients for this soup for awhile. Depending on where you live, presumably you won't really see good-quality summer squash with their blossoms until at least June. Anyway, have fun and good cooking.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 20, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Home Cooking

Squash Blossom and Goat Cheese Soup [split from Los Angeles board]

[Split from http://www.chowhound.com/topics/499155

]

That recipe isn't really on my mind because the season isn't here yet. My Summer notebook is still archived for now, but from memory, it should probably go something like this:

a couple of generous handfuls of early-picked squash with their blossoms/flowers
2 - 3 minced medium shallots
1 clove finely minced garlic (I use a rasp to grate the garlic)
Picked thyme leaves
A soft chevre at room temperature
Homemade vegetable or light chicken stock (use water over store-bought stock)
Minced equal parts parsley/chive/chervil
A touch of milk or cream if needed or as desired

Remove the blossoms from the squash and wash everything (we sometimes used house-picked squash which can be pretty dirty). Slice the small squash into coins around ¼” thick and roughly slice the blossoms. Set aside. Mince the shallot and garlic and sweat in a pan heated to medium with a film of good olive oil. Do not color the shallot or garlic. Season with with kosher salt will help this process along. Add the squash (with blossoms) and the thyme leaves and turn up heat just a bit. Saute the vegetable mixture until it is fully soft and just lightly browned. You do not want al dente vegetable matter here. Cook it completely through. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or a blender, add a nice handful of goat cheese (to your liking) and puree until completely smooth. If the soup is too thick, add a touch of heated stock to thin it out. Taste for seasoning and add more goat cheese to your liking. Add the minced soft herbs and salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thin, add a touch of cream, return to the heat, and cook very gently at barely a simmer until the soup has thickened.

The soup can be passed through a strainer at this point for a finer texture or left as is for a more country-inspired soup. A good quality rye bread grilled or toasted with olive oil, a couple of glugs of high-quality finishing olive oil, and some more of the minced herbs should be a lovely finish to this soup. It can be served at room temperature or slightly warmed with a lovely glass of crisp white wine.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 19, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Home Cooking

Watermelon Juice

I know which stand you're talking about. They do have good squash blossoms when the season hits. We buy them to make a warmed squash blossom and goat cheese soup with rye crouton that we do mid-Summer.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 19, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Watermelon Juice

Are you talking about Reginald Scrimshaw? He has beautiful melons when they're in season. He also has beautiful winter squash and he gets select smaller citrus like Kaffir and Key Limes. Or are you talking about the stand at the entry of the rear of the market that has a ton of different produce from lettuces to garlic to beets to leeks?

Reginald's melons aren't going to be in full effect for awhile. We were just there Saturday and had a full conversation with him about a personal matter in his family.

The truth is you can get out of season produce all year round, even from local growers. There are red tomatoes sitting at a dozen stands at the local farmer's market. Last time I checked my calendar though, it said March, not August or September. I'm pretty sure I'd take a pass on melons and tomatoes at this point. Look to the best farm-driven restaurants in the state, like Ubuntu, Lucques, or Chez Pannisse. I'm guessing, nay betting, none of their menus are featuring out of season product . . . like melons.

R. Jason Coulston

EDIT: I checked the menu at those three restaurants in particular. No melons in sight, thankfully. ;-)

Mar 19, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Watermelon Juice

It's the beginning of Strawberry season. ;-)

They're just "okay" at the moment. The two best growers we know are just coming into their first crop and, with any luck, the cooler weather will hold out and we'll get a bounty of the season's best within the next 3 weeks. They're nice and red at the moment, but they're not as good as they can or will be with a bit of time and patience.

As for our farmer's markets, I haven't seen watermelons yet and I hope I don't for a few more months at least. I'm in no hurry to rush the year along.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 18, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Watermelon Juice

Somebody can jump in and correct me if I'm wrong, but my farmer's market in Orange County, CA tells me that watermelons are in season from July through October. Maybe even more like early August to late September. I'm sure they're available year round if you really need one, but that would suggest to me they're being flown in from far-away places and for me, that's just no way to shop at all for food. I follow the seasons and the markets and watermelons aren't even on my radar right now. I'm waiting for strawberries and favas. ;-)

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 18, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Kinda like In / N / Out but something more

The fries at In N Out are cooked from raw potatoes. A proper french fry (that you would find in any great French Bistro ala Bouchon, Comme Ca, Jeanty, etc.) starts with peeled potatoes that are soaked in water, sometimes as long as overnight. They're then blanched in oil at a lower temperature (285-degrees), cooled, then re-fried at a proper frying temperature (375-degrees). The result is a fluffy interiorr with a beautiful golden brown exterior.

Cutting up raw russets and throwing in a fryer is a horrible way to cook them and produces soggy, oil-clogged results. It's as far away from a truly proper french fry as I can imagine.

It's nice they're pushing the concept of freshness, but it's at the expense of the end result.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 18, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Slab Bacon in OC

It's true that you can get slab bacon from Bristol Farms, but you should call ahead to order it as it's not usually just sitting int he case. At least that's the case with the Newport Beach location at PCH & Avocado. I strolled in last year thinking I could just pick up slab bacon straight away and one of the butchers told me they're not usually stocked. I assumed they were slicing their own bacon direct from slabs, but apparently not. In a pinch, you can pick up bulk pancetta from the deli area.

You can get raw pork belly (not smoked/cured) from Mitsuwa.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 18, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Kinda like In / N / Out but something more

I think there are a couple in Orange County, but I know Easy Take Out in Costa Mesa (17th Street between Santa Ana Ave. and Tustin Ave.) offers a very similar experience to In N Out. Actually, and this may be more local legend now than anything else, I heard the people that opened the Easy Take Out franchise were formerly with In N Out before branching out on their own. I know there's an Easy Take Out in Anaheim (near the 91 Freeway at Weir Canyon) and there may even be more.

The menu, as you might expect, is basically just burgers, cheeseburgers, fries, drinks, and shakes. I think they have onion rings, though I can't remember. As with In N Out, you can order stuff "not on the menu" and they also do an "animal style" with grilled onions and mustard. I think their fries are much better than In N Out, which I have gone on record for years as saying I think basically suck.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 18, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Orin Swift's "The Prisoner"...

The 2006 is much softer and riper in style. You're right, it's really ready to go right away. My preference is the 2006, mainly because it better embodies for me everything I love about this wine. I don't cellar it, it's just for fun-time drinking with a group of wine lovers.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 17, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Wine

Home made Tomato Sauce For Pasta

We just made that sauce last night for freezer stock-up. It's unbelievably good. I don't think the sauce needs or would want celery. The celebration of the sweetness in the onions and carrots works off the bright acidity from the San Marzano tamatoes. It's a celebration of purity of flavor and even bay might get in the way of that. I'd put the sauce we made last night up against any sauce. Period.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 17, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Home Cooking

Watermelon Juice

I honestly can't imagine NOT juicing my own watermelon if I needed it. Buying already squeezed watermelon juice just seems completely counter-intuitive to me. In a pinch, I guess, I would suggest a really good Mexican joint with an aqua fresca bar.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 15, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Top Chef Season 4

"Souffle might be offered in some restaurants, but it's hardly something Moms make once a week."

Thank the stars Bravo isn't running a show about what mom's cook.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 14, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Food Media & News

Watermelon Juice

So true. Watermelons yield an incredible amount of juice so you probably wouldn't need to buy a very large watermelon to get your desired yield. My only concern is that it's March. That's not exactly peak of the season. What are you using it for?

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 14, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Los Angeles Area

Top Chef Season 4

"really? nobody else thinks that the boozy element of the deconstruction plate was a deliberate suck up to tony, because deconstruction boy has the perception that bourdain is a bit of a lush? i'm the only one who thinks this?"

I see your point here but I don't know necessarily that he was buttering Tony up specifically. Maybe it was a general buttering up to the entire judging panel? I notice a lot of the contestants on Iron Chef do the same thing these days. They seem to be shoving alcolhol at the judges at the onset of their tasting, maybe as a way to soften the blow of the food they're about to drop? Maybe the "saketini" (ugghh) was meant to "bribe" everybody into giving him a pass?

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 14, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Food Media & News

Top Chef Season 4

"I guess it's more harsh when you think it was made after only a brief discussion with the cheftestant."

It's hard to say just how much conversation they had with that group. I think I read on one of the Top Chef blogs some time last season that the judge's table process lasts as many as a few full hours but is edited down to less than 10 overall minutes for television. Maybe they talked with the cheftestant about his picatta problems for 10 straight minutes but realized at the end he simply wasn't going to get it. Or maybe not? Who knows?

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 14, 2008
Jason_Coulston in Food Media & News

Pasta cooked 'al dente', am I the only one who doesn't like it that way?

"I remember something about throwing a piece of spaghetti on the wall, if it stuck it was done"

That brings me back. That sounds like grandma logic to me. At least, that was my own grandmother's logic. I have no idea if that notion is based in anything close to fact, but I do remember her teaching me that trick as a youngster.

R. Jason Coulston

Mar 13, 2008
Jason_Coulston in General Topics