Monthly Archives: November 2011

Lunching at Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien was always favorite stop of mine when I lived in the L.A. area.  I enjoyed the open-faced sandwiches, freshly baked bread, and delicious beverages.  But when I moved to Orange County, there was not a Le Pain Quotidien in sight.  Until now.

As luck would have it, Le Pain Quotidien opened in Fashion Island this past fall, and I’ve been itching to make a stop there.  When my mom suggested we burn off some of our Thanksgiving dinner by facing the Black Friday crowds at Fashion Island I made sure our lunch stop was at Le Pain Quotidien.

The interior of the Fashion Island restaurant was very similar to the ones I had experienced in LA – lots of big communal tables, glass displays of freshly baked goods, and a patio area.  Since it was a beautiful Southern California day, my mom and I opted to sit on the patio.

After perusing the menu and ordering much needed glasses of iced tea, I finally decided on the Paris Ham and Gruyere Tartine.

I was very pleased with this dish.  It came with a trio of different mustards and little cornichons on the side.  The ham and cheese were also very flavorful.  It was light, but not too light and left me satisfied.

My mom ordered the Tuscan Bean and Proscuitto salad, which I became immediately jealous of as soon as it emerged.

The salad came with arugula, parmesan and basil croutons which basically looked like cubes of Le Pain Quotidien’s freshly baked bread.  I tasted some of her salad and it was excellent.  Mental note made.  I will be ordering this next time.

It was a lovely lunch and the perfect fuel to get us through the rest of our Black Friday shopping.  I definitely want to make a stop at Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast in the near future, as their breakfast pastries cannot be beat!

Sorry for such the long hiatus, Le Pain Quotidien.  But fear not, I WILL be dining at you again in the near future.

Le Pain Quotidien

401 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Revisiting my Youth at Blue Ribbon Bakery on Main Street

If you are a big Disney fan, then you know that the Blue Ribbon Bakery is a staple on Main Street U.S.A in Disneyland.   It’s the go-to spot for delicious baked treats, hot beverages and Mickey Mouse shaped cookies.  It’s also known for their delicious (and really big) cinnamon rolls.

Growing up in Orange County, I spent much of my youth at Disneyland, and as I got older, I even had an annual pass for those teenage years when aside from going to the movies, Disneyland was the place to be.  I have fond memories of spending many an evening at Disney with my dear friend Kristin, riding a couple of rides and then hitting up the Blue Ribbon Bakery for a decadent dessert, which almost always included the (really big) cinnamon roll with extra frosting.  The treats from Blue Ribbon Bakery were always something special and often the highlight of a Saturday night excursion to the theme park.

It’s been years now since I owned an annual pass to Disneyland, and my visits have been less and less frequent.  Recently, the Englishman and I ventured over to the land of the mouse and I figured it would be a perfect time to introduce him to the magic that is the Blue Ribbon Bakery.

When I stepped inside the bakery I was greeted with the aromas of freshly baked goods and hot coffee brewing.  The bakery case filled with goodies looked just as delicious as ever.

After much deliberation the Englishman and I decided on a shortbread snowman, holiday biscotti and a pumpkin muffin to take home.   Unfortunately the shortbread snowman faced an early demise on the Tower of Terror ride at California Adventure (ie: got crushed in our bag) so aside from a few crumbly bites, we didn’t really get to enjoy it.

First up was the holiday biscotti which was covered in red and green sprinkles and white icing.  The biscotti was a bit too crumbly for my liking but the flavor was nice.  It had some pistachios in it which added in nice flavor, but I prefer my biscotti to be hard and crunchy, and less cookie like.

Then it was the pumpkin muffin’s (complete with chocolate Mickey) turn.  The muffin had nice flavor overall, but wasn’t very strong on the pumpkin front.  If you hadn’t told me it was a pumpkin muffin, I would’ve just thought it was a nice spiced muffin and that was it.  More pumpkin please!

So was the Blue Ribbon Bakery as magically delicious as it was all those years ago?  To be honest, no.  It was still very good, but definitely not the best baked goods I have had in a long shot.  Granted, I didn’t get the (really big) cinnamon roll so maybe that is what was missing this time around.

Regardless, it was still nice to visit the bakery that had me so enamored in my teen years and see the happy kids eagerly biting into their Mickey Mouse shaped cookies while their parents enjoy a few moments of silence with their coffee.  Some things at Disneyland may come and go, but at least Blue Ribbon Bakery will always be the same.

A Sneak Peek at Paul Martin’s American Grill

Paul Martin’s American Grill is the latest restaurant to hit the Irvine Spectrum.  After having two American “Bistro” locations in California, the masterminds behind Paul Martin’s decided to open a Grill concept in Irvine.  The main difference between the Bistro and the Grill?  The Grill will focus more on simpler dishes without all the extra sauces and dressings.

When I heard this restaurant was opening in Irvine, I was pretty excited.  The menu and concept sounded exactly like the type of food I enjoy most.  So when an offer was presented for me and a guest (the Englishman) to dine at the new Grill in Irvine prior to it’s opening, I leaped at the chance.

Walking inside the restaurant was like a breath of fresh air – a cool, sleek interior, open bar space, and a lounge/patio area with couches and chairs.  One of the things I do miss from time to time are some of the awesome restaurants/lounges LA has to offer.  After dining at Paul Martin’s however, it looks like the Irvine Spectrum finally has a hip, trendy restaurant that is not your typical suburb-chain fare.

Paul Martin’s American Grill prides themselves on serving locally grown, organic ingredients and you can definitely tell.  All the food was extremely flavorful and I left eager to try out more of their dishes, which doesn’t happen too often at most restaurants I’ve been to.  The waiters were also very knowledgeable when it came to where the meat and produce came from.  Definitely a plus in my book.

To start, the Englishman and I decided to order a round of drinks and a Butcher’s Board with cheeses and artisan meats.  I was feeling a bit fancy so I decided to order one of my favorite drinks, a dirty martini.

With the exception of Houston’s, it’s been hard to find a decent dirty martini in these parts. I must say that the one at Paul Martin’s was quite excellent.  I definitely would’ve ordered another if I wasn’t the designated driver for the evening.  As we sipped our drinks, we were presented with a lovely board of cheese and meat.

The Butcher’s Board had goat cheese, blue cheese, and a hard Italian cheese (I forgot the name) that tasted like Parmesan.  The board also had olives, salami and prosciutto.  All of it was quite delicious, especially the goat cheese which looked like it had been dipped in some sort of honey.  Even the Englishman who is NOT a fan of goat cheese gobbled this one up.  I noticed that most of the tables around us were also happily enjoying their Butcher’s Boards which made me think this is a must order when you dine at Paul Martin’s.

For my entree, I had a mad craving for a burger so I went with the Bistro Burger that came with Tillamook Cheddar Cheese, Black Pepper Aioli and Fries.  When the burger first came out it was missing the melted cheddar cheese, but no matter.  After profusely apologizing, the waiter took the burger back and brought it out with sizzling melted cheese in under three minutes.

The meat was flavorful and juicy and cooked to perfection.  I haven’t had a burger this good in a long time so this was well worth the wait.  The skinny fries on the side were seasoned nicely and the Englishman was more than willing to help me eat those.

Speaking of the Englishman, he decided to order the Market Fresh Fish that came with a grilled pineapple salsa and wild rice.  The fish was seared beautifully and the Englishman loved the pineapple salsa and wild rice on the side.  He happily cleaned his plate before helping me with my fries.

We both debated ordering dessert, but were so pleasantly full that we decided to pass it up this time.  There were some delicious looking items on the menu including a Raspberry Creme Brulee that I am sure would be fantastic.

Overall, Paul Martin’s American Bistro definitely exceeded my expectations, and the Englishman and I agreed this place would definitely be in our regular rotation.  So to all you O.C. locals, go check this place out NOW.  You won’t be disappointed.

Paul Martin’s American Bistro

31 Fortune Drive Suite 302

Irvine, CA 92618

Pamela’s Products Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone that entered the Pamela’s Products Giveaway!  The two winners selected at random are below:

Janice: I’m looking forward to trying the oat raisin walnut spice bar!

Diana G: I have so many favorite GF products. I love Joan’s Italian loaf, so good and crusty bread. I love Whole Foods Bakery GF muffins, especially the lemon poppyseed. I love Udi’s whole grain bread for everyday use. I love Prima Pasta’s new GF 4 cheese ravioli. They’re so good.  I’ve love to try these new Pamela’s bars. thanks.

Congrats Ladies! Please check your email for information on redeeming your Whenever Bars!

To everyone else that entered – please check out the Whenever Bars at your local Health Foods Store (Whole Foods is a good bet) and do give them a try!  They are definitely a great snack.

Thanks again to everyone that participated!