Category Archives: Europe

Current Foodie Favorites: July Edition

Welcome to another edition of current foodie favorites!  To see last month’s foodie favorites check it out here.

This month it’s all about delicious summery foods and new discoveries.  And iced tea.  Lots and lots of iced tea.

So here we go….

1. Homemade Hummus

Why I haven’t jumped on the homemade hummus train sooner I’ll never know.  And it’s so easy peasy to make.

Step 1: Buy garbanzos from bulk bins at Whole Foods (or Henry’s, or Sprouts, etc.).

Step 2: Soak Garbanzos overnight and then boil the next day.

Step 3: Blend garbanzos, tahnini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper (and any other mix ins) in your food processor.

Looks kind of weird, tastes amazing. Promise.

Step 4:  Devour and repeat.

2. Iced Tea and Starbucks Tumblers

Ever since I got myself one of these bad boys:

Starbucks Cold Cup for the Win. Bottle of wine not included.

I’ve been on the iced tea train.  Naturally I’m a big fan of Starbucks’ black iced tea or their iced tea/lemonade combo but I also just like making my own tea at home with the Newman’s Own Royal Tea Blend with a slice of lemon.  So good.

3. Pasta Salads

Since it’s hot out, it’s fun to experiment with different types of cold salads.  This latest pasta creation was a hit but still needs some tweaking.  Recipe to come soon.

who doesn't love a good pasta salad?

4. Sugar Blossom Bake Shop

Move over Sprinkles, there’s a new kid in town. I’m already plotting my next visit for these delicious cupcakes.

Carrot Cake Cupcake, you are so delicious

5. Pain du Monde

Lovely little Euro-style bakery in Fashion Island.  Everything is made fresh and in-house (as evidenced by watching bakers knead bread while I placed my order).  The scones are pretty rockin’ too.

Bakery Bliss. Credit: OCweekly.com

6. The hot fudge Sundaes at Houston’s

Cause hey, we all need a little (or a lot) of ice cream in our lives during the summer.

Ice Cream overload in a bowl.

And who am I kidding?  I’m pretty obsessed with these at Houston’s as well.

Vodka Martini with Blue Cheese Olives. Oh Yeah.

Stay tuned for August’s foodie favorites next month!

C’est Si Bon!

The east coast has Au Bon Pain, Europe has Pret a Manger, and California has well, neither of those.  After falling in love with Au Bon Pain (only to find out that there were no locations in the west), I was determined to find a bakery/sandwich shop that had the same feel.  Enter C’est Si Bon.

C’est Si Bon is located in Newport Beach on PCH and is tucked away in a small strip mall.  Parking is limited and there’s almost always a line of locals eagerly awaiting freshly baked bread, homemade pastries and other goodies C’est Si Bon has to offer.  After hearing coworkers and friends alike rave about this bakery/café I knew I had to check it out.

cest-si-bonCredit: OCRegister.com

I cruised in during the week mid-morning and was surprised to see how packed it was.  Some people were ordering loaves of bread for the week while others were seated at the small tables inside, relaxing with a cup of coffee and a pastry.  The place also seemed to be full of Newport Beach locals which is always a good sign in my opinion.

C’est Si Bon offers made to order sandwiches, giant loaves of bread, and an assortment of desserts.  There is also a small section in the bakery where you can by jams and giant jars of nutella (which required strong resistance on my part).

The baked goods were calling mine (and my coworkers) names so we decided to get a bunch of different things and share including a cinnamon roll, chocolate chip cookie, raisin scone, and palmiers (also known as elephant ears).

While all of the items were delicious, I LOVED the scone.  It was light, fluffy, not too sweet and had yummy plump raisins.  I nearly devoured it all in a few short bites until I realized I was supposed to share.  Honorable mention goes to the palmiers which were light and crispy and dusted with sugar.

While this is not exactly the same as Au Bon Pain or Pret a Manger, I really liked the vibe at C’est Si Bon and thought they had a great pastry/sandwich selection.  I’d definitely come back on a nice sunny day and enjoy a scone (or two) while sitting outside with a cup of coffee.

Now we just need to work on C’est Si Bon getting a few more locations in the OC….

C’est Si Bon

149 Riverside Ave
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Gastronomic Delights at SideDoor

I’m a big fan of gastropubs.  I like the warm, comforting feel of a classic English/Irish/Euro-pub infused with good eats and twists on traditional classics.  To me, a gastropub is where everyone can get together and relax and just have a good time.  When I stumbled upon the SideDoor in Corona del Mar, I found just that.

The SideDoor is a cute little gastropub located next to the famed Five Crowns Restaurant.  While the Five Crowns may be known for their classic Prime Rib dinners and impeccable service, the SideDoor is known for it’s updated daily (!) menu and warm cozy atmosphere complete with a fireplace and English literature adoring the walls.

Since the menu changes daily, you never know quite what to expect.  Of course, there are some SideDoor staples such as the Fish ‘n Chips, Cheese and Charcuterie board, the Roast Beef sandwich, and of course french fries that are fried in beef fat.

While my dining companions stuck with beer, I chose to go with “Door #2” also known as a white wine flight:

Wines lined up on a wooden door. So precious.

The Charcuterie board with English Cheddar, Goat Cheese and Serano Ham was the perfect starter:

Delicious meats and cheeses waiting to be devoured

The main dishes included Fish ‘N Chips, Macaroni and Cheese and Chicken Pot Pie.  Check out the Great Fish ‘N Chips Challenge to see more.

The macaroni and cheese was pretty much what you would expect – cheesy, gooey, and decadent.  I don’t have macaroni and cheese much but I’d definitely have it at SideDoor again.

Look at all that delicious cheese

The chicken pot pie had a light, flaky crust and was steaming (literally) when it was placed at our table.

Steaming chicken pot pie equals poor picture quality

Then it was time for the piece de resistance aka dessert.  We decided on the shortbread cookies with lemon curd.  While the shortbread cookies topped with lemon curd were quite delicious, it wasn’t the best shortbread that I’ve ever had.  It was more of a delicious cookie than true English shortbread.  For the real deal, I highly recommend Harrods shortbread cookies.

Shortbread you are delicious but Harrods you are not

All in all it was a delightful evening.  I’d definitely come back to the SideDoor again and try some other items on the menu (and the Charcuterie board!).  Now if we could only get a few more of these gastropubs in Orange County…

SideDoor
3801 E. Coast Highway
Corona del Mar, CA 92625

Lucca. Just Lucca.

Lucca.  My new obsession.  I don’t think I felt such a kindred spirit to a restaurant since Mani’s Bakery or Joan’s on Third in LA which are both vastly different from Lucca. 

But there’s something about Lucca that is just plain special, and my new neighborhood spot.  The fact that Lucca serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has an amazing take out menu doesn’t hurt either.

In case you didn’t know, Lucca is in the central region of Italy, near Tuscany, so all of the food served at Lucca (the restaurant) has that delightful Tuscan feel.  For breakfast (weekends only) the restaurant is transformed into a casual bistro cafe, and for dinner it has a more elegant European feel.

I’ve only dined at Lucca for breakfast a couple of times, but the Eggs Lucca or Eggs in Purgatory are must haves, and I have been eyeing the Pain Perdu French Toast to try next time.

Starters include a chartecurie board served with Italian meats and cheeses, and a to die for olive tapenade on thin crostinis.  I think I could just eat the starters with a nice glass of wine and call it a night.

Then there are the main courses.  In true European tradition, these dishes are small plates that are the perfect amount to leave you feeling satisfied but not overly full.  Take note American restaurants, this is how it’s done.

 Main courses include succlulent lamb or shrimp skewers with hummus, kobe beef sliders, or john dory with spinach and potatoes.  My mouth just waters thinking about it.  I’ve got the Lucca bug and I’ve got it bad.

And so ends my love letter part 1 to Lucca.  Part 2 to commence soon with an ode to dessert.  And pictures.  Lots of pictures.

Lucca Cafe
6507 Quail Hill Parkway
Irvine, CA 92603