Galley Girl has moved!

March 17, 2010

Dear Loyal Subscribers,

Galley Girl has moved! It’s the same me, but with a gorgeous new custom blog that I am so thrilled to show you! I think I am taking you all with me automatically, but in the event that your subscription doesn’t transfer, and you didn’t recieve my latest post entitled ‘Ask Galley Girl’ automatically, please click here and resubscribe (on the right hand side bar).

Let me take this opportunity to thank you all so much for reading and commenting. It means so much to me!

Kelly

Road Grill

March 9, 2010

  

Pimp my Paella.

 Most of us eat out in brick and mortar establishments. It’s less drafty, and there are places to relieve yourself, and sit. 

Some of us treat them as homes away from home, pouncing on our favorite booth as if it were a Sit ‘n Sleep floor sample.     

But what about those days when you can’t leave your desk and no one in the office is going out to even the most rudimentary of drive-throughs?   Or when you’re a gridlock captive in the Honda Center lot after the concert in dire need of absorbant vittles?

Tapas on Board!

Meals on wheels are the answer, and their evolution has never been more fully realized. A few months back, a food truck convoy the length of Mariner’s Mile rolled into OC in the wake of Kogi BBQ’s exhaust offering  everything from Taco Dawgs to Hakuna Mattatta Tostadas.

The latest mobile offerings come from Barcelona on the Go, twenty-two feet of quilted steel that looks like the spawn of an   Overhaulin’  rig and  Pimp my Ride  utility vehicle. And they have tapas on board. 

Croquettes are  as big as biscuits with the tender texture of Thanksgiving  mashed potatoes. The gilded crispy crust gives way to fluffy, mellow manchego and savory bits of ham. Balsamic reduction drizzle adds a concentrated sweet acidity to the mild snack. 

Alongside the croquette sits a Galician style empanada is the size of a coin purse, stuffed with  sautéed onion, red and green bell peppers and savory, moist chicken infused with smoky pimenton.   

Chimmi Chimmi Co Co Bop!

 

A full flavored flat iron steak is Expertly seared, hacked into rugged strips and generously doused in chimmichurri giving each bite of fat-marbled beef a garlicky, oily blast. A handful of rustic, crispy hand cut fries accompany the dish.    

While his fellow Argentine chef makes each dish to order,  you notice Barcelona on the Go owner Esteban Nocito’s curatorial attention to detail. His is the only coach I know of with lilting samba on the speakers, a museum quality facsimile of Picasso’s Guernica on the side of the truck and lovingly nurtured snapdragons in a window box. 

  

Piping hot lentil soup with morsels of ham is deeply flavored and homespun, like something you’d sample in a San Sebastian taverna. 

Flan was, well, flan. But when Nocito adds the promised chocolate drizzled pears poached in tempranillo to the menu, I’m there. 

For location, check Twitter updates at Barcelonaonthego.com. 949.939.6798. Dinner for two, $18.00, food only.

Northern Exposure at the new Francoli

March 6, 2010

  

Once inside Francoli Gourmet Emporio in Fashion Island, you could always lose yourself fairly easily in the rosy prosecco, imploring Italian staccato of the staff and the woodsy funk of Bresaola ‘Carpaccio’. 

Brilliant Bresaola.

Still, the location wasn’t ideal. There’s nothing like parking structures, mall cops and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to kill the mood for a spontaneous evening.  

The F.I. site has been shuttered for over seven months now, giving the family a chance to reimagine the restaurant,  opened two weeks ago,  in Old Town Orange.   

The transition from Irvine Co. topiary-and-terra-cotta habitat to organic,  stumble-upon spot with patio views overlooking the historic plaza fountain is a natural for Francoli. 

 Along with Gabbi’s and Haven Gastropub , Francoli completes the restaurant triage team that has systematically defibrillated the formerly decrepit stretch of Glassell. There’s so little parking and so many pedestrians these days, it feels something akin to Laguna’s Forest Avenue.    

Francoli-philes will be thrilled to note that the menu remains exactly the same as it was in Newport Beach leaving the staff to focus on providing engaging service and wearing beautiful shoes that look as if they might be featured on The Sartorialist.   

Francoli continues to inspire with dishes such as Ravioli D’ Brasato: six, maybe seven pasta sachets filled with tender chopped beef short rib meat and bathed in a light vodka cream sauce. Gnocchi Bolognese was decent, but lacked depth of flavor and complexity needed to justify the price. 

Ravioli D'Brasato.

Sandwiches are done in the minimalistic Italian style you see stacked in glass cases in bars and paninotecas of Milan. The philosophy is unadorned sustenance between bread. If  sandwiches are your thing, go to Cafe Lucca   down the street.   

Slow Ride.

Inside, the inviting demi-lune bar is reminiscent of  the former Francoli. That’s because it was trucked over and cut to fit the smaller locale. The popular wine wall is back with vino from all twenty regions of Italy. 

Gauzy orange and white custom Murano chandeliers drip sexy amber light like a honeycomb while a twenty something  wearing high tops and reading Bill Buford’s Heat savors a plate of antipasti and glass of red.   

This is where Francoli excels, as a vehicle for what we as a culture don’t have and won’t make time for: guilt free undocumented time to eat slow food. Time to sit and enjoy a meal that isn’t part of another obligation-fulfilling category. 

Why do we always have to be good?” mused my waiter emphatically as I paired a lovely salmon filet adorned in capers and tomatoes with iced tea at lunchtime.  And with that, I promptly switched to a beguiling Orvieto to while away the hours.100 S. Glassell St. Orange 714.288.1077. Dinner for two, $70.00, food only.

Podium Moment at Cream Pan

February 26, 2010

It began to seem as if my chances of medaling in skeleton and possibly curling at Whistler were better than securing just one of the perpetually sold out strawberry croissants at Cream Pan.  It got so that after defeat, I made a little ritual of retreating to Samsoonyi Bakery inside Freshia Market down the street for consolation.  

And while they stock enough chopsticks to build an HOA compliant condo and slippers to supply you through years of geriatric dotage, they don’t have the strawberry croissant.They do have a yummy three layer bean paste coffee cake and little banana shaped cakes that list absolutely no banana in the ingredients.    

Attention: No bananas were harmed in the making of this product.

When I had almost given up on the idea, it just happened. Not the Olympic summons, the Cream Pan croissant. Not just one, but an entire batch fresh out of the oven filling the cases regally, and dozens more, on party platters waiting to make someone a superhero at the office.    

Victory!

After so many failed attempts at owning one, I was so stunned and thrilled, I sat at a bistro table among all the less popular breadstuffs and devoured it.   

 This combination is as perishable as the goldfish your punk won at the fair, so running out insures one aspect of quality control. Still, I’d hate to be behind the counter fresh out on a day when the 137  Cream Pan strawberry croissant-devoted Yelpers  show up.  

The buttery, crisp pastry layers are as thin as the pages of a King James Version pocket Bible so that you half expect to see the words of Jesus written in red across them.   

Tiny drifts of  sifted confectioner’s sugar that rest in every crevice melt along with the crackling layers in your mouth. Vanilla-tinged custard cream piped in after baking adds voluptuous body and heart-shaped slices of fresh strawberry, just three are tucked in like a valentine.    

There are some tasty lunch items to go, in particular, a potato croquette sandwich and a three layer  tea sandwich of egg salad, tuna and smoked ham on the soft weightless white Cream Pan signature bread with the crust cut off. I like the cucumber seaweed salad with red onions, sesame seeds and red chili flecks to go with it.      

I’m partial to an elegant pastry twist generously flecked with nutty black sesame seeds and enveloped in brown sugar lacquer, but the strawberry croissant is Cream Pan’s podium moment.    

602 El Camino Real Tustin 92780 714.665.8239. Strawberry croissant, $2.30. Lunch for two, $12.00, food only.

Mashta: Battle Delicious

February 18, 2010

In the early days of food television,  before Gordon Ramsey threw knives on Kitchen Nightmares  like a sideshow carnie and floundering cooks were mercilessly eliminated by the freakishly beautiful Padma Lakshmi on Top Chef, there was the Japanese cult sensation Iron Chef.  

I don’t know what I miss more: the authoritative, excitable timbre of host Takeshi Kaga’s voice  or his imaginative pirate’s blouses and flamboyant theatrics in the Kitchen Stadium. Thank God for youtube

Battle Stingray? Ostrich? Eel? If it wasn’t obscure, unwieldy or unpalatable, it didn’t make the cut. Myung Lee was a challenger on one such episode.

Most challengers remain face-savingly stoic as the mystery ingredient is unveiled, even if impaling oneself on a Shun Santoku seems preferable to the career suicide that might result from grappling with some of the mutinous, wayward or just plain offensive chosen fare.

 But as quivering gelatinous gray lobes were hydraulically elevated to stage level, the look on Lee’s face was not unlike someone trying to quell  a bad gastrointestinal disturbance, or someone who had witnessed, say, an unfortunate episode of indecent exposure.

Liver wasn’t a dream ingredient, but now Lee chooses her own battles. I learned of her latest restaurant from OC Weekly’s food blog Stick a Fork in It.  It’s a modest stone pot stand inside Mitsuwa marketplace in Costa Mesa. Even in this udon and sushi-heavy environment, Mashta is on the radar.

The manager’s special came in a black pot sleek with oil, radiating enough ambient warmth to heat a one bedroom apartment.  The carefully arranged still life seemed to contain everything essential to satiate the hungriest of lunchtime patrons: slender pork cutlets,  a fried egg, ribbons of tender marinated rib-eye, vegetables sautéed in sesame oil and a dollop of hot sauce on a generous bed of sizzling short grain rice.

I tossed it gingerly with chopsticks to avoid a trip to the burn unit until all the ingredients melded and the rice became transparent forming a delicious crust on the bottom of the pot. Spicy and savory, this complete meal in a bowl was piping hot to the last bite.

  The special included several side dishes, none worth mention except the yummy sweet potato noodles (Japchae) that also come as an entree. My most reliable sources say the word Mashta is just one letter away from the Korean word meaning ‘tasty’ or ‘delicious’. Close enough for me.

665 Paularino, Costa Mesa, CA. 949 212 4176.  Dinner for two, $13.00,  food only.

HOT CHOCOLATE

February 11, 2010

Valentine’s Day is Sunday and candy aisle shelves are as decimated as the bait shop at a Pro Bass tournament. It’s enough to make the most dedicated shopper panic. In the mayhem, you  may wonder: does a box of chocolate-covered scotch kisses from the mall say love? How about a trout shaped double crisp bar with the words “You’re a Keeper’ emblazoned on the novelty packaging? It all depends on your sweetmeat’s whims. But before you go trolling for truffles, you should know about Christopher Michael Chocolatier.  

The heat is on!

From bacon bars  and chocolate covered corn flakes to genteel tablets infused with lemongrass and lavender, this OC-based small-batch retailer reincarnates single origin Venezuelan fair trade chocolate into many forms. Some like it hot. There are a number of high-end bars combining chocolate and chilies out there. Could there really be that much difference between the products?

 

 I did a blind side by side taste comparison of Michael’s Aztec Spiced Bar with two other contenders in the Galley Girl test kitchen with little expectation. The results were surprising. Trying to detect chili heat in the other bars was like trying to find a Tag Heuer with a Little Tykes metal detector on CDM State Beach in August.

  

Wrapped in innocuous brown and robin’s egg blue and cast in a boring tablet format, Michael’s decieving bar had Scoville cred from the first bite. Shimmering with pleasing heat as soon as it began to melt and well after it was gone, the square delivered deep, fully developed cacao flavor and even-tempered velvety mouthfeel with radiant cinnamon and vanilla notes.  I planned on fully stocking my butter compartment with the stuff, but Michael was fresh out and I got the last one at Hi Times yesterday. Luckily, he’ll be making more this afternoon.

2346 Newport Blvd. Suite A 3, Costa Mesa, 92626. 949.566-9810. 

Mint Condition

February 6, 2010

If you’ve spent any time in Tustin’s box retailer orgy The District at Tustin Legacy, you may have felt that the days of stumbling upon a restaurant find are over.  It’s as if your next meal has already been master planned for you. You may forage for lunch on the vast asphalt tundra while you’re waiting for Costco Tire Center to  lower your grocery getter off the blocks, but it’s a challenge to find much other than heavily branded mass produced sustenance.

Green Apple Salad with Beef: fuse it or lose it!

If you’re going to eat in the District, there’s The Winery, William Lewis and J.C. Clow’s singular, lovely refuge that gives the illusion you’ve escaped the  ‘one million square-foot lifestyle center’,  but it requires more of an occasion than waiting out your pro-rated Michelin LTX installment. If you need something a little quicker, cheaper and less bacchanalian before heading back to the office or school pick-up, try Asian Mint.     

  

Gleaming gunmetal and orange tile accents appear to have been appropriated from an  Ann Sacks on Ebay spree.  John Tesh-type  instrumentals play mercilessly on the sound system. The boîte across from Borders  only looks like the octo-spawn of P.F. Chang’s and Panda Express.  Surprise: there’s just one.  The menu is Vietnamese and Chinese with some Malay and Singaporean dishes and what might be termed fusion.

Dumplings are best left for your next dim sum run. Vietnamese salad rolls are great snack food, but can be weighed down by rice paper as clumsy and rubbery as 70’s ten speed handlebar tape. The amazing avocado shrimp roll is wrapped in rice paper as gossamer and tight as Lady Gaga’s galactic Armani Grammies gown, a nearly weightless vehicle for the succulent rosy shrimp, creamy avocado, crunchy won ton skin and fresh herbs within.   

  

The phσ is only decent with much fresher herbs and full flavored broths to be found down the street in Little Saigon. For lunch, the tangy tamarind fish is buoyant, its tender texture and mild flavor belie its piscine origins altogether.

  Like a Tarantino flick, fusion cuisine, and terms like ‘Califoriental’ that it conjurs up, scare me with their T & I tactics on unsuspecting dishes.  Asian Mint does a very traditional Vietnamese green papaya salad with beef, but also a version that substitutes green apples for the papaya. Savory beef, all at once glossy, juicy and aromatic is tossed with sautéed onions on a bed of crisp, tart Granny Smith match sticks dotted with chopped peanuts. Not a common combination and not a freak show on a plate, just really good.   

2487 Park Ave. Tustin.714.259.7738. Dinner for two, $25.00, food only.

Baconista Bunch

January 28, 2010

The latest outpost of Orange County’s D.I.Y. burger movement,  Anaheim Hills- based Slater’s 50/50 has caught the eye of the online bacon belt. Of all the niche bloggers out there, few are as  doggedly fetishistic than those who spend their hours devoted to online bacon commentary. But bacon recipes, bacon haiku and depraved bacon-themed videos will have to wait, there’s heavy porcine theming going on at Slater’s. The folks at bacontoday.com can’t get enough of them.  And the people at Moorpark-based baconfreak.com will likely become fans if they take a break  from feverishly filling orders for  this nifty wallet, and pay them a visit.            

            

Slater’s signature burger is fifty percent ground  beef and fifty percent ground bacon topped with an over medium fried egg.  It’s a zaftig affair, pink and voluptuous with the full-flavored savory stickiness and mouthfeel of breakfast sausage. The detonation of the egg gives the burger a pleasant spurt, Grand Slamwich-like in execution, but stacked higher so that you have to unhinge your maw like a death adder to encompass the unwieldy girth of the thing.         

 But the obsessive employment of non-kosher goodness doesn’t stop with the burger. There’s macaroni and cheese : tender pasta elbows enveloped in mild Gruyère funkiness and stippled with flecks of bacon for a  meaty smokiness throughout. And baconaise, bacon salt-infused mayo, is pretty tasty stuff, though a small ramekin of it probably packs more sodium than a bloody mary.            

Baconaise on the side. Do it.

After all the bacon hype, I  couldn’t resist the pork free Flamin’ Hot:  A one-third pound  jalapeño-flecked cayenne-perfumed premium beef patty  with wispy fried onion strings, fire roasted green chilies, pepper jack and chipotle mayo. It’s lip-stinging infernal carnality shimmers with heat alleviated only slightly by the absorption powers of a buttery crusted spongy bun the size of a Max Factor powder puff.        

 Slater’s stocks a condiment called J&D’s Bacon Salt (motto: Everything should taste like bacon!) on every table. Sprinkling it on my bacon-riddled goods seemed a little bit like following a C. C.  straight up with a Glenfiddich chaser, but I’d love to try it on popcorn.  6362 East Santa Ana Canyon Rd. Anaheim Hills, CA 92807 714.685.1103. Dinner for two, 25.00, food only.

PIERRE RAID

January 20, 2010

If your schedule is amenable to taking coffee breaks in the vicinity of Garden Grove, by all means, take a skateboard,  fixie or Ellipti-go to Viet-Parisian bakery Pierre’s Patisserie and Boulangerie. Though the latter mode of transport will make you look like a human Jackalope galloping across the ruddy, baked asphalt of Little Saigon, it will be necessary to combat butterfat the likes of which you haven’t seen since you sat in the dark watching Julie and Julia, wishing your Edward’s popcorn were doused with Plugra instead of beta carotene-colored oil that resembles Bain de Soleil  Tanning Gelee.Authentic pastry chefs don’t ration out thimble-sized portions of butter like fastidious kindergarten teachers stingily administering glue during a craft session. Lest you forget, here’s a little pastry chef 101: before baking, the pastry dough rectangle has a butter block the size of an FAA-approved flotation device sealed inside, and then, with more roll-outs than an anti-cellulite spa treatment and more folds than an origami crane, voilà! You’ve got dough!

Glossy apple galettes, lacquered dark chocolate-filled croissants, crackly palmiers and chewy, slightly sweet almond-studded marzipan balls revealing a cherry center are just a few of my faves. The specialty cakes are like those spammy Snopes-refuted ‘YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THIS’ emails from dad and his cronies; they look good on the outside, but the content?  Notsomuch. Try the ethereal sugar-studded pastry puffs next to the register with a sip of sweetened condensed milk-laced espresso.  Featherweight baguettes as long as Louisville Sluggers hot from the oven and are just $1.35. Pierre Boulangerie and Patisserie 14354 Brookhurst St. Garden Grove, CA. 714.418.9098. Coffee break for two, $10.00.<script type=”text/javascript”>
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The Tip Top Point

January 16, 2010

 

In the banh mi diaspora of Little Saigon, opinions on where to find the best baguette are as authoritative and polarized as HuffPost and the Heritage Foundation’s combative takes on global warming. And it’s not just the bread. At a local salon, I’ve seen trash talking sessions about sandwich fillings get as hot as a Conair Infiniti dryer.

 A teeming social hub well-respected in the cult of the Vietnamese sandwich, Tip Top’s is crammed with loyal congregants gossiping and reading Nguoi Viet. Bread comes out of the massive ovens hourly creating a market so competitive that attempting to sell a cooled baguette in this neighborhood is as dismal a prospect as trying to trade mom’s Weight Watchers protein bar for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at the grade school lunch tables. 

A Tip Top baguette has a scored and slightly bubbled outer crust that shatters on contact like a pane of sugar on crème brûlée leaving shards of flakiness in its wake. The core, still warm from the oven, soaks up the juicy, fat marbled savory pork  tangled with cool, sweet pickled daikon, shaggy carrot slivers, fresh cilantro sprigs and jalapeño spheres. The experience is at once crispy, spicy, warm and crunchy. And at $3.45, the price is as sweet as the cafe sua da.

A shrill bell channeling an elementary school’s fire alarm sounds before your order number is read. Forget the uninspired American-style sandwiches and leave the Patisserie to Pierre’s Boulangerie down the street, but hustle to the take-out counter: that baguette won’t be warm forever. Tip Top’s Sandwiches 14094 Brookhurst St. Garden Grove. 714.530.9239. Lunch for two, $8.00,  food only.

 


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