Dolphins Serving Breakfast…

…which they almost do, at The Terrace Cafe, inside/outside of the historic Hotel Laguna on the gorgeous sands of Main Beach, Laguna Beach.

I arrived a bit early and had a few minutes to burn while I awaited my breakfast mate, Anita (MadHungryWoman). As I walked through the lobby and on down a long hallway, I was intrigued by the numerous black & white photographs of Laguna Beach past, that line the wall. These range from the late 1800’s to the mid 1950’s and WOW, has Laguna changed in 100 years. Most of these are historical photographs that are the Hotel Laguna centric, which is quite interesting, as you see the hotel change shape and form from a humble two-story, sandy and wood sided retreat to the beautiful icon it is today. I easily spent over 20 minutes looking closely at these records of the amazing Hotel Laguna and Laguna Beach’s past.

I’ve been a resident of Laguna Beach for over 14 years now, though I’ve played, eaten and partied in and about the town for more like 20 years. I sadly say, I have missed out on one of the most unique restaurant locations this town has to offer. This is the very first time I’ve had the pleasure to eat at The Terrace Cafe.

Once Anita arrived, we made our way to The Terrace Cafe, which is down the hallway to the left just beyond the historic pictorial passage. As you enter you are greeted by a warm, comfortable and casual space which seems most likely, at this early hour, meant for the lunch and later cocktail crowd.

The Terrace Cafe’s Upper Mural Chill Out Space

From there you’ll walk around a bar and down some steps, when you realize there is a gorgeous view and extensive patio before and beyond the windows in front of you.

As Anita and I finally get outside, I really am shocked to have not known of this gem from my 14 years of life just blocks away. Really shocked…and ultimately overjoyed at the wonder of it all.

The Hotel Laguna's Inner Courtyard

The Grand and Gorgeous Patio

 

Crazy beautiful, right? We’d had rain all night and into the early morning. It was supposed to be a gray, hazy, cool and typical ‘June Gloom’ day for us but it was surprisingly a clear, sunny and a perfect 70 degree beach morning. 
 
Here is where the dolphins come in! As we made our way outside to find a table, our server Genia, excitedly mentioned that they’d been seeing dolphins break just off the beach, along the kelp beds that have been growing strong these past few years, yards from The Terrace’s beach front.
 
How excitedly amazed was I, as no sooner had Anita and I sat down, looking out to take in the breathtaking morning, that numerous dolphins started breaking waves. I was mesmerized. I always feel like a little boy when this happens. My enthusiasm and excitement for the joy of a dolphin sighting easily overwhelms me. I grew up in the foothills of the landlocked Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York and dolphins were always a fantastical dream to me then and I joyously report, an equally fantastical dream to me now as an adult, who has seen them numerous times since moving to California in the late 80’s. I never tire of the sight. 
 
After the initial shock and awe of the dolphins and finally choosing a perfect table (among many perfect tables) along the glass wall above the sand, you can’t fail to then be awed with an unabstructed view of the amazing Laguna coastline to the south and the picturesque ‘Main Beach’  view to the north. 

View to the South

View north to Main Beach

 
So far, so amazing, right?? And I haven’t even gotten to the food yet!
 
I unabashedly ordered a screwdriver (made with fresh squeezed OJ), as I’m off from work and it’s a ‘what the hell’ kind of gorgeous morning, with dolphins frolicking nearby. Though, once it arrived and after one (yes, just one) sip, I knocked it right over, onto my shorts, down the glass wall. I sadly watched it drain away… though quickly brightened up as a replacement was said to be coming. Anita was quick to point out that I oddly have a pattern of knocking over first drinks, though not seconds, and never the ever-present tall glass of water. Hmmmmm….why is that? Old age? Klutz? Both?
 
After two or three sips of the new screwdriver (none was going to waste, this round), it was time to focus on the menu.

Menu: Top Portion Only

I post part of it here to let you peruse just some of the teasingly delectable offerings The Terrace Cafe has to offer for breakfast. If I had more than one stomach, I would have ordered one of everything. So I narrowed it down to just two, Anita did the same, and damn, did we do good!
 
First to arrive was my order: Lemon-Scented Pancakes with Blueberry Compote, Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream, Real Maple Syrup.

 These were a triad of large tender cakes, at least 8-9 inches in diameter each, perfectly griddled and golden. They were of light texture with an almost ‘Al Dente’ chew. I know that’s an odd way of describing a pancake but I haven’t been able to come up with one that better describes the tender pull and pleasant chewyness of them. I’m baffled as to what makes them so. Hopefully Chef Paul Bauer will whisper his recipe and technique to me during a future visit. 

The Vanilla Bean Chantilly Cream paired beautifully with the tart Blueberry Compote, so much so, I completely ignored the Pure Maple Syrup.

My Perfect Bite

The only chagrin was the scent of what? Lemons? Other than the lovely lemon twist garnish, I could detect nothing of the citrus about the dish. Was that the point? It’s neither here nor there for me, though what I’d like you to know is that I did have to take 2 of the 3 pancakes home and that they reheat beautifully in the microwave. Clamshelled between two plates and reheated at half power for a gentle warming, the pancakes retain their light, tender chewyness as if freshly table brought. 

Now onto more delectables! 

Anita ordered the Hotel Laguna Omelette (egg whites, spinach, roasted red peppers, feta cheese) which was surprisingly more flavorful than either she or I expected. Egg Whites tend to be bland but with the generous and flavorful filling, you enjoy it as part of the inclusive whole.

 

“Please Sir, can I have some more?” and yes, yes we can!, as Anita’s second choosing arrives.
 
The Braised Short Rib Hash looks heartily delicious, as it is settled on the table amongst our other plates. It’s nicely topped with a ‘nest’ of curly, perfectly fried shoestring potatoes that just barely hide two poached egg. I awaited with anticipation as Anita’s fork gently ruptured an egg so the creamy yellow yolk could ooze down through and flavorfully meld with the short rib hash. Upon sampling, sampling…and sampling, it is delicious and deep with rich flavor.  A perfectly done hash. 

Short Rib Hash with Freshly Sliced Varietal Melon

Short Rib Hash

What a breakfast feast already, right? Well there is one more to go.
 
My ordered of Crab Cakes Benedict (blue crab cakes, poached eggs, paprika hollandaise on brioche toast) is placed amongst Ooohs & Ahhhhs. A very picturesque presentation.
Crab Cakes Benedict

 

Gorgeous, yes? I’m happy to say, tasty too.
 
They were a generous crab cake, large, thick and tender and gently crisp, on top of nicely toasted pillows of brioche rounds.  The pillows of brioche were a little too thick for me as they were equal in thickness to the crab cake which I felt fought for top texture/flavor with the crab cakes. The golden and flavorful paprika hollandaise enrobed the poached eggs, perched atop, then cascaded down the crab cakes underneath.
     
And I haven’t even mentioned the breakfast potatoes that are a perfect complement to all the dishes. They are gorgeously golden, perfectly crisp and crunchy exterior, tender within. I could have eaten an entire plate of them.
 
This really was a beautiful breakfast experience. The view, the food, the ambiance along with the pleasant and helpful staff (Genia, you rock!), made us feel like we were hanging out on our own home patio.
 
I’m looking forward to many more good eats on the terrace of The Terrace Cafe this summer.
 
The Terrace Cafe in the Hotel Laguna
425 South Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA  92651
(949) 494-1151
 
 
 
 
 
 

1st Attempt: Yellow Chicken Curry

Yes, Yes, I know I need to create a ‘Test Kitchen’ tab/category in this blog, I’m just not savvy enough yet to have gotten there.

So please just bear (grrrrrr) with me until then.

Now, I was asked by a friend, Suki (@eatsukieat on twitter) after I posted the below pics on Twitter (@FuzzDogg66 or @TheHungryDogg), what my recipe was.

What she (and most) do not know is that I rarely have a recipe to go off of when I cook. If it’s something I haven’t actually made before, I usually look at a few recipes off a google search, take those and then mull them over whilst I meld them with what I’ve got bouncing around in my noggin and what I really want/hope it will be. I believe it’s a lot of a 70% know how and 30% fingers crossed, hail mary, seat of my pants creation (at best). I am always, ALWAYS surprised when any new dish comes out well.

Also, after a review of my food porn pics of the resultant dish by my friend Holly of TheEndlessSupper, she verbalized a ‘You should post those’…so how can I deny a seasoned professional? How, I ask, how? ;o)

Not many of my friends like Indian food, authentic or americanized, which leaves it up to me to seek out, pay for, and enjoy (tho mostly be disappointed by) the yellow chicken curry I’ve encountered from outside sources.

That said, I attempted a Yellow Chicken Curry, which I so dearly love and so rarely have.

An Asian/Thai-American or not so Asian/Thai American friend(s) of mine may have noted that Yellow Chicken Curry is not really ‘authentic’ by native standards but come hell or high water, screw’em. I love the stuff so…..

First off, here’s is a pic of the 1st attempt’s results:

and

I was VERY surprised that I actually pulled it off without much offense. Really, it was quite good. So much so I ended up having a second bowl of it for dinner.
 
If you didn’t know, it is customary to serve it over Basmati rice. Basmati is a nice, long grain and drier rice than most. There’s a very good reason why it’s customary, it damn tasty rice with no sticky/ickyness to speak of. I love how it actually enhances the dish, absorbs some of the curry sauce but lends a carbo-licious platform for the Yellow Chicken Curry to soar unhindered on your tongue yet grounds it on your tastebuds. It won’t let the curry dissapate down your gullet too soon.
 
Resultantly, I was afraid it was a little bit too salty for others, as I would get a ‘hit’ of salty saltness when it engaged my tongue, though it quickly dissipated as the curry ‘heat’ swooped (yes swooped, slowly building, as if far away, tho on a pre-determined path, until it was a large prominent flavor overtaking the lower half of my head)  in to replace and happily linger on my tongue.
 
I did detect an ever so slight & fainting bitter aftertaste, which I will have to figure out how to eliminate. Either I need a better quality curry powder starter/blend or I may have to add a small amount of sugar to do so. Any suggestions?????
 
and
 
So the random ingredients I haphazardly (truly) used were:
Butter
White Onions
Chicken Stock
Diced Chicken Breast
Diced Yukon Gold Potato
Heavy Cream
1 Can of Coconut Milk
Ground Cumin
Ground Coriander
Cayenne Pepper
Minced Garlic
Crushed Ginger
Crushed Lemon grass
3-5 tlbs of Trader Joe’s Curry Powder
2 Bay Leaves
Fresh Lime Juice
Sea Salt, Grey Salt & Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
 
I may have forgotten a few or two or none.  
I am making it again today, so I will do my best to remember what/how I do it. I am horrible at writing this stuff down.
 
For me, cooking it a truly creative process. It’s a go as you go, paint how you paint, sing how you sing, truly create how you create, process.
 
Almost no forethought goes into it, you just FEEL and GO.
 
I’ll try to do better, as long as that is what YOU want, for me to write this stuff down, so you can go forth and create on your own, with an outline.
 
Also, let me know if you’d like a pic by pic documentation of the process and the staging of ingredients, like I’ve seen on other blogs. I’ll consider the HUGE extra effort involved in doing my ‘Test Kitchen’ results that way, but I totally understand, and am willing to go the ‘short term pain for long term gain’ that can be achieved by it :o)
 
I truly hoped you enjoyed this. 
 
PS- On the 2nd attempt, which came out even better, I added cinnamon and the experiment with trying to eliminate the slight bitter aftertaste worked, by adding just about a tablespoon or two of sugar. I need to make more, it was so good.

Just A Lime Truck Qwickee

I know the original cast (Chef Jason, CEO Daniel & brilliant sous chef Jesse) are busy with The Food Network’s second season taping of ‘The Great Food Truck Race’, heading to Atlanta for this Memorial Day weekend BUT I was able to leave work early this Saturday past & was excited to hit the Lime Truck and their ‘Stay At Home’ cast of Adam, Chef Mark & Keba because they have brilliantly retained Chef Jason’s food standard AND creativity.

Now this has got to be my favorite ‘boat’ so far of what Chef Mark has been

doing since Chef Jason left him in charge of the food on the truck by galloping off with

a new Lime Truck into the sunrise of The Great Food Truck Race.

The Crispy ‘Gorgonzilla’ & Spinach Gnocchi

These beautiful little pillows have a tenderly crisp, tasty outer shell that

surprises the teeth as you bite down and break into them.

As that surprise demands wonderment  & thought, you are then hit

with an amazingly mouth filling, tangy and creamy bright sourness that is

the gorgonzola cream sauce. It just barely coats the gnocchi pillows

and I would love to have demanded more but I couldn’t find my voice

as I was too overwhelmed by all the flavors and crispy tenderness of perfection filling the entire red & white plaid paper boat.

I loved it so much, this past experience, that I finger licked the boat clean.

If I could have tongue licked it with any sense of dignity, I would have, but I felt the

finger licking was the best alternative to my position standing out front (and to the left) of the truck.

That said, the other very delicious dish they were offering, that I partook of,  was

 the Gooey Lemon Chicken Sandwich.

The Gooey Lemon Chicken Sandwich
This was such a pretty sandwich..really, it was pretty.
I ended up saving it until I got home. I was planning on eating it for dinner
but as it was still warm (and gooey) after the 25 minute drive home,
I just couldn’t resist taking a cursory bite. Well that was the end of the ‘saving’
and on I went to devour the entire thing!
So good, SO good!
 
What I’m sayin’ here is, GO, give the ‘stay at home’ Lime Truck a
joyously hearty visit and you will not be disappointed in the least
at the quality and comparably great flavors & standards
Chef Mark, Keba and Adam are upholding to honour the
training from Chef Jason and Daniel while they chase their dream across this great
nation of Gourmet Food Truck eaters.
 

Mama Needs Some Help

I was looking forward to lunch today with good friends, Anita of MadHungryWoman & Priscilla of She’sCookin. We were originally going to enjoy Indonesian fast food in Garden Grove until Priscilla deflated that idea by informing us it was closed on Mondays. Curses!

A runner-up was now needed…and fast, it was 2 hours to lunch!

Priscilla knew of a place in Huntington Beach, newly opened, so we said “Bring It On”! Mama’s On 39 was the place.

Though Mama’s had had a two-week soft opening, today was the first official, full menu service. Priscilla had gotten there first and was awaiting (eagerly-I’ll pretend) our arrival with the ‘your tables ready’ buzzer in hand.

We were soon seated in the large, simply casual, mute toned and mildly industrial (due to high ceiling of exposed vent piping & supports), wide open dinning room. Our friendly server brought us menus & took our drink orders (tho only after the 4th pass by cuz we were talking so much). I ordered from the Coolers list, the Mama’s Pink Lemonade, made up of fresh lemonade, strawberries & raspberries, muddled, with Soju vodka. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone, I didn’t either. Soju Vodka is a 45% proof (they only have a beer&wine license) Korean distilled beverage likened to vodka. It was quite good straight up. I liked my lemonade very much. It was bright & tangy sweet.

image

Anita ordered out starter, Pabst Steamed Litteneck Clams (fresh Carlsbad Farms clams in olive oil, garlic ‘n Pabst Blue Ribbon beer). They were average and nothing special, tho we all thought the low-grade beer gave the broth a prominent bitter top AND after taste.

image

My lunch order was breakfast (my favorite meal for every meal) which is served all day. My very hot plated (hot enough to burn, which I discovered trying to turn the plate for a blog shot) Pulled Chicken’n Brie Scramble (eggs, pulled roasted chicken, wild mushrooms, sage, brie cheese). It looked beautiful enough. The brie was plenty & perfectly soft,  just starting to ooze from the heat of the scramble. The mushrooms were nicely represented and flavorful, sharing scrambled time with grilled shallots. The pulled roasted chicken, tho plenty, was a mild let down. A bit dry, tough and flavorless, it’s as though they pulled the chicken first THEN roasted it. A nice surprise was the perfectly fried sage leaves garnish.

You would think from all that, it would be WOW in the mouth…but sadly wasn’t so. It ended up pretty much, bland. Weird, I know. I’m as surprised as you!

Anita, tho, came to the rescue!, with her trusty, always present, Spice Pouch of Wonder, with it numerous mini jars of Sea Salt, Sel Gris, Claes Salt and micro pepper grinder. After much tinkering, seasoning with Sea & Claes Salt and numerous twists of the pepper grinder, my scramble turned out quite palatable. So much so, I finished it!

image

So Priscilla ordered the Green Eggs’n Ham Skillet (eggs, smoked ham, spinach, griddled onions, avocado, pesto). After we all got a sample, Priscilla noticed they forgot a prime ingrediant…THE HAM! Can’t have Green Eggs’n Ham without the ham, Dr. Seuss would be turning over in his grave (along with the Fox in a Box, Mouse in a House and mostly Here or There). So a replacement skillet was ordered….

image

Anita would go on to order the Cowboy Sandwich (chargrilled steak, crispy onions, shishito peppers, sliced brie). The steak was ordered medium rare, tho came just about tartare. The tomato based slather overpowered all the other flavors on the overly stuffed sandwich. Even the Spice Pouch of Wonder couldn’t save it. The only silver lining was that it looked great.

image

Anita rather liked the homemade potato chips, sprinkled lightly with seasoning salt. I found them a bit too over cooked and dark, for my taste.

image

We are all a bit saddened by it all at this point. The table has been cleared and we are now waiting for Priscilla’s replacement skillet to arrive. Again, it looked great, but upon a jiggle, it well…jiggled! Anita takes a knife to its center for a taste and raw egg liquid comes-a-oozing out. It was extremely undercooked.

The staff was friendly and the assistant GM was apologetic. They do have a Thrifty’s Ice Cream counter inside with an outdoor order window for those who love Thrifty’s ice cream. I was willing to give Mama’s On 39 the benefit of the doubt as a new restaurant just finding it’s legs but after being informed they are owned/run by the same group that is responsible for the numerous Salt Creek Grilles, I just had to shake my head.

Oh well, regardless, I had a really nice time with my friends.

Mama’s On 39  21022 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA

The 1st of Many Crazy-ness..ess…sss…HUH???

So here I am, posting the first (of hopefully many) crazy, nutjobby, off my rocker, strange and bizarre P.O.V. posts to this crazy, nutjobby, off the rocker, strange & bizarre forum of a blog (honestly? I was 100% against them 10yrs ago). 

It’s all sooooo bloody new to me (and you w/me) though I hope you’ll check back often. I’ll do my best to entertain, interest, expand & offend (yes! I said OFFEND!) your good disposition at all turns.

Please stick around for the fun &  joyous ride I am on..FUN, FOOD and PHILANDERING (w/food, you dirty minded scoundrels, w/food!) Oh, and probably a little (a lot) of my favorite musical finds, for good measure. Every food endeavor needs an accompanying soundtrack.

Snark-a-ly Yours,

Austin, TheHungryDogg! WOOF!