Napa’s Mayacamas Vineyard Through a Post-Fire View


Mayacamas Winery’s entrance. Some evidence of fire, but the over-100-year-historic winery building remained unscathed.


Before my recent four-day Napa Valley wine-tasting trip, many friends voiced concern about my itinerary.

They perceived the Napa area to be a totally devastated landscape. Yes, some area wineries were lost in the fires, some were partially damaged, but most are fine and open for business.


View looking out with back to the winery.

From the air, Napa Valley was a blanket of brilliant green. On the ground, verdant hills and fields surrounded row after row of well-groomed grapevines – vines that for the most part were safe from the flames due to their high moisture content and the maintenance that requires the constant removal of surrounding dry brush.


Many of the private tastings for our small group were arranged by wine guru Ian Cauble, Master Sommelier, star of the movie “Somm” and chief wine officer at SommSelect, an online wine retailer ( I was thrilled that Cauble included Mayacamas Vineyards in the mix.

I’m a longtime fan of Mayacamas wines, as are many Orange County restaurants. Their wines appear on many OC wine lists, including A Restaurant, Mastros, Monarch Beach Resort, Juliette and Surf and Sand.

“The winery has existed since 1889 …” said Cauble, who grew up in Huntington Beach. “I have had the Mayacamas’ wines on every list I have ever had control over. It is one of those wines you love sharing with people, especially those who love a great Bordeaux.


“Mayacamas is best known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a timeless classic which can age effortlessly for decades. The white wines are worth searching out and are an anomaly in the Napa Valley because of their restraint, age-ability, and balance typically only found in European white wines. They have a specific traditional approach to winemaking that has not wavered very much since the 60’s.”


The winery sits at the end of the twisting eight-mile Trinity Road, a serpentine journey dotted with hairpin turns. As our van ascended to the top of Mount Veeder, we found road crews at work along the way clearing intermittent fire-damaged trees in the densely forested terrain.


Mayacama’s tasting and events building was lost in the fire.

(It stood in the mulched area featured in the above photo.)

The historic 19th-century winery building and other winemaking spaces were almost untouched by the fires and remain intact. A tasting and events building adjacent to the winery known as “the residence” was destroyed. Some of the wilderness land on their 480 acres also burned.

Jimmy Hayes, Mayacamas’ estate director, told us that the fire threatened the winery just after the grapes had been harvested. A large bed of mulch covered the area where the fire-ravaged events building had stood.

“At the far end the stone wall was the only part left of a distillery that was built in 1889,” Hayes said, pointing to the mulched area. “Then there was an addition in the 50’s and again in the 70’s. We’re going to rebuild it and it’s going to be completely amazing. We still have a winery and the view is still beautiful. We are very thankful for what we have left.”

He pointed out that throughout their 129-year history wine production has never stopped, and that includes wines made during the Prohibition, bottles that were hidden in caves cut into the mountain when officials made a visit up the mountain.


Pals Ron and Marcia Kay Radelet sample Mayacamas’ Cabernet Sauvignon.

We savored our five-bottle tasting inside an inviting stone-walled room within the winery. Hayes explained that the wines we tasted were classic Napa wines like those made decades ago, wines aged for three years in oak barrels, then aged another year in the bottle for a year or so before becoming available for purchase.

“It’s singular,” he said with a smile.

As I sipped, Cauble’s words rang true on my palate.

“The wines always have perfect balance and are incredibly food friendly due to the fact that they are not over-oaked or picked so late they lose balance,” he had explained. “My favorite wine they make is their Cabernet Sauvignon, it always has a very deep and savory component which is a hallmark year in and year out.

“With a decade of age the wine drops some of the primary fruit aromatics of wild berries, red currant and black cherry and these are replaced with nuanced notes of sandalwood, leather, dried tobacco leaf, mushrooms, wild flowers and damp forest. If I were to choose one Napa red to drink for the rest of my life, Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon would be it. These wines age forever and never fall apart, something that plagues many of the more modern styles. Where many modern styles of Napa reds begin to tire at 8-10 years of age, Mayacamas is just getting started and truly peaks decades after being bottled.”

I look forward to sipping some of the 2013 cabs that I purchased ten years down the road, in 2023. I’m hoping to connect with the wild flowers and damp forest.

Maybe some mushrooms. Definitely leather.


Mayacamas Vineyards, 1155 Lokoya Road, Napa, CA 94558

Winery: 707-224-4030   Visits to Mayacamas are temporarily unavailable.

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Crepe College: Concept for Fullerton Crepe Shop Cropped Up At University

Owners of BELOVED ORANGE COUNTY FOOD TRUCK, CREPES BONAPARTE, have opened a Brick and Mortar location in downtown Fullerton.


CREPES BONAPARTE, a concept Christian Murcia developed while in college and grew in Orange County with his wife Danielle, opened March 1. Fullerton is the couple’s hometown.

Their food trucks are known for their vast crepe offerings, ranging from sweet to savory, as well as fresh breakfast options.


Expansive menu includes savory Caprese (roasted tomato, seasoned chicken, mozzarella and garlic pesto) …


as well as California Sunrise (avocado, crisp slices of bacon, roasted tomato, cheddar and a fresh cracked egg), and the divinely sweet HazelBerryAna® (fresh strawberries, sliced banana & Nutella topped with whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle).




Expanded beverage offerings are available at the restaurant, including French beer and wine, as well as espresso drinks.

“Our concept started as a business plan for my Entrepreneurial Studies final project while at the University of Southern California in 2008,” said owner and founder Christian Murcia. “We are celebrating 10 years as a business in Southern California, and are so excited to officially be a part of the Downtown Fullerton neighborhood, which is both my, and my wife Danielle’s hometown.”

HOURS: Open six days a week for breakfast through dinner, with late night and brunch menus on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant will be open from 5pm-10pm Tuesday to Thursday, 9am-2am Friday and Saturday, 9am-10pm on Sunday and closed on Monday (hours subject to change). Guests can select their made-to-order crepes at the counter, then select a seat at the indoor high tops or on the al fresco patio.

LEARN MORE: Crepes Bonaparte, as well as food trucks Gaston and Pierre, visit the restaurant at 115 South Harbor Boulevard, Suite A, Fullerton, the Website (, or follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


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BRICK Restaurant’s New Grill Grabs the Glitz


Dining at Brick Restaurant is always worth the drive to San Clemente. I live in Huntington, so it takes some time behind the wheel to savor the palate joy of chef-owner David Pratt’s cuisine.

David’s house-crafted pasta. His pizzas. His meatballs.

(Such as these farro gnocchi adrift in pork bolognese.)

DavidPrattFarroGnocchiAnd his salads are some of the very best in O.C.


The beet salad is a must. It showcases beet “carpaccio”, citrus supremes, dill cream and, yes, home-cured gravlax. The texture and flavor contrasts make it irresistible.

AND now on a new menu, dishes show off his fancy new grill. It was inspired by a restaurant in Baja.

“Deckmans in the Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja (22766 Valle de Guadalupe, B.C., Mexico) is a big deal,” he told me. “Drew Deckman is a Michelin-starred chef ( who trained under legendary French chefs Paul Bocuse and Jacques Maximin).

It’s a crazy food scene down there. It’s the real deal.

I was doing this dinner with him – GreenFeast (with Chef Panisse, Deckman and Brick). There was a guy working the grill. Long story short, the guy builds the grills. This guy is THE man.”


“Two days later he was in my kitchen (at Brick), and now I’ve got this eight-foot wood-burning Santa Maria-style grill. It cranks up and down.”

On the grill? Spanish octopus on skewers, deeply charred … you gotta start with this. Listen and watch chef’s octopus lingo …


Scottish salmon with fava beans, citrus and black rice.

Maine lobster one day out of the water.  Steaks (Hanger and Ribeye). Pork Chops. A lot of luscious proteins.

Pointing to the menu, he says that there will be a bigger meat section and a fish section, adding that the menu already has grown substantially in that direction.


Brick is at 216 N El Camino Real, San Clemente.




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The Cure: Tom Yum Soup


My cough was so nasty, it could take paint off a wall.

Like so many, my flu-cold misery lasted and lasted. Christmas. New Years. Beyond …

Determined to cure it before Groundhog’s Day, I called Kaiser’s on-call nurse. I didn’t want to spend untold hours among other sickies in the E.R., so I put my faith in the phone professional. I described that thickness in my upper chest, the color of the gunky phlegm, the noise.


The wellness goddess told me to drink hot liquids. Lots of hot liquids to break up the congestion. I made loads of ginger-lemon tea. It seemed to be working, but at a slow pace. So I sent Mr. Wonderful to Bangkok Avenue, a really-good Thai restaurant in Huntington Beach.

His assignment? Bring back lots of Tom Yum Soup.

Hot, spicy, sour magic. As I swallowed, I could feel the spiciness working its way through the muck. The tartness melting its way through the debris.

The next day … practically well. No kidding.

My version takes about 8 to 10 minutes to prepare. Easy, and absolutely delicious. Buy some TOM YUM PASTE at an Asian market or online and keep it in your fridge; it helps to make short work of the prep. The brand I prefer is “EXOTIC BRAND.” I’ve tried other brands and don’t like them nearly as well. 


At the Asian market, buy some kaffir lime leaves and small Thai chilies to use in the soup. You can freeze the extra leaves, as well as the chilies for future use.

Add shrimp if you like, or make it vegetarian. Enjoy.



Yield: 3 to 4 servings
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tom yum paste (see story)
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped (see story)
Optional: 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
Juice of 1/2 lime
Optional: 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 small red Thai chili, very thinly sliced, see cook’s notes
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or pulled apart if in clumps, see cook’s notes
2 green onions, sliced, including 1/2 of dark green stalks
Optional: 3/4 pound raw shelled and deveined shrimp
Garnish: about 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Garnish: lime wedges for optional use
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies. Wash work surface and hands after completion and do NOT touch face or eyes. Use any fresh mushroom you like. My favorites are the shimeji mushrooms I find in small cellophane bags at Asian markets; they grow in clumps and have lovely brown caps.
1. Heat broth in large saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir in tom yum paste, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass if using, lime juice and fish sauce if using. Add chili and sugar. Lower heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, green onions and if using, shrimp. Simmer long enough to cook shrimp (if using), about 2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Provide lime wedges for optional squeezing.

shimejiMushroomsShimeji mushrooms are sold at Asian markets, and often at Whole Foods and Mother’s Markets.


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Plate Art from Chef Alessandro Pirozzi, Branzino al Piatto at Salerno

Branzino That Is Delectable Artwork from Chef Alessandro Pirozzi occhefAlessandroBrazinoSized2

Branzino has become an everyday staple on upscale restaurant menus. The delicate, white-fleshed Mediterranean seabass (called “loup de mer” on French menus) tastes almost sweet when cooked correctly. Orange County chef-restaurateur Alessandro Pirozzi knows how to serve it at its very best.


He showcases the mild-mannered fish in different ways in each of his restaurants (Alessa By Pirozzi and Salerno by Chef Pirozzi in Laguna Beach, as well as Pirozzi Corona del Mar).  I like them all, but my very favorite is his Branzino al Piatto at Salerno. A boneless skinless filet is lightly pounded and quickly cooked on a plate.

The straight-forward way it is broiled lets the delicious taste and texture of the fish shine through. Then he adds garnishes that dazzle the eye with pure colors that are reminiscent of a Henri Matisse painting.

There’s a drizzle of Calabrian chili oil, a sprinkling of black salt flakes and honey-colored spheres of olive oil pearls.

A scattering of tiny pickled sweet peppers, rounded at one end and sharply pointed at the other, offer a pleasing contrast. A gentle squeeze of fresh lemon juice brings vibrancy, while a pinch of fennel pollen and a higgledy-piggledy arrangement of diced avocado bring richness.



Thinly sliced rainbow radishes and carrots grace the lip of the plate, along with a couple of crisp crostini. Confetti flowers, small edible petals in a wide variety of colors and shapes, flutter atop it all.


Pirozzi says that the colorful flower mixture is the “parsley of the future.”

Artistic and Handy: He loves to weld and create something out of nothing. He cuts the metal, then bends it and welds it together. He made all the wine racks and many art pieces in his restaurants’ dining rooms.

Collections: He collects salt, honey and extra-virgin olive oils from around the globe.


Branzino al Piatto
Yield: 2 servings
Two (3- to 4-ounce) boneless, skinless branzino filets
2 rectangular oven-proof plates
4 sheets nonstick wrap
Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
Calabrian chili oil or Asian chili oil, see cook’s notes
Small pickled sweet peppers, see cook’s notes
Black salt flakes, see cook’s notes
Squeeze fresh lemon juice
Optional: pinch of fennel pollen
1/2 diced avocado
Garnish: a few slices of Calabrian chili, small teardrop tomatoes, thinly sliced rainbow carrots, rainbow radish, microgreens, pesticide-free fresh flower petals (edible “confetti” flowers preferred), crostini
Optional: olive oil pearls, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: Jars of Tutto Calabria Hot Long Italian Chili Peppers in Oil are available at; you can use the oil (just a small drizzle) and a sliced chili in this recipe). Black salt flakes, fennel pollen and olive oil pearls are also available on the Site. I found the small sweet peppers in the cheese section at Bristol Farms Market in tiny jars (labeled “petite poivrons”).

To make crostini, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange thin slices of baguette slices on rimmed baking sheet; brush both sides with extra-virgin olive oil, and season with salt. Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through (if undersides are not browning, turn crostini over once during baking).

1. Adjust oven rack to 5- to 6-inches below broiler element. Preheat broiler.
2. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil on rimmed baking sheet. Top with sheet of nonstick wrap (plastic wrap). Top with 1 fillet (put the side that had the skin, the darker side, facing up). Drizzle with a little oil and top with a sheet of nonstick wrap. Gently pound using a mallet or bottom of a pan, making the fillet about 1/3 bigger. Remove top plastic wrap and use the bottom plastic wrap to transfer to a rectangular ovenproof plate; remove plastic wrap. Drizzle with a tiny bit of oil. Repeat with second branzino.
3. Broil 2 minutes in preheated oven. Use a fork to pull apart a tiny area in center to check for doneness. If fish isn’t opaque and white in center, give plates a turn (careful the plates are hot) and broil an additional 45 seconds or so. Remove from oven and place plates on a folded towel.
4. Sprinkle with a smidgen of Calabrian chili oil and a few slices of Calabrian chilies. Scatter tiny sweet chilies on top, a tiny touch of freshly ground black pepper, black salt flakes, a little fresh lemon juice and diced avocado. Top with microgreens and, if using, olive oil pearls. Arrange teardrop tomatoes, crostini and thinly sliced carrots on side of plate. Top with a generous amount of edible confetti flowers. Crisscross 2 crostini at one end.

Alessa By Pirozzi, 234 Forest Ave, Laguna Beach 949-497-8222
Pirozzi Corona del Mar, 2929 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach 949-675-2932
Salerno By Chef Pirozzi, 220 N Beach St, Laguna Beach 949-497-2600

melissaLogo200Here’s a quick tip from Melissa’s …


Chopped Greek salad augmented with cooked chicken breast makes a delicious lunch or healthful dinner. Or substitute grilled salmon for the chicken for a tasty alternative.

Chopped Greek Chicken Salad
Yield: 4 (3 cups each) servings
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or oregano
Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 6 cups chopped (in bite-sized pieces) romaine lettuce
2 1/2 cups cooked boneless-skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium tomatoes, cut into large dice
1/4 hothouse cucumber, skin removed in alternating strips, halved lengthwise and cut into half-moon slices
1/3 cup slivers of red onion
1/2 cup (generous) halved (lengthwise) pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Optional: croutons (rustic bread lightly brushed with olive oil, cut into 3/4-inch cubes and toasted in 350-degree oven)
1. Whisk vinegar, oil, dill or oregano, garlic salt and pepper together in large bowl.
2. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Melissa’s Produce: Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, and Gift Baskets. Organic produce and specialty produce (such as baby vegetables, edible flowers, Okinawa sweet potatoes, coquitos, banana leaves, steamed lentils, bhut jolokia chiles, organic juice boxes and a large variety of peppers). 


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Wow Pumpkin Whoopie Pies from Pastry Wizard Rachel Klemek


Rachel Klemek, executive pastry chef-owner of Blackmarket Bakery in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and San Diego, loves the whimsy of whoopie pies. She says the name connotes party-like fun. And the treat is a cake that is portable; it can be picked up and easily eaten out of hand.


Her pumpkin-spiked whoopie pies showcase flavors associated with the holidays; a rainbow of autumnal spices and a small dose of molasses bring palate memories of sweet indulgences centered around the festive time of year.

Watch her share the secrets to these cakes that sandwich irresistible cream cheese filling. She doesn’t chintz on the creamy filling; it’s added with generosity, piped from a plastic pastry bag to form a thick spiral.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Cream Cheese Filling
Yield: about 10
2 1/2 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour, see cook’s notes
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs (best if eggs aren’t super cold)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 1/2 ounces buttermilk
12 ounces cream cheese (not whipped style or reduced fat), softened to room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
4 ounces unsalted butter (1 stick), soft
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cook’s notes: Chef Klemek used pastry flour, but said all-purpose could be used. Pastry flour contains 8.5 to 9.5 percent protein, which is low relative to all-purpose that is between 10 and 12 percent protein. Pastry flour produces a finer crumb. If you wish, use half all-purpose and half cake flour (7 to 8 percent protein), such as Swans Down that is sold at most supermarkets.
1. Adjust rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Set aside.
2. In large bowl of electric mixer (using the paddle attachment) beat butter, sugar and molasses until blended and fluffy, thick and a pale color, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and mix until just combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin and mix just until blended.
3. Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix on low speed until barely combined. Stop mixer and pour in half of buttermilk. Mix again just enough to blend. Stop mixer and add another 1/3 of dry mixture; mix just until barely combined. Add remaining buttermilk; mix until just barely combined. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add remaining dry ingredients; mix until just barely well combined. Take bowl off machine and gently fold with silicone spatula, making sure bottom of bowl is included and mixture is homogeneous. Scoop batter into mounds on prepared sheets (the easiest way is to use a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop). Bake immediately, about 10 to 14 minutes, or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, prepare filling: In large bowl of electric mixer using the paddle attachment, thoroughly beat cream cheese, scraping bowl as needed, until smooth. Add softened butter and mix on low speed, occasionally scraping the bowl as needed, until combined. Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined.
5. Pipe generous amount of cream cheese filling on half of the whoopies (or use a small scoop)-on the flat side – and sandwich two together. Best served the same day.


Blackmarket Bakery has two Orange County locations: 2937 Bristol (The Camp), Costa Mesa (714-662-3095) and 211 N Broadway, Santa Ana (714-571-0801)


fruitsaladSizeI love this grownup version of fruit salad. I call it Fruit Salad Royale.

melissaLogo200It’s perfect for a buffet table, brunch or picnic basket.

Vary the fruit according to the season and enjoy!

Guests that have lukewarm attitudes about fruit salad may find themselves coming back for more.

Fruit Salad Royale
Yield: 8 servings
1 1/2 cup peeled, sliced kiwi, about 5 medium
2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
2 cups green or red seedless grapes
2 cups pitted, sliced plums, plumcots or peaches
1 cup peeled orange segments or tangerine segments
1/4 cup orange liqueur
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon agave syrup or sugar
1. Place all ingredients in glass or ceramic bowl; gently toss with rubber spatulas. Cover and chill up to 4 hours.
Nutritional information (per serving):
Source: “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce” by Cathy Thomas




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Fifi’s Best: OC chefs gather to create a luscious edible tribute to the late food writer, Fifi Chao

Fifi Chao, much respected and beloved food writer for the Orange County Business Journal for more than three decades, recently passed away.

FifiPatrick1In this photo, Fifi embraces her much-adored husband, Patrick.

Some of Orange County’s best chefs gathered at Break of Dawn Restaurant in Laguna Hills to create a 10-course dinner in her honor. They dubbed it “Fifi’s Best.”




To begin: A luscious brioche bun with lardo, leek, maple and anchovy was contributed by Chef Dean Kim, OC Baking Company (the baker who never sleeps – how else could be provide breads to so many OC restaurants?).




fifiscallopmangoShachiChef Shachi Mehra, ADYA (Irvine and Santa Ana) prepared this oh-so-delicious mango soup that showcased scallops, fresh red chilies and curry leaf. It had diners swooning their approvals.

fifiDanielsFoieAn irresistible dish that showcased foie gras was created by Chef Greg Daniels, Haven Gastropub in Orange.

Read on … discover what the chefs did with the leftover foie.





fifiDanielsSoupChef Greg Daniels’ scrumptious deeply flavored foie with huckleberries, matsutake mushrooms and barley. Glorious.






fifiYvonFishChef Yvon Goetz’ (The Winery – Newport Beach, Tustin and soon, La Jolla) delectable black cod with merguez (North African-style lamb sausage), flageolet and octopus. Above, Host-Chef Dee Nguyen shows off a petite carrot garnish.

FifiAmarChef Amar Santana, Broadway (Laguna Beach) and Vaca (Costa Mesa) sauces duck breasts served with kumquats, “Bastilla” and chestnuts.

Loved these flavors.


fifirainercropfifirainertenderdishChef Rainer Schwartz, Driftwood Kitchen and The Deck (Laguna Beach) and Hendrix (Laguna Niguel) sliced his oh-so-very-tender beef tenderloin that was served with wild mushrooms, salsify and Napa Wine Love.

Host Chef Dee Nguyen, Break of Dawn (Laguna Hills) served two dishes. First, a delicious rice dish augmented with crab, unagi (eel) and pickled plum. So delicious every bit was eaten – yup, I forgot to take a photo. Pal Lee Healy sent me her shot and told me that the dish was inspired by Chef James Hamamori. Here is Lee’s photo, plus shots of Chef Tarit Tanjasiri helping to plate the unagi, and another of Chef Shachi Mehra scooping rice.









Second, a creamy silky-lush corn-based dish with hawthorn berries, coconut and cashews. Absolutely incredible. Yum.

fifiNguyenOK, still hungry? Fifi would have said, “bring it on.”

Chef Tarit Tanjasiri, The Crema Cafe (Seal Beach), created individual Tarte Tatins with impressive skill. Beautifully caramelized, the tarts were accompanied with a little creme anglaise and raspberry coulis.  But wait …

FifiTartTaritTanjasiriIn the kitchen, the chefs decided to top the tarts with slices of leftover foie gras! Foie, to my way of thinking, always tastes best salted (coarse grains) and served with something sweet. So this was a glorious pairing.

Fifi would have loved it!

fifiLastFlorish2fifiLastFlorishTake home presents included perfectly spiced granola from Chef Max Schlutz (Sessions, Newport and Huntington Beach) and macarons from Tuan Trinh (XT Patisserie).

I was honored to make a speech at the event. Fifi was the godmother of all of us who work in the OC culinary world. She was loved by all.








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Marche Moderne Moves and Improves

It’s hard to believe that it could get any better because it was absolutely exquisite in the old spot.



When the news hit that the star culinary couple Amelia and Florent Marneau were uprooting their highly successful Marche Moderne restaurant from South Coast Plaza to move to Crystal Cove Shopping Center, I was puzzled. Why change the site of this highly acclaimed market-inspired French bistro?


Amelia Marneau, executive pastry chef, told me that she and her husband wanted a change. Something new. Something fresh. Walking through the 4,200-square-foot restaurant a few days before the recent opening, I totally grasped their meaning.

Light flooded through the windows, many of which welcomed ocean breezes through bi-folding openings. The new spot has 25 more seats than the previous, and the tables are farther apart making it feel much more spacious.


An 11-seat bar shows off a gray quartzite counter-top and a snazzy Cruvinet wine dispenser featuring a broad selection of French and California wines.

marcheBarAs the project progressed, Marche fans became increasingly impatient. One eager enthusiast loudly revved the engine of his Harley motorcycle at the kitchen’s backdoor; the racket kept up until someone opened the door. The fellow voiced his concern that coq au vin would still be on the menu. Happily, he got that assurance and was on his way. (Certain dishes will remain indefinitely, Marche classics such as that wine-braised chicken dish and Amelia’s Chopped Salad.)

They had a hiatus of seven months between closing and opening that included research in San Francisco and Paris.


“The bistro Allard from (Alain) Ducasse is so good, yet simple and so fresh …” he said about the Paris restaurant.

“And I think that l’Arpege is the best Michelin star in Paris not just because of the star … the creativity there is insane, not complicated, but just amazing.”

Many dishes are categorized as “small plates.”

Florent wanted to offer smaller portions to give guests the opportunity to sample refined fare with lower price tags.


The wild Spanish octopus served with chorizo emulsion, potatoes, celery, lemon and the smoky flavor of Espelette pepper is $17 (you won’t find better octopus anywhere).

marcheravioliFoie gras and chestnut filled ravioli are served adrift in duck stock along with celery root confit for $21 (the stock is so deeply flavored, it made me hum).

marchelangoustineAnd yes, a beautifully cooked New Zealand langoustine rests atop sea urchin risotto that’s adorned with lace-y green sea beans for $25 (the full flavors balanced perfectly).

marchefoieSizeIn a different price category, my husband had the sautéed foie gras on toasted onion brioche with Calvados, diced apples and pears, plus a topping of balsamic croustillant (lightly acidic flakey balsamic vinegar curls that Florent crafted through a magical process of dehydration). My sated mate said that it was worth every cent of $33.

There are Amelia’s luscious interpretations of French macarons. The flavors and textures are extraordinary and their size, very generous – Lychee, Yuzu, Rose and Raspberry Texture, the later enriched with white chocolate feuilletine (crispy bits).

It was comforting to see Florent’s copper cookware made the transition to the new locale, the gleaming pots and skillets that he has owned since his teens. Some are in use, others hang on hooks. It’s comforting to see the old with the new.

 Marche Moderne is located at 7862 East Coast Highway, Newport Beach (across from Javier’s). 714-434-7900. Open 7 days a week for dinner (no lunch), starting at 5 o’clock. Valet is $6. Later they will be offering Sunday brunch. After the holidays, they will offer “Spontanée Dinner Menus” – three course dinners for $38 served on Mondays and Tuesdays.

marchecocktailTo read on more from my point of view go to Orange Coast Magazine’s Site,

And please click to share it with your friends. Thanks!



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Easier Than Pie, Watch This Blueberry Betty!

Blueberry Betty is a one-dish wonder, easy to prepare and scrumptious to eat.


Watch this quick how-to video and see just how quickly it comes together.

When serving this for company, I assemble the dish before guests arrive. When the doorbell rings, I put it in the oven and set a timer. It’s still warm (but not bubbling hot) when I serve it accompanied with ice cream.


The berries are vibrant and a sweet-tart edge,  the crunchy topping is sweet with a crisp texture. Yum-Oh-Lah!

Blueberry Betty
Yield: 6 servings
1 quart fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 6 pieces
For serving: ice cream or whipped cream

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put berries in 1 1/2-quart casserole. Sprinkle with juice and cinnamon.
  2. In food processor fitted with metal blade, add flour and sugar. Pulse on/off  1 time. Add butter and pulse on/off until crumbly and butter is cut into pieces no bigger than peas. Do not blend into a dough – it should be crumbly. If you don’t have a food processor you can use two knives or a pastry cutter. Sprinkle mixture over berries. Bake 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving. It is best served warm accompanied with ice cream or whipped cream.pastryCuttercathythomascookslogoModified******




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The Best Blueberry Pie!



I’ve tasted some very-so-so blueberry pies. The fillings were a snooze, too sweet and a little mushy or sometimes too loose. Yes, some are gummy, others runny.


My favorite recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the periodical for nitpick-y cooks that want to know every culinary detail imaginable.


I love this jammy blueberry filling, and it is their attention to detail that makes the flavor and consistency so delicious. A grated Granny Smith apple is added to the cooked portion of the filling, offering the right amount of pectin to thicken the mixture along with a small amount of instant tapioca. The consistency is perfect.


But, here’s my pie confession. I don’t want to work too hard, so I will make a pie-making compromise. I’ll use store-bought refrigerated crusts, the type that is rolled into 9-inch disks. I’ll hide the red box deep in my recycle bin and hold my head high.

You are welcome to make your favorite from-scratch dough if you prefer.

Either way, don’t forget the ice cream.

The Best Blueberry Pie
Yield: one 9-inch pie, 6 to 8 servings
1 box (14.1 ounces) refrigerated pie crusts (two 9-inch rounds), such as Pillsbury Pie Crusts, well chilled
6 cups fresh blueberries
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, grated on large holes of box grater
2 teaspoons grated zest (colored portion of peel) and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons instant tapioca, ground, see cook’s notes
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Wash: 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Optional for serving: ice cream or whipped cream

Cook’s notes: Grind the tapioca to a powder in a spice grinder. As for the crust, in my kitchen, it is generally pretty cool so working fast with chilled store-bought dough usually doesn’t require dusting the work surface with flour when rolling it out. If your kitchen is warm or the dough isn’t thoroughly chilled, lightly dust work surface and rolling pin with all-purpose flour before rolling it out.

  1. On a cool, clean, dry work surface roll out one round of refrigerated crust to a 11 1/2-inch circle. Ease it into a 9-inch pie pan, glass (Pyrex) preferred, gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into pie plate bottom with the other hand. Put in refrigerator.
  2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position. Put rimmed baking sheet on rack. Preheat to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using a potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices, leaving more than half of the berries unmashed. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of the berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Cool slightly off heat.
  3. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry over sink. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups of raw berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, ground tapioca and salt; toss to combine. Transfer to dough-lined pie pan and scatter butter pieces over filling.
  4. Roll out second round crust to an 11-inch circle. Lift dough to make sure it isn’t sticking and replace it onto work surface. Using a 1 1/4-inch glass, spice jar lid, or biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from center hole. Lift dough and place on top of filling. Fold dough around the edge under itself and pinch to make a ridge that is flush with the outer rim. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger. Or press with the tings of a fork. Brush top and edges of pie with egg wash, coating it very lightly.
  5. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. If edge of crust is nicely browned, cover edge with a pie ring (a ring-like device that covers the edge of the crust – either metal or silicone) or use small pieces of aluminum foil to cover edge of crust. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes, or until crust is deep golden brown and juices bubble. Transfer to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve. Accompany with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated magazine


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