Good Eats This Week: Cathy’s Favorites From Local Haunts

Cooking, Restaurants By Jan 29, 2012

LUCCA, Irvine, revealed their BAR SNACK MENU – served 4 to 6 PM.

I ate every bite.

Lucca’s cured and braised crispy pork belly, sits atop corn kernel-mascarpone polenta, garnished with dried apricot chutney ($7).  A glorious balance of vibrant flavors and texture contrasts.

The inside scoop from executive chef-owner Cathy Pavlos: “The Pork Belly is a 4 step process: first we toast and grind all of the spices and herbs, combine them with kosher salt, tickle the belly, and crust it in this herb/spice/salt mixture; let it sit for 2 days. Second, shake it out, clean it off and braise it with mirepoix and chicken stock at 325 for 3 hours. Third,  pull it outta the braise, slap it on a sheet pan and roast it for an hour, all the time basting it with the pan juices. Fourth, we crisp the skin.”

OK, I love blue-veined cheeses and this was a bonanza. Lucca’s blue cheese tartlett ($4.50) with Cippoline onions in agrodolce (the Italian version of sweet-sour sauce) and a Port wine reduction. I thought nothing could top their Gongonzola Cheesecake from a few years back, but this has it bested.

Gorgonzola piccante (inside with balsamic glazed caramelized onions) and Gorgonzola dolce (on top and bruled).  Two onions, too–caramelized balsamic white onions inside, cippoline in agrodolce (red wine and red wine vinegar) on the side


A luscious lunch at Haven Gastropub, Old Towne Orange.

Chef de Cuisine, Matthew Roman with Haven’s Goose Pastrami Sandwich!

Coleslaw, Russian dressing, house-made coarse-grain mustard, oh-so-perfect artisan rye bread, with pickled vegetables and potato chips (I ordered mine with a frisee salad instead of the potato chips, so that I could have two desserts).

Pastry Chef ~ Santanna Salas’ Butterscotch Pots de Creme

Oh, I think Santanna is such a masterful pastry chef. She pairs tried-and-true themes with such provacative twists.

Here she teamed super-luscious butterscotch pots de creme with chunks of pumpkin spice cake, candied squash, and crisp pumpkin seeds.


Dinner at 370 Common, Laguna Beach. Arrived at 6:30 Saturday night and the place was rockin’.


OK, now I have a new favorite soup. It doesn’t look too great in the photo, because I ate most of it before I took the shot! Bad Cathy, bad bad Cathy.

It’s a Apple-Rutabaga Soup that executive chef-owner Ryan Adams whipped up as the soup of the day. Granny Smith apples and rutabagas, in a 30:70 ratio, augmented a traditional mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery, herbs).  A hearty celery leaf provided an aromatic garnish for the warm puree.

Ryan’s classic “Grandma B’s Chocolate Cake accompanied with rich vanilla bean ice cream and love.” He uses his grandmother’s recipe for “broiler cake” and it is a comfort-food lover’s dream come true.


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